When I got married nine years ago, my grandfather - whom we call Poppy and at the time was 83 - shocked everyone at our reception by getting out on the dance floor and having a "dance-off" with our guests. A crowd literally circled around him and chanted, "Go Poppy, go Poppy." He celebrated his "win" with a martini - actually, four martinis.
There's no doubt that our country's senior population looks different than it did just a decade ago. Folks are living longer, healthier lives and the Administration on Aging predicts that 20 years from now, the 65-plus population will nearly double. Although that means more quality time with our parents and grandparents, it also brings with it new challenges.
Andi Carroll of Davidson knows first-hand what that's like. In 2004, she and her husband, Rob, moved her mother-in-law here from Connecticut.
But when they took her to view an assisted-living facility, she felt she wasn't ready for that yet.
"She wanted to buy a house and be surrounded by the people and things that were important to her," said Carroll. "And really, there was no reason for her not to - she's a healthy woman."
The experience opened Carroll's eyes to the needs of the aging population in our area.
Although not ready for full-time care, some seniors may need someone to help them with laundry, drive them to doctor's appointments or bathe them.
Carroll founded Home Careolina six years ago with the hopes of providing a better quality of life for this group.
Her business is nonmedical, in-home care that provides companions and nurse aides.
"We do everything from transporting them to the hair salon, to meal plan and preparation, to acting as an advocate if there is no family member available," Carroll said.
All caregivers are screened and trained extensively. Home Careolina has an online-accredited continuing education program that is required.
"It helps us attract the best caregivers and allows them to get specialized training if they are working with a client who has Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, diabetes or general end-of-life, hospice care curriculum ..." said Carroll.
Carroll notes that her service is helpful to the "sandwich generation," meaning those who care for both parents and children.
"It can be very difficult for a family member to take care of a parent, especially when they have a job, spouse and children of their own," she said. "We can come in and allow them to have more quality time together."
Family is important to Carroll. After staying home for many years to raise her four children she decided to strike out on her own.
"If I was going to do something that took time away from my kids, I wanted it to be something worthwhile," Carroll said. "And I think it's been really good for them to see me doing something that shows them that we are all part of a big community."
The business has grown slowly, by design.
"What's most important to me is that we provide quality care," she said.
"When my clients take the time to say thank you - and they do it frequently - the emotional reward means a lot to me."