Aging In America
The golden years aren't always golden
Eighty-seven-year-old Billie Salsman is among the 6 million Americans age 85 or older. She has no children and has lived alone since she became widowed in 2008. Salsman has a multitude of health issues and has recently suffered from three strokes that have affected her speech, swallowing, and mental processing. She lives on a limited retirement income and cannot afford to reside in an assisted living or nursing home facility without losing her home. Salsman’s social life is limited to the neighbors who drive her to the grocery store and doctors appointments and the therapists who provide in-home services To combat her loneliness, Salsman passes the time reading the Bible and researching her family’s genealogy, as Salsman no longer attends in-person church services. Salsman credits her longevity to her Christian faith, “You must remember the word ‘joy.’ Put Jesus first, then others, and then yourself.”
Eighty-seven-year-old Billie Salsman selects a necklace to wear to her doctor’s appointment at her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky on April 7, 2023. According to Salsman, her husband gave her jewelry for birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas over the years. “I enjoy dressing up on occasion, but it’s hard for me to with my arthritis.”
Salsman chats with Jason Berry about the various yard chores she needs completed at her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky on April 1, 2023. Berry has mowed Salsman’s yard and maintained her landscaping for the past six years. “I’ve had three strokes, and they do affect you. I can’t do the things that I used to do, like take care of my yard or grow a garden,” Salsman lamented.
Salsman displays this note for visitors on the front door of her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky on April 6, 2023. She noted that she struggles to hear guests when she is not sitting in her front living room.
Salsman rides her stair lift to traverse from her basement to the first story of her home on April 23, 2023 in Hodgenville, Kentucky. “I can’t hardly walk and have to have a lot of support now,” Salsman commented.
Salsman winces in pain as she uses an assistive device to pull her leg into the bed at her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky on the evening of April 6, 2023. “I sleep with my Bible, and sometimes when I hurt bad, I beg God to relieve the pain. I take my Bible and lay it on that spot. And you know, I soon doze off to sleep.”
Dr. Wesley Moore, Salsman’s primary care physician, makes a house call to her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky to rebandage her injured leg on April 1, 2023. According to Salsman, “Dr. Moore comes to my house and charges me nothing. He’s that kind of person. I am very appreciative of him. I thank him very much for coming to my home and doctoring me, so I don’t have to go to a nursing home.”
Salsman keeps her injured leg bandaged to prevent her wound from becoming further infected on April 1, 2023 at her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Salsman injured her leg after a stroke caused her to fall in her home.
Salsman checks her blood sugar level using her glucose monitor in the foyer of her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky on April 7, 2023. According to Salsman, “You’ve got to watch how high it goes because you can pass out. Sometimes my device goes off if it drops down too low, and it will tell me to get up and go eat something. If it gets too high, I’ve got to drink wat or make sure I take enough of my Metformin.”
Salsman (second from left) laughs with her neighbor Carol Marcum (left), her diabetes physician Dr. Brian Brill, Jr. (far right), and Dr. Brill’s nurse (second from right) at the Hodgenville, Kentucky office on April 7, 2023. “It’s time-consuming to take care of diabetes,” Salsman said.
Salsman (left) shops for groceries as her neighbor, Carol Marcum (center), talks with a customer at Save-A-Lot located in Hodgenville, Kentucky on April 7, 2023. “Carol is always there. She helps take me to doctors and to the drugstore to pick up medicine” said Salsman.
Salsman reflects on her failing health and life as a childless widow in her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky on April 1, 2023. “I know someday all those pains will be gone. I’ll have a new body and a new name, and I won’t have no worries anymore. That’ll be a great day,” Salsman shared.
April Wells, the pharmacy technician at Smith’s Drugstore, hugs Billie Salsman after bringing Salman’s prescriptions to her car and replacing the diabetes monitor on her arm on Monday, April 10, 2023 in Hodgenville, Kentucky. “I don’t feel right to go to any other pharmacy. They show you they care about you, and that’s what I need. I need to know that people really care about me.”
Salsman turns the page in one of the many binders she has created to document her family’s history at her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky on April 23, 2023. “I have always been interested in genealogy. The more I research about my family, the more curious I become. I hope someone will want to read about me one day,” said Salsman.
To stay close to God and to combat loneliness, Salsman reads her Bible at her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky on April 23, 2023. Salman reflected, “God is the word. I feel close to him when I read my Bible.”
Eighty-seven-year-old Billie Salsman poses for a portrait in her home in Hodgenville, Kentucky on April 16, 2023. Salsman lives alone and struggles with a variety of illnesses. Most recently, Salsman suffered a third stroke which affected her speech and caused her to fall. Salsman commented, “I’ve got more to go to heaven for today than I had yesterday because I’m closer to Him. But I’ll wait until He’s ready for me.”
Salsman takes a moment to reflect at her late husband’s tombstone in Hodgenville, Kentucky on April 9, 2023. “My companion, James Salsman, died on September 17, 2008. He was a good Christian husband, and I thank God that he chose such a good person for me. I miss him. I miss him bad,” shares Salsman.
Salsman peers out her kitchen window at her neighbor’s house across the road after washing the dishes from her evening meal in Hodgenville, Kentucky on April 1, 2023. “It’s hard living alone as far as not having my husband or other people here, but I’m never really alone because the scripture teaches me God is always with me.”