Through the eyes of the elderly

The Takum experience gives participants an understanding of the day-to-day struggles of the aged.

Elderly Israelis wait for their turn to vote  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Elderly Israelis wait for their turn to vote
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Imagine tying your shoelace with impaired vision or setting a table blind. What about trying to enjoy a favorite hobby like building a puzzle or knitting with shaking hands or arthritis-ridden hands?
Many of Israel’s founders and pioneers, those who began to work the land, build it and pave the way for future generations, have been forgotten.
These elderly men and women’s stories have fallen by the wayside, and for many, their sacrifice for the Promised Land has been forgotten.
However, Takum Israel Honor and Age Interactive Elderly Experience – a project of Kashouvot Israel founded in 2010 – hopes to change this narrative and create a language of honor for the elderly through workshops and hands-on experiences.
“We hope to bridge the gap [between the elderly and young] in the community,” explained Kashouvot’s Rena Glazer. “We are looking at who are the founders [of Israel]. Every elderly person is part of a bigger or smaller story.”
This week The Jerusalem Post spent time taking part in the hands-on interactive workshop, which helped see life through the eyes of the elderly, many of whom laid the foundations for the country’s technology and agricultural successes.
As part of the experience, the Post’s journalist had to take part in several activities mirroring what the elderly deal with on a day-to-day basis, including issues such as glaucoma, arthritis, hearing impairments and loss of fine motor skills.
One of the hardest and most enlightening experiences was trying to set a table blindfolded while being read instructions by someone imitating a speech impediment. This meant attempting to place a tablecloth over a large table as well as placing a plate, a napkin and cutlery in the correct places by using only the sense of touch.
Other difficult obstacles to overcome was doing a listening test with a cotton ball placed in each ear, and wearing glasses that impaired vision and thick gloves, which made it hard to write down what was being said during the listening test.
Among participants who have taken part in the past in Takum’s program, several said that it was “a valuable and inspiring” experience. Another participant said that the Takum experience had taught her family “about the day-to-day challenges faced as we age.”
The experience is part of a mobile museum that Takum offers both in Israel and worldwide.
“The walls of the museum apply learning into action,” Glazer said.
Takum and its organizers hope to get young people – Israelis, tourists and student groups from overseas – to take part in volunteer projects with the elderly.
“We have two options - volunteers can work with the elderly or do things for the elderly,” Glazer said.
For example, volunteers can create a colorful and informative storyboard so that when doctors, therapists, volunteers or visitors come to an elderly client in a nursing home or hospital, they can understand who the person is, instead of just seeing him as a number.
On the project where Takum and volunteers engage with the elderly, Glazer said that “we want to empower the elderly – pay it forward. We have opportunities for elderly clients, in four of the nursing homes we work with, to make flower arrangements with volunteers, which will be given or sent to another nursing home. Through this, they’re able to use their sense of smell and touch,” she said.
“It’s important to understand whose shoulders we are standing on.... How can we understand what it feels like to struggle – how can we help the elderly [until we understand what it’s like to struggle],” she concluded.