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 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 Jan 6, 2013
Remember the delight and magic of having a birthday to celebrate? It seems a long time ago for some of us. That ended at age 25, and we don’t want to contemplate how long ago that was.
Birthdays are strictly an early-life joy. The aging jokes that come out to greet us on our birthday are tiring and only serve to make us feel older than we feel at heart.
Why is a birthday worth celebrating? How can we get past the dread of having another one? A birthday is our special day. It is a day when those close to us can cherish us and a day to feel good about ourselves – a day for extra fun. Making it our own is the secret to enjoying it.
As we age, how should we recognize and acknowledge the day of our birth?
Here are a few of my suggestions:
- If you are in the labour force, take the day off work. I highly recommend this if you can swing it. Then, celebrate your special day in your own unique way. Do something that reflects your personality.
- Go to a restaurant with friends and/or family. Good food, good drink and good company – what more do you need? My most special birthdays have been spent having breakfast (sometimes second breakfast), lunch, tea time and dinner with different but equally wonderful friends. Plan the meals into your day in order to match the number of friends you wish to see.
- Have quality time with your family. Do something fun together.
- If you are able, ask your mom (and/or dad) what time you were born at and anything else she (or he) can remember from your day of birth. These are treasured family memories of your arrival and can make an interesting conversation about how you were welcomed and came into this world.
- Have a party but make it your own by making yourself happy. Choose something that you like to do and invite your friends and family to join you.
- Take the time to think about and consider the year behind and the year ahead. Like the beginning of the new year, a birthday is a time to reflect and make adjustments and changes. Both of these times of the year are opportunities for reflection, introspection, setting goals, considering past successes and assessing meaning, purpose and significance.
- If you are still uncertain about what to do, have an ‘un-birthday’ party on a day other than your own birthday. Throw a fabulous event and thoroughly enjoy yourself. Try it. It is okay to have immense fun!
Below is a birthday message from a card I recently gave to someone on the occasion of their 50th birthday:
- Follow your heart
- Invent your future
- Find what you’ve been seeking
- Take charge of your destiny
- You deserve all the happiness life can bring
This is excellent advice for individuals of all ages to help them enjoy a great year ahead.
An excellent birthday requires an excellent birthday song. My friend Barbara McAfee has written a wonderful new birthday song. Listen to this and feel good on your birthday!
If you have a milestone birthday coming up soon, please share how you are planning to spend it. Happy Birthday to everyone celebrating a birthday!
Posted by suzanne on Dec 21, 2012
As parents, we instil a love of reading in our kids and teach them to read at an early age. As grandparents, we really enjoy reading to our grandchildren. Reading brings immense joy. What could be more delightful than to sit with a child on your lap, cuddling as you read an adventure or look at a picture book together? Moreover, this is a wonderful way to stimulate a young mind because sitting together and reading is foundational for child development during the early years.
I have been on the lookout for children’s stories that portray wonderful family relationships that are intergenerational, especially books that have images of vivid, engaging grandparents. I have collected some real treasures. Here are a few of the favourites from my shelf:
- The Bye-Bye Pie by Sharon Jennings, illustrated by Ruth Ohi
- Bigbeard’s Hook: Nathaniel McDaniel and the Magic Attic by Evan Solomon, illustrated by Bill Slavin
- Night Noises by Mem Fox and illustrated by Terry Denton
- Someday by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds
I expect to see more books that provide positive images of seniors on library and bookstore shelves. As the population ages, books like the ones above will be written and published to meet the demand for good intergenerational stories. If you have some books to add to this list, I’d enjoy hearing about them.
Have a wonderful holiday. Happy reading to all!
P.S. Dear Readers - To the above list, I am adding:
- A Little Something: A Story about Love and Legacies by Susan V. Bosak, illustrated by Laurie McGaw, and
- Dream: A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom & Wishes by Susan V. Bosak
Posted by suzanne on Dec 11, 2012
When we look around, we are surrounded by elders – those actually in our lives who are close to us and those who we encounter.
Growing up, I was often among seniors and elders so that I felt comfortable with them, just sharing and chatting, listening to stories and getting their advice and input. I am so blessed to have them in my life.
This week I have been deeply moved by two elders. I am going to call them both elders because they are in their late 70’s and early 80’s. In addition, they are at a time in life when they influence others by bestowing wisdom, mentoring younger generations and leaving a legacy. They are of an age that deserves the respect of a word like ‘elder’. It conveys a different image than that portrayed by ‘senior’.
The first elder is a family friend who I re-connected with after not having seen him for many years. Recently, I have been visiting with him – having coffee or dinner and chatting on the phone. He is very caring toward everyone and he loves to help others. His name is Bob and I was thrilled when his new book came out. It was wonderful to attend his book launch with my young daughter. Unfortunately, during the last few weeks he has not been well and it is very difficult to see him suffering from ill health. His days consists of a lot of rest with his wife driving him to medical appointments. Through it all, every time I call, he is his bubbly self – this despite the pain, the frustration and the uncertainty. He is always gracious, caring and engaged. It is a wonder to observe how ill health hasn’t curtailed his zest for life, his vitality and his interest in everybody. He is truly amazing. This is part of what it means to be an elder who is aging successfully and gracefully.
The second elder is Leonard Cohen whose show I just saw in Toronto. He joked about aging throughout his performance. On his new album, many of his songs contain lyrics that convey images of aging “…my friends are gone and my hair is grey. I ache in the places where I used to play…” He talks about missing cigarettes, wondering if he’ll reach age 80. He muses that perhaps he will not make it back to Toronto in 2 years to do another show – all this while doing jigs across the stage during a more than three hour show. He seemed on a mission to continue to be vital and vibrant. He amazed us all; however, I was disappointed that he didn’t tell the audience that he gave up smoking for his health – he obviously still craves cigarettes and he isn’t the only one to struggle with this addiction. In using humour and beautiful lyrics to discuss growing older, he connects well with his audience – we are all aging too (even those of us who don’t have the grey hair). All of this tells me that he is an elder as well – someone who is so caring and gracious, he knows all the support staff by name as he thanks them for their assistance; someone who can influence other people with the words he choses; someone granting wisdom and leaving a legacy.
The role of elder is not to be feared or dreaded. If we are blessed with a long, rich life, we will enter this stage too. As we age, we lose those who are dear to us in the generation immediately above us, so that we are the ones who are left to fill the role of elder. Eventually, we will look up and realize that we have become the elder who is asked about having all the answers, the one who is responsible for mentoring, guiding, informing, advising and inspiring the next generation.
What kind of elder are you becoming? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts and comments.
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.