By Naomi Gray
Caregiver, Casa Esperança and Apartments
During the pandemic, I have often felt like we’re living more in the Twilight Zone than in the world we’re supposed to be living. As we adapted to the changes necessary to protect the health of the Ranchers and the employees, our daily routines were significantly altered. What were previously just “routine activities” have become even more important in order to maintain a sense of normalcy.
This prompted me to reexamine my perspective of the Ranchers’ activity of watching soap operas. When I first came to Rainbow Acres, I was surprised (and a bit shocked) by the Ranchers who were soap opera watchers. They were not the Ranchers I would have guessed. I admit that my attitude toward them was one of bemused tolerance. The “I’m going to support your ability to make choices, but not your actual choice” sort of attitude. I didn’t understand the value this activity provided.
During recent lockdowns, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to observe the gentlemen of Casa Esperança watching their soap operas – and I’ve come to realize that there are significant benefits as I’ve watched certain Ranchers, like Rick and Greg. Sometimes, the Ranchers who live in the nearby apartments join in. And I’ve observed many positives from their watching soap operas. Here are a few:
- The repetitive storytelling of these shows, which rehashes the previous day’s (even previous week’s) plot points, is a fantastic technique for minds that might not be able to maintain connections between plot, character, objects and places on the first go-around. This is a lesson for us all as we speak to the Ranchers: that perhaps better understanding will come with greater repetition and reinforcement of key points at the appropriate time when you have their full time and attention.
- The overly dramatic presentation of plot points, the very thing that makes some of us roll our eyes, is the very thing that makes it easy to follow the story. No need to understand social subtleties (a frequent challenge for someone with neuro-atypical tendencies). The verbal smackdown or love revealed, or betrayal, deception, or moment of compassion is simplified and amplified, making it easier to understand and feel the emotional impact. As Greg will say, “Wow! This is good stuff. This is so intense.”
- On many occasions, I have heard one of my guys, usually Greg, connecting cause and effect on their own when watching an episode of the show. “She did this because … This is happening because …” – which translates into being more capable of observing real-life events in terms of cause and effect.
- The same with the prediction of plot points. Again, I’ve noticed that Greg, because he verbalizes so much, will talk to Rick or himself, in anticipation of what is going to happen next. His brain is creating the story and watching to see if his predictions come true or if the story goes a different route.
- On numerous occasions, I’ve also heard Greg anticipating dialogue from the actors – saying the correct words before the character does, even though he’s never seen the scene before. Cause and effect, prediction, and anticipation of what others will say and do, are all great skills to have in our lives.
- I’ve also seen the viewers develop their reading skills. As technology advances, social media is being brought into the soaps. Text messages are often posted on the screen when the character reads them. I have heard Greg reading along, leaning forward as he processes each word.
- Then there’s the “mental filing” process. The plethora of facts and details that the brain is spinning out when watching these shows form a neurological web all their own. Rick can tell you about things that happened decades ago on a soap. He can talk to you about the actors and their lives, as well as the characters they played. The guys care about their favorite characters and want to follow their lives.
There’s lots of good stuff going on here, even if these shows don’t look like something I’d like to watch. When the guys are watching their pre- and post-lunch soaps, I pop in an earbud to listen to an audiobook. But I am excited to see them engaging with the shows and each other. I’m excited to watch and listen as Greg builds connections and takes a risk on predicting or anticipating something.
As we anticipate 2021 … well, I don’t think any of us can truly predict what it will hold. But may the days of your lives be filled with more observations like “Wow! This is good stuff!”