December 26, 2008

Getting Old

Filed under: Uncategorized — alexboerner @ 4:50 pm


I photographed 102-year-old Millie Holmes, of Jensen Beach, FL, last week. I don’t think she was too aware of me, and I hope she didn’t mind me taking a photo of her. She lives with her son and daughter and a number of grandchildren. The family had some home repairs donated to them for the holidays.

Mostly, Millie sat in a chair by the front door and slept. She would eat when her grandson, Willis Wiley, would put some food in front of her. He said she would also yell out random things at the TV while asleep. I heard her yell “OH Lordy!” a couple of times. Then I’d look over at her to see if she was awake and her eyes would still be closed.

She is fortunate though, I think, to be able to be living with her family and to have them care for her. As long as she remains as healthy as she can be, I would imagine that it’s much better for her to be there than in a nursing home, hospital or worse, alone, which is how I saw another man, Bill Edwards, earlier in the month.

He was much younger than Millie. His wife died 15 years ago, he has emphysema and is lonely. His income is $682 a month, and his rent is $600 a month. He lives in a privately owned apartment that the Council on Aging of Martin County found for him. Prior to that he was living in what he described as a “shed” behind a house with no air conditioning or running water. He says the people who he lived with were stealing from him, but he had no recourse. The only thing he could do was to get out.

Bill’s emphysema keeps him tethered to an oxygen machine by a tube that snakes all around his house. He told me that he is usually able to avoid the tubing, but while I was there with him, he caught his boot while walking down the hallway and he started to fall. He has a bad knee that couldn’t support his weight, and he went down on the tile floor, ripping his elbow open on the stucco wall in the process. We eventually got him up on a chair and back to the kitchen table.

On Christmas Eve day I went to follow up with him and found out that he was in the hospital in critical condition after becoming short of breath the night before.


Bill spent 10 years in the Army, and worked as a security guard until health problems sidelined him recently. His car was repossessed while he was in the hospital, and he missed this years Veteran’s Day Parade for the first time in 30 years. He’s had a shitty run of luck in the later years of his life and not being able to get out of the house was killing him.

We all leave this world in the end. What makes for a peaceful departure?

1 Comment »

  1. wow.

    Comment by Mark — February 3, 2009 @ 10:06 pm | Reply

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