Elder citizens gather for mealtimes, outings and bingo – not at the precise time, but sometime earlier than the start of the activity. Someone once told me, “If these folks aren’t ten minutes early then they’re twenty minutes late”. Time is not precise: they know something exciting is going to happen and sometimes can’t remember exactly what. They do know – whatever is going on – will be fun for them, and they’re always glad to be included in the activity. The routine and the gathering are most important.
For the rest of us, time is clearly defined: it moves forward (to an appointment), backwards (to a memory) and sometimes sideways when we daydream. For elders, these boundaries diminish and become interchangeable, as when an elder asks you when their spouse – long since deceased – will be coming home.
It is challenging for family to leave the present tense and “time travel” with elder members. If it only happened once in a while, it would be manageable; elder “time travel”, however, is often constant and repetitive. Einstein once said the meaning of time is that everything doesn’t happen all at once. In the elders mind, time is all at once.
Professional caregivers understand ”time travel” and are happy to go along for the ride, wherever it leads. They understand the importance of gatherings and are happy to go with you, even if it is twenty minutes early by your clock.