A Day in a Life at the AFRH-Gulfport 

With more than four hundred residents at the Gulfport Home, there are daily activities that most of us partake in – particularly the three meals per day. During my first weeks at meals I would sit at various tables in making my final decision for a “friendliest” table. It wasn’t long for me to find that many residents had their favorite table and seating arrangements.

Newbies can be frowned upon or may feel the cold shoulders that are offered them if they were not of the same military service or “social” order or whatever categorization seems to fit the mold. 

I tell friends and relatives that I am living in a large hotel similar to the ones in Las Vegas that has many sales outlets available to the patrons. Here we have a Post Office, Convenience Store, and Bank that are frequented almost daily by fellow residents. 

However, less used are the movie theater, Bingo afternoons, and Fiddlers Green tavern. Also available – large outdoor salt water pool, 2-hole golf course, walking path, horseshoes and shuffleboard, and numerous other assets. 

The Home has so many amenities to it that it takes time to eventually get to use them – if at all. Unfortunately the more infirmed residents have less means of access to some of the many offerings, but with staff and Resident Volunteers in addition to Community Volunteers they get their share of the action. 

If I were to write a diary for any given day—, after awakening each morning, I take an extended hot shower which braces my day with great feelings. If I arise early enough, I can spend a short stint in the fitness center for a workout on various devices. Otherwise, I go straight to the Canteen for several half-cups of coffee and join in the fray of several ongoing discussions. 

Beginning at 5:00a.m. I collect a couple of dry cereal packages and two glasses of skim milk with a banana to boot and idle chit chat with my table mates Ed, Pete and Stan and sometimes Chip and/or Mickey. 

I follow this usually with coffee in the Canteen where I read from my Kindle for 30 minutes or so before heading back to my apartment to scoop up a few medications and check my computer for emails and FaceBook comments. I would then decide whether to write a few pages for one of the several books that I would be in process, or lay back on my recliner to read a few chapters from my Kindle. 

Because the Home facility is so large with so many amenities, I don’t spend more than an hour in my quarters before grabbing my phone and my Kindle to head back downstairs where I might spend a little time outdoors facing the reflection pond and Freedom Fountain on one of the available rockers. The weather can be very nice with prevailing breezes to enhance the feeling of being out of doors. However, all of the Home apartments have outdoor galleries and being on the second level, my apartment opens to a large outer deck. 

With lunch being served at 11:30a.m., I am customarily one of the early birds to get a place in the sometimes long line depending on what is being served for the day. There are some very popular dishes such as fried chicken or Italian dishes, and my special is rice and beans. 

After another few half-cups of coffee, if it happens to be Wednesday, I take a refresher in my quarters and render myself down to the movie theater for a matinee complete with popcorn and a soda. As with many of the amenities, and the age of the “inmates” factored in, the movie attendance is usually limited to a dozen happy souls. While viewing and not liking a movie for one reason or another I will leave the cinema and occasionally chant, “I want a refund!” to the volunteers on duty. 

Supper is served at 5:30 p.m. Actually, I wish that it was later in the day or even beginning at 6:00 p.m. However, the Cafeteria employees have heavy duty work shifts so, I rationalize that the 5:30 p.m. start time is for their benefit. My body clock is plugged in to being early or on time, so even though I could hold off until 6:00 p.m. or later, I am in line at the start. 

Thus, unless it is Friday dance night, or if I like a particular evening movie, I remove myself to my abode to settle in for the day. 

In reporting on Resident Volunteers, the Home would be much less efficient without the many volunteers who offer up their time for the many duties. Volunteers are also offered a $10per hour of remunerations.

I chose to be a “Tour Guide” with the express duty of showing the building and its facilities and amenities to prospective residents and their families. I also show them my room so that they fully understand the transition to the Home.

Approximately a quarter of the Residents are Volunteers providing duty in the Administrative offices, Library, Shuttle busses, Sponsors, FedEx, Movie, Visitor Meal ticket sales, Tour Guides, and in support of those Residents who need aid due to Memory Loss or with other physical limitations. 

Connected with the movie theater is a Cinema/Hosting committee which selects the movies to be shown and who are resident volunteer host-projectionists in charge of setting up the projection, loading the cd or DVD, turning on the aisle lights and turning off the overhead lights and generally welcoming the viewing residents besides closing shop. 

One of the highlights of my day is frequenting the Spiro’s Canteen. I say frequenting because I am usually found there before and after each meal in addition to several other times of day, as I take flight from my apartment, abode, office where I have a selection from the largess of a variety of coffees, milks, juices, and pastries. 

Why make coffee in my room when I can get several hot half-cups in the Canteen one flight down from my habitat. 

Friday nights are special to me as I am able to continue performing social dances with a number of willing ladies from the gulf coast community who enjoy the seemingly lost art of dancing to the fox trot, rhumba, cha-cha, waltz, and country westerns. 

On occasion one of the residents will ask when and where I will be taking my vacation. I easily tell them “I am on my vacation.” There is so much to this Home that I don’t even have to leave except for doctor appointments. My car is so little used that when it comes time for me to render up my driver’s license, I won’t much miss my car at that time of life.

Dan Ellis