Posted by suzanne on Jun 3, 2013
Human beings are social creatures and social relationships are critical for well-being and optimal development. Individuals interact with family, friends, co-workers and neighbours as well as out in the broader public sphere.
Individuals gain much from these social relationships. There is the love of family – the one born into, and the one chosen, because sometimes close friends feel more like family.
Individuals maintain friendships and family relationships across the life course. Close friendships are important for human development and we are wise to maintain our friendships and hang on to them during the life-journey. It is also worthwhile to support family relationships by cultivating strong family ties.
Relationships can be deeply meaningful in life. That is the beauty of connection. Think about your longest-lived relationships and what they mean to you.
As individuals, we support and encourage each other. Our lives interweave. We influence and inspire each other. Relationships provide great joy in life.
I have been giving much thought to relationships and connection. Coincidently, Dr. James Fowler presented last week at the NICE Knowledge Exchange (the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly) and offered his thoughts on connection. He recently wrote a book entitled “Connected“. Dear readers, you might be interested in this book if you are enjoying my posts on connection and social relationships.
Posted by suzanne on May 21, 2013
In my work, I meet seniors regularly, and recently, on separate occasions, I had the privilege of speaking with a 100-year-old woman, a 95-year-old man and a 74-year-old man.
I like speaking with seniors and elders. Our conversations are refreshing and invigorating. The discussion is engaging and stimulating. It is a great joy to speak to interesting individuals with so much to share.
From these conversations, I am reminded that one key to healthy aging is connection. Whether you are an energetic senior or elder or a more frail one, it is important to find the opportunity for connection.
In fact, this is true for human beings across the life course from cradle to grave. I am quite aware that I gain as much from these conversations as the seniors and elders do themselves.
We are social and life is about connection and relationships. It is important that we remind ourselves of this often during our busy lives.
Give your loved ones a squeeze and smile broadly at everyone you meet today – both young and old.
Posted by suzanne on Apr 22, 2013
In honour of National Volunteer Week (NVW) it is a good time to blog about volunteering, community service and charitable work.
Many people want to give back to the community for what they themselves have received. This is meaningful work that makes a difference in the lives of others. Many boomers, seniors and elders who I talk to describe the satisfaction they receive from their volunteer work. This work is important and they find it fulfilling. By helping others, not only do they find their work fulfilling; it better connects them to community and adds to their quality of life.
The report I co-authored with Paula Speevak-Sladowski entitled Volunteering and Older Adults has recently been released. This report is important to share with organizations and communities that want to better engage older adults in volunteer work and community service. This report can help to inform programs, services and policy as we give greater attention to our aging population and create age friendly communities in Ontario and in the rest of Canada. Not only is volunteering an activity that helps individuals remain engaged in the community; research also indicates that it contributes to better health.
Meaningful and fulfilling roles and activities help us all ‘age well’.
Posted by suzanne on Mar 30, 2013
In 2011, the proportion of seniors in Canada grew to 14.4% and the median age rose to 39.9 years. As Canadian society ages, there is great interest and attention given to aging across various fields and disciplines: health care services, caregiving, housing and aging in place, career and occupation, lifelong learning and education, leisure and recreation, and well-being and healthy living, including lifestyle, diet and exercise. Services, products, supports and technological aids for seniors and aging are being developed, provided and offered.
The field of aging is ever dynamic. There is a lot happening. All of this impacts our attitudes and perspectives and how we view aging. We are reshaping aging on so many fronts. The field is evolving and is entering a new stage as we embrace the New Vision of Aging.
I view the second half of life as a time of growth, enlightenment and transformation. As an educator with a passion for sharing information and knowledge, I am particularly interested in lifelong learning and its influence on healthy aging. Learning is lifelong. Learning is social. Engagement in learning can herald deep personal growth and development during the second half of life. It is rewarding and a great privilege to work with so many individuals who are in this vital stage of life.
Be part of the New Vision of Aging. It is an exciting time to be in the field.
Posted by suzanne on Mar 18, 2013
As a gerontologist entrepreneur and educator, I regularly get asked to speak to community groups and nonprofit organizations. In my work providing education and awareness about the second half of life and presenting on my research, I meet interesting people in the community and have fascinating discussions with them.
I recently spoke to a Rotary Club in Southern Ontario where we talked about the second half of life and retirement. I asked those in the audience to tell me about their vision for retirement.
As I have often noticed when this topic comes up, a majority of individuals in the audience described an engaged and active retirement. Most envisioned a retirement of ‘doing’ – being mentally, physically and socially active.
This is one picture that a man in the audience drew, showing himself as active and engaged. The specific activities and pursuits are not the focus here, but the ‘doing’ and ‘being’ are critical to this individual, and this is an important message. This is but one image of retirement; however, I really like how this individual portrayed being active in this drawing.
What are your thoughts? Over the next months, I will share more drawings and mappings of the ‘new retirement’.
Posted by suzanne on Feb 21, 2013
Retirement has changed.
While images of the ‘ideal’ retirement abound that are vivid and compelling, in reality, we each have our own idea of retirement. More often, we are rejecting the old images. Clearly, things have changed. Now we have the ‘new retirement’.
Wherever I go, people are talking about retirement and the second half of life; however, there is little opportunity to facilitate, cultivate and design the new retirement. I hope to change this.
In my work with Generation X, Baby Boomers and seniors, individuals are sharing their image of retirement with me. Through what I am calling the New Retirement Project, I will be sharing some images of the new retirement that people have drawn or mapped out as they consider and contemplate their retirement. I will be sharing these images through social media.
Stay tuned, dear Readers!
Posted by suzanne on Feb 8, 2013
Last week, I was in Ottawa attending and presenting at Cannexus13. This is the annual conference for individuals in career services (e.g. career counsellors and career coaches) and academics who study career and career-related issues.
It is no surprise that a growing number of individuals attend this conference every year; career and occupation are important not only for financial security and life style; they are critical for identity and self-esteem and a big part of life.
My interest is in older workers and their career and occupation as well as in the transition to retirement. I am not sure that employees and employers are on the same page when it comes to these issues. I am seeing a growing divide in attitudes and expectations between older workers and their employers and society in general.
The most progressive employers are doing innovative programing for retirement planning as well as providing a bouquet of options for the transition to retirement. Through my presentations, I discuss my model of the new retirement and describe various inspiring examples of retirees who are finding meaning, fulfillment and purpose during the second half of life. These individuals and their experiences are motivating and can help encourage others to seek out options that provide renewal and rejuvenation. This is because the second half of life is an opportunity to ‘seize life’.
Posted by suzanne on Nov 21, 2012
“A home filled with grandchildren is a home filled with love.” ~ Author unknown.
“Surely, two of the most satisfying experiences in life must be those of being a grandchild or a grandparent.” ~ Donald A. Norberg
During the second half of life, becoming a grandparent is a great joy. This is one of life’s great treasures – seeing your children have children of their own.
Grandparenting the next generation of the family is such a wonderful stage. Children are incredible. They add delight and magic to life. They are fun to have around. They help us to be in the moment and keep us young at heart. Time spent with young children is precious indeed.
It takes time to cultivate a great relationship with grandchildren. This is the opportunity to share your interests, hobbies and knowledge with someone younger who is curious and wants to learn and spend time with you. It is a fantastic feeling to find common interests and enjoy special time together. In fact, grandparents receive all the rewards of a relationship with their grandchildren without all the responsibilities. As Gene Perret says: “Grandchildren are so much fun, we should have had them first”.
The good news is that with increases in longevity, grandchildren can expect to have many grandparents in their life and grandparents can expect many years to get to know their grandchildren. This bodes well for forging and maintaining intergenerational bonds. The richness of this intergenerational relationship adds much to quality of life and well-being during the senior years. The grandparent and adult grandchild relationship is particularly interesting and future research needs to examine this. In addition, we are seeing more great-grandparents who are engaged with their great-grandchildren. They have the opportunity to get to know and mentor these young people in their lives.
Grandchildren and great-grandchildren of all ages are special miracles in our lives. Grandparents are elders who can offer much to grandchildren if we take the time to enjoy each other’s company.
What better way to give and connect than to bestow your time, energy and love, and share your interests with your grandchildren!
“Grandparents are the footsteps to the future generations.” ~ Author unknown
Posted by suzanne on Nov 12, 2012
Long lasting partnerships are very special. When four in ten Canadian marriages end in divorce and most marriages last an average of 14.5 years, even reaching 30 years of marriage is wonderful. Hence, it isn’t everyday that we can celebrate a 50-year wedding anniversary.
We had the pleasure of celebrating this marital milestone with my mother and father in-law. For the family, it was a grand occasion that was remarkable because of the rarity of having 50 years together.
Research has demonstrated the physical and mental health benefits of marriage, including longer life, less depression and greater life satisfaction when compared to single people. The quality of the marriage including commitment and support matter. Every marriage has its ups and downs and only the couples who can see their way through the more difficult times are able to reap the rewards of a long lasting marriage.
Recently, in honour of my in-laws, the entire family spent the weekend together with specially planned family time and events. We had a lot of fun, making more beautiful memories that will last a lifetime. In addition, what was nice was the fact that three generations recognized this marital milestone and everyone was involved, each in their own way, to mark the occasion. My in-laws highly value family. They are amazing people and we are very happy for them. Fifty years is an achievement.
In later life, social relationships take on new meaning. This enables us to better appreciate connecting with others and helps us to deepen special relationships. I am reminded that one of the joys of later life is the ability to have long lived relationships – with a partner, with siblings and friends, with adult children and their partners. Each relationship has different nuances that add joy and magic and make life enjoyable and interesting. In life, it is the relationships that truly matter.
Posted by suzanne on Sep 22, 2012
It is International Active Aging Week. Organizations in Canada and the U.S. are encouraging a healthier lifestyle among the 40 plus.
Why promote exercise? It is about more than just physical health.
Exercise can activate:
- Emotional well-being
- Social connections, including intergenerational relationships
- Spiritual health
- Environmental commitment