Herald-Whig

LIFE STORIES: Good Sam residents give activities aide insight into aging

Joe Ware, an activities aid at Good Samaritan Home in Quincy, has become a favorite among the residents at the home. Ware, 21, started workimng at the home when he was 16 and says, "this is my first and only job" | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 6, 2017 8:20 am

QUINCY -- Sporting a massive 2-year-old afro, bright green shoes and a quartz crystal dangling from his neck, Joe Ware doesn't exactly blend in while on the job at Good Samaritan Home.

The 21-year-old Quincy native has worked at Good Sam since he was 16, starting out as a dietary aide before moving into his current role as an activities aide. He works alongside his father, brother and sister at the home.

"This is my first and only job," Ware said.

Falling into the role of class clown in high school, Ware has always tried to entertain those around him. When he heard about the aide opening, he thought it would be a perfect fit -- doing activities with seniors all day seemed to be right up his alley.

He applied for the position three times before he received it two years ago. His sister beat him out of the spot one of those times.

"I like being spontaneous, and this job is that way," he said. "You kind of just make up the activities for your day and have fun."

Ware teaches chair chi -- a form of tai chi that is done from a seated position -- at Good Sam and at the Bodhi Tree Studio. The Good Sam residents have taken to calling the exercise program, "Joe Chi." The exercise, which promotes balance and range of motion, is particularly useful for the elderly and those who use wheelchairs.

When he discovered chair chi, Ware realized he had already been doing similar exercises for some time, and he decided to get certified to teach.

"The residents are actually doing it," he said. "I appreciate that a lot of them are really trying."

New perspectives

"I didn't know this was Sunday -- a day of rest," a resident said, ribbing the Ware while he kicked back in a community room.

Ware tries to motivate the residents to stay active each day. They spin tales and share their experiences with him in return.

"I never learn anything just from my own point of view," he said.

Good Samaritan Home employs seven activities aides for its more than 200 residents.

It's the role of activities aides, as Ware sees it, to keep the residents from sitting in their rooms all day in isolation. He gives them something to look forward, keeping their minds alert. When he works on the Alzheimer's unit, that role becomes even more critical.

"You have to prompt them a lot," he said of working with Alzheimer's patients. "It's more of a challenge, more mentally draining, over there. I just try to be as positive as possible."

Sitting down with the residents to speak "as a person," he said, has helped him bond with them.

"I talk to them about my daily life," he said.

"It seems like people open up to me, and they eventually lead off to some of their personal stories, as a friend almost.

"It's really awesome when a lot of the residents actually know your name. When they say your name, you almost cry. You're seeing somebody each day, and they know you as a friend, instead of a nurse or someone checking on them."

The job has helped Ware to grasp the concept of acceptance. It has also exposed him to death for the first time.

"I'd never had to deal with death before," he said. "I haven't lost any family members yet."

When a resident dies -- which is unavoidable in Ware's line of work -- the relationship he has cultivated makes the death harder to process.

"I get really attached to them," he said. "I'm trying to learn that I have to deal with my emotions, and that I have to be upset if I need to be. I can't push it away."

The proximity to death has led him to evaluate his own life decisions.

"What am I doing to this town for the next generation?" he asked himself. "I'm 21. I'm young, but at the same time, time goes by really quick."

He laughs when noting that there's a lot more to his job than playing cards.

The future is open-ended. He doesn't have too many specifics, but he wants to pursue freedom in some capacity, to break away from structure. He also wants to train to compete in the TV show "American Ninja Warrior."

"I love life, and I try to find as much happiness as possible," he said.

Staff Writer Matt Dutton will bring you a story detailing the life of a local resident each Monday.