My old neighbor Malcolm lived alone since his wife died many years before, hadn't many visitors, and liked to sit on the ratty old couch that graced his veranda. Malcolm was about 94 when we moved in next door. My kids used to like to go sit with him on a warm summer's day, and hear tales of the old days. Tales of the days when soldiers, Indians and horse and buggies were seen in the village. My girls loved it! Only a couple of years later Malcolm's family moved him away to a home and he lived to the ripe old age of 102.
My grandmother, Sadie Mavor, was in the province-run Centre d'Hébergement de LaSalle the last few years of her life. She looked forward to the days I brought my four children to visit her. What hit me, was that so did most of the other residents living on her floor. Many of them had no visitors and liked having my well-behaved (*smile*) children around to tell their stories to. Especially during holidays.
The elderly love to reminisce. They remember more of the past than of the present and want to tell their stories. If you go visit the elderly in the town of your ancestors you can hear the stories of an era gone by, and just maybe they knew your ancestors.
In the 1800's there was often only one home for the needs of the aged, infirm and orphans. After WWI my husband's grandfather had no work and could not look after his family. He travelled to find work and the older sons got live-in work on farms, but my husband's father and his sisters were put in the Home for the Aged and Orphans run by the Grey Nuns. Soon their mother was able to get work in the kitchen there to be near her children.
Old Folk's home Toronto 1800 - report
Victorian Benevolent Home and Hospital for the Aged and Infirm, AU 1926
Methodist Church Home for the Aged - New York 1850-1950
The Otterbein Home - Ohio 1913-1966
Annual Report of managers of Old Man's Home of Philidelphia 1875
Annual Report of managers of Home for Aged Women Rhode Island, 1860
Annual Report of the Chapin Home for the Aged and Infirm NY - 1875, 1882
Home for the Aged, Columbia, Hudson NY - 1893
Orphan Home and Asylum for the Aged and Infirm; Lutheran Church, PA (several)