Tag Archives: “Senior Moments”

OCTOBER’S SENIOR MOMENT: “I Salute You”

This month’s Senior Moment comes from Liz David who says:

As I was going through my materials in preparation for my class on “aging,” I came across a letter written from one friend to another in the year 1513.   When I found it, I felt like I had been given a gift.  To me, in these troubling times, it is a reminder of what may/could lie beneath the surface of our lives as they come into the home stretch.

I SALUTE YOU

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                   A Letter Written by Fra Giovanni Giocondo to a Friend                 in the year 1513

I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not; but there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.  No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.  Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow.  Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.  There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see; and to see, we have only to look.  I beseech you to look.

Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard.  Remove the covering and you will find beneath it a living splendour, woven of love by wisdom, with power.

Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you.  Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there; the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence.  Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys.  They, too, conceal divine gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering that you still find earth but cloaks your heaven.  Courage then to claim it; that is all!  But courage you have and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together wending through unknown country home.

And so, at this time, I greet you; not quite as the world sends greetings but with profound esteem, and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and shadows flee away.

 

Eleanor and Liz
Senior Moment Feature Writers Eleanor Jaffe and Liz David

SEPTEMBER’S SENIOR MOMENT: Where Will I Live?

WHERE WILL I LIVE AS I GET OLD(ER)?

By Eleanor Jaffe

seniors-selling-house

When we were young, the question we often thought and talked about was what we wanted to be when we grew up.  And that question led us to thinking about self-image.  Who am I?  What are my capabilities?  Who will I become?  This kind of thinking brought up both hopes and fears—but, when we were young, our options seemed multiple and optimistic.  Now, it seems, the question that often comes up in conversation is:  Where do you want to live when you get old(er)?  And at this point in our lives, thinking about that question seems to bring up, potentially, more fear than optimism.

The fears that seem to accompany aging are multiple:  What will my health be?  What will my abilities be, both mental and physical?  Will I be on my own, or will my mate be with me?  What financial resources can I depend on, and will they be sufficient?  How long will I continue to live, anyway?  Will my children be there for me, or are they too far flung? (We gave them “wings,” remember?) Can I retain my friends and known community? These questions–and more–reveal a lot of anxiety; and, of course, many of these questions are unanswerable right now.

Variations of these questions and more often arise among our friends.  Some are wondering if they can continue living in their homes, the homes full of memories, lots of furniture, room for guests, big gardens to care for, and lots of expenses.  The homes in their known communities, with people nearby on whom they can rely.  Some have begun to discuss retirement communities and have begun to visit these facilities to assess housing options, activities, continuum of care, finances, etc.  Others, often those who have been widowed, are considering moving to live closer to their adult children.  Some may move into “in-law apartments” with their children or find nearby apartments, condos, or retirement communities.  Others are thinking about making the move “out west” or “down south” to be with their extended families but wonder if their children will continue to live in these areas or will need to move elsewhere.

This period in which we consider the next steps in our lives can be a disquieting one.  Shifts in our established routines and expectations for the future can be hard to envision clearly and even harder to put into place.

As for me, my husband and I sold our suburban home and moved to a smaller city apartment about 15 years ago.  We like living in Boston but realize it is not “forever.”  So, we recently decided to ignore reality and bought a Florida condo.  We’re optimistically hoping and planning to enjoy comfortable, warm winters for years to come.  Y’all come!

 

AUGUST’S SENIOR MOMENT: On Eighty…

This month, both Eleanor and Liz share their thoughts on turning eighty.  

AT EIGHTY

By Eleanor Jaffe

 MOLDS

At first, you are placed into a mold: baby girl,                                          Then, you fit yourself into the mold; it’s good.                                  Puzzled, you find the mold changes as your body changes                And you begin to become a woman. The changes are not easy.

Later, you grow to become wife and mother, lover, nurturer.          Then another mold: the professional.                                                                   It sits on top of all the others – somehow.                                                  Time passes; you begin to break out of that complexity.                           It no longer fits; the children have left.                                                         Parts feel empty, meaning gone.                                                               Confused, like being a lost teenager again.

Later, you move toward new roles within a fluid mold:                    Trying them on: writer, artist, leader, teacher, risk taker.                      You become more confident.                                                                                This direction seems right, good.

In older age, there’s a refitting of some earlier molds,                            The roles of nurturer, giving and receiving love—                Grandmother, daughter/caretaker for an aged mother,                  Critical thinker, teacher, writer,                                                                Protector, comforter to the grieving.

I know myself.

I’m stepping up to become a wiser older woman                       Sometimes too outspoken, but what the hell!                                       Grateful for my loving family, husband, and friends.                                 For my still strong body.                                                                                     Blessed.

But no more molds.

Liz, when considering 80, chose to do so in a spiritual way, drawing upon her own religious tradition in the process.  No matter what our personal religious backgrounds might be, we can all certainly relate.

She says that…

To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, when it comes time for me to die, I do not want to discover that I have not lived.

DAYENU

By Liz David

So, Hineni, here I am God,

Approaching eighty, amazed–awestruck, full of your Presence–

Still here, striving to live my life with the wonderment of childhood and the wisdom of age,

Still here, striving to live an ordinary life in an extraordinary way,

Because you, God, were there when I was born,

And I’m still striving to fulfill the promise of all those years ago when the seed that was me, Elisheva, was planted–

Elisheva, Oath of God.

Hineni, have I lived up to my name?

Approaching eighty, I look back and remember that there have been times when I thought, if I die now, it would be enough–toda raba, I am grateful for the full life You have given me

I still believe that, even as time passes and I have much less time ahead than behind.  And yet, I ask, is there ever enough? Is it ever Dayenu?

The words “we are led where we choose to go” speak to me, or was it You speaking to me, Holy One of Being, all along?

Was it You pulling the strings of my cosmos, pushing, pulling, cajoling as I made the life choices that brought me to this moment?

Hineni, God, here I am, still here, waiting for the next tug, and the one after that, and the one after that until You sever the thread that binds me to this earth

And set my soul free to join eternity with You—awestruck.

Dayenu–and that will be enough!

Eleanor and Liz
“Senior Moment” Feature Writers, Eleanor Jaffe and Liz David

 

 

 

JULY’S SENIOR MOMENT: The Bright Side

Eleanor and Liz
Senior Moment Bloggers, Eleanor Jaffe (left) and Liz David (right)

LOOKING AT THE BRIGHT SIDE

by Liz David

The tune came up on my iPod during my morning “constitutional.”

Always Look at the Bright Side of Life.

I love the tune.

I step in time to the music, and I sing along as I walk.

But, how is it possible to always look at the bright side…

When my sister-in-law Miriam, whom I’ve known since I was nine, died a few weeks ago after ten years in a nursing home?

When my friends are facing life-threatening obstacles?

When the world is so topsy-turvy?

When terrorists kill and maim the innocent almost every day?

When children, old folks, and thousands in between don’t have enough food?

When our presidential candidates have higher disapproval than approval ratings?

When, worst of all, the Red Sox lose to the L.A. Angels by a score of 21-2? I mean, really!

The saying “when you save a life, you save the world” is true.

So, as elders, we need to connect our heads and our hearts,

To encourage ourselves and others to do what we can when we can,

To reach out to the people around us,

To make a difference by modeling what it is to really live, every day, until we die,

To, hopefully, save the world.

JUNE’S SENIOR MOMENT: Resilience

This month, we decided to focus on resilience–from an expert’s point of view…and from our own.  We hope these thoughts resonate with you as well–Liz and Eleanor

Eleanor and Liz

RESILIENCE

By Elizabeth David

“Resilient people are like trees bending in the wind,” says Beth Howard in her article The Secrets of Resilient People. “They bounce back.” In her article, originally published in the November 10, 2010 issue of AARP Magazine, Howard says that developing and nurturing the quality of “resilience” is key to whether or not we age well.

Resilient people, she notes, have some qualities in common which, most importantly, can also be learned.  The following is a summary of the steps and qualities she isolates as being central to resilience. Resilient people…

  1. Stay Connected: “Research bears out the importance of connection, and good social support. .Resilient people report increased quality of life and well- being regardless of their burdens.”
  2. Remain Optimistic: Finding positive meaning in caregiving and helping others enhances ones ability to bounce back after death or a significant loss.
  3. Avoid Negative Thinking: “Experts say negative thinking is just a bad habit though it may take some work to change your mindset.” Negative thinking is learned and can be unlearned. We don’t need to be “cockeyed optimists” to have an optimistic point of view.
  4. Nurture Their Spiritual Dimension: Those of us who nurture our spiritual dimension, whether through religion or other means, bounce back from normal depression more easily.
  5. Maintain Their Sense of Wonder: “They’re playful.” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross used to write that we should be childlike in developing our sense of wonderment.
  6. Give Back: “The benefit you derive for yourself is as great as that which you give to others.”
  7. “Pick Their Battles”: “tending to focus on things they have some influence over.”
  8. Eat Well and Stay Healthy: “Exercise literally helps to repair neurons in brain areas that are particularly susceptible to stress.”
  9. Gain Strength from Adversity: They find the “silver lining.”

When I interact with my BOLLI friends I often see examples of resilience that bring a sense of wonderment to my heart. As I am reminded of the above, so I hope that this will be food for thought for you in facing the challenges of life.

As we move forward together, may we all go from strength to strength.

 

To read Howard’s article, click here: “The Secrets of Resilient People”

TIMES OF CRISIS

by Eleanor Jaffe

With unnerving frequency, friends—especially male friends—are growing sick, having accidents, experiencing complications from illnesses and surgeries, and are dying.  Statistics have predicted this mortality jump among men while we women generally are outliving our male partners and classmates by some years.  Scant comfort for survivors.  We mourn our friends and comfort their widows.  We close ranks and try to hold one another closer.

Have you noticed?  Nothing in a good, long, traditional marriage prepares one for widowhood.  The division of labor and tasks, the other half of your memory, your partner in conversation, your bedmate — vanish.  And then there is just one, with the memories of two and only half the previous skills and talents.

A thousand or more miles away, my friend Tom has just died.  His wife Martha soldiers on.  I try to send comforts over the miles.  But if I, a friend, feel shaken, what does Martha feel?

All of us, we age mates, are on this road together–observing, experiencing, and comforting our friends.  The community that we have created and continue to create at BOLLI can be a sustaining and supporting one during our crises.  Our activities, courses, conversations, and shared experiences can provide new ballast during these senior years.  Let’s remember to support one another, and “be there” for each other.  Let’s connect, create new friendships, and reach out when needed.

 

A SENIOR MOMENT: From Eleanor Jaffe

FRAYING AT THE EDGES

Reflections on The New York Times Special Section, May 1

Geri Taylor, Living with Alzheimer's
Geri Taylor, Living with Alzheimer’s

The New York Times published a Special Section on May 1 of this year. Fraying at the Edges is about Geri Taylor,  a New Yorker, newly retired, aged 73.  If she lived in the Boston area, she certainly might have been a BOLLI member.   Her appearance, career, her interests, and her marriage(s) all easily correspond to our own.  Geri is a woman in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, and what distinguishes her from others with this disease is that she has taken a pro-active approach to coping with her failing memory.  She knows full well the trajectory of Alzheimer’s, but right now, in the beginning stages of her disease, she and her husband find strategies that enable them to cope with their new realities, to plan for the future, and to each find pleasure and satisfaction in the here and now.

Geri is aware of her growing deficits, her need to plan ahead, her slowing down, and her physical changes—like walking in her sleep, like having an unsteady gait, like having less of an appetite. She said, “Alzheimer’s brings on apathy is what I find. Years ago, I definitely had more of an ego. Now I don’t have an idea of myself. And so I have less of an ego. Frankly, I don’t care what people think of me. I’m more in a survival mode, one foot in front of the other. Don’t spill the coffee.”

After participating in a support group for several years, Geri and a few other members advocated for a new kind of group, workshops where people with Alzheimer’s could “swap strategies” for living with early-stage memory loss. (There ARE simple strategies that work, like putting glass doors on kitchen cabinets so one can see where particular items are stored.) Advocating for and initiating a workshop is an amazing accomplishment for people whose executive functions and memories are slowly but surely deteriorating. But it DID get started. This new workshop, with the sponsorship of the Alzheimer’s Association in Connecticut, is called GAP, Giving Alzheimer’s Purpose.

The “Times” supplement is well worth reading.  Geri is a remarkably positive role model. The article, indirectly, also shows how friends and family can help someone with Alzheimer’s maintain a sense of self.

Geri Taylor, Living with Alzheimer's
Geri Taylor, Living with Alzheimer’s

After all, according to this article, “Alzheimer’s is a disease that strikes an American every 67 seconds.” It may not strike you or me, but, almost inevitably, it will strike someone we know and love.