Needs Aren’t Always Obvious

Sometimes, I think we take this “need” thing too far. Or perhaps not far enough.

I have a friend who lives in a nursing home. He’s not a reader. Or a card player. Mostly, he watches TV — a lot of the weather station to be precise. He’d probably watch more baseball, but the home’s cable service is pretty basic — there’s not much in the way of sports.

He’s a musician and still plays his instrument. But he misses the days of playing in a band. His memories of those times are rich. Yet they’re also a constant reminder of what’s been lost.

He doesn’t have any equipment to listen to music. And he’d never heard of Spotify. He’s never been on a computer and has no idea what’s possible.

One day I showed him what you can access on the internet. On my iPhone. I showed him some music videos of his favorite musician. He lit up like a Christmas tree.

He’s interested in history, too. Sometimes when we’re talking a question comes up about a historical event. I get the answer in seconds. On the web. From my device. He’s amazed at what’s available at our fingertips — at mine, to be precise. He has access to none of this.

I suggested he might enjoy an iPad. I told him how much my mother enjoyed hers. And explained all the things he could access — music, videos, baseball, history, family — things he values and enjoys.

My friend doesn’t have much money, but he has five children. In response to my prompt, he asked his son about an iPad. His son said his dad didn’t need one.

I suggested he ask his daughter — the one who controls his money and has power of attorney. He did. She didn’t think he needed one either.

I asked him, “What’s need have to do with it?” He said he didn’t have control of his money (what little there is) so he couldn’t purchase anything on his own.

The man has physical problems but his mind is fine. He worked his entire adult life. Long hours. In machine shops. And now he has little if any control. Over anything. Each day is pretty much the same as the day before: lived between his room and the dining room.

I saw him the other day after finishing a 50-mile bike ride on my prized possession. I don’t need a bike; I could live without one. But I enjoy it. It makes my life better.

To be fair, the home in which my friend lives is nice. He could be in a place that was a lot worse. Indeed, he was. His children undoubtedly are responsible for his living arrangements, which are very good from the standpoint of nursing homes. I’m sure they love him and are doing what they think is best.

Yet I wonder if they appreciate what it’s like to be confined to a house — even a nice one — with little to do and little contact with the outside world, aside from what the basic cable service provides and some occasional visits. I admit, though, that I’m biased. I love the access to the world that the internet provides. I can’t imagine being cut off from all of that.

In the overall scheme of things, it’s a small matter. I can fix this problem and I will. The larger issue isn’t always so easily addressed though: the issue of what we need.

The ultimate goal is relevant of course. Is it mere survival? For some people, it is. And perhaps it will be for many of us as our circumstances change with age.

But often it isn’t. Often, need is a more than survival or physical. Often, it’s a psychological and cognitive issue.

Your body will have needs, Vera. But so will your mind. And your heart. Your soul.

Be sure to attend to all of your needs.

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