Thursday, October 9, 2008

Connecting and Co-Creating Elderhood

Life is journey. And a learning one at that. The key is to find real meaning in that stage that a journeyman is in.

Inner self-discovery is also important. When the outward self loses its former glory (of physical beauty and strength), then it's time to look inside.


One huge lesson could be "Find your true voice instead of simply complying with external forces."

As Richard Leider wrote in his blog post on 16th August 2008:

"Midway through our lives, many of us find ourselves living as if our fundamental growth is behind us. We have, perhaps, accepted our society's dated view of adulthood--that the person we have become at midlife is done becoming.”

Wrong. Grown ups grow too.

Sometimes, mysteriously, we enter what the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung called "the second half of life." Jung wrote:

"Wholly unprepared, we embark upon the second half of life. . .
we take the step into the afternoon of life;
worse still we take the step with the false assumption
that our truths and ideals will serve us as before.
But we cannot live in the afternoon of life
according to life's morning--
for what was great in the morning
will be little at evening, and
what in the morning was true
will at evening have become a lie."

How do we grow in the second half? What exactly is growth? Does it happen to everyone?

We cannon (sic) tell if we have entered the "afternoon of life" by counting the number of candles on our birthday cake. We do not enter the second half just because we reach a magical age. To know where we are in our life's journey, we must learn to look inside. When we look within, we often discover that the second half is a new quest with new questions like:

* My passion is draining away. I'm losing my edge. Where do I find the spark?

* I chose my life's work years ago and brushed aside certain "gifts" that I had. Why are they coming back demanding to be expressed?

* I feel like I look old. I cannot hide the signs of aging anymore. Why does it bother me so much?"

But we should go beyond the past by crafting a present that leads into the future.

For that purpose, here are some guide questions from p. 233 of Eugene Bianchi's book "Elder Wisdom".

1. What do you feel have been the important successes in your life? The frustrations or failures?
2. What were the important turning points in your life? Describe.
3. What have been the most influential experiences of your life? Most influential people?
4. Are there periods of your life that you remember more vividly than others? Which ones? Why?
5. If you were writing the story of your life, how would you divide it into chapters?
6. What sorts of things frighten you now? When you were in your 60? 40s? 20s? In childhood?
7. What kinds of things give you the most pleasure now? When you were in your 60? 40s? 20s? In childhood?
8. If you could live you whole life over, what would you do differently?
9. Do you feel differently about yourself now from how you felt when you were younger?
10. If a young person came to you asking what's the most important thing in living a good life, what would you say?
11. What do you think has stayed the same about you throughout life? What do you think has changed?
12. How can one prepare for old age?
13. How do you feel about growing old now?
14. If you were going to live 5, 10, 20 more years, what would you do?
15. What is the hardest thing about growing older? The best thing?
16. What do you look forward to now?
17. Do you think about death?

Adapted from Ageless Self by Sharon Kaufman.

Now, to make better sense of the above questions and as a matter of personal legacy, I'd like to be able to set up my own pathway home for creative elderhood.

Here's a Pathway home model where I can enjoy my creative elderhood -

"While providing needed clinical care, the Pathway Home and lifestyle also attend to Elders’ quality of life by providing privacy, honoring autonomy and choice, creating a sense of safety, security and order, fostering enjoyment, providing meaningful activities, promoting functional competence, and conveying the importance of the individual’s dignity. "

Here are some typical goals of the daily program of my own pathway home:

  • To conduct exciting and fulfilling activities that sustain dignity and self esteem, confidence, social support, and stimulation
  • To enrich the lives of the elderly sharing their typical days with the home by creating a special time and place to enjoy warm, individualized and group attention in a safe, nurturing, creative, yet structured setting
  • To provide a comfortable environment for elders to maintain interdependence, re-discover friendships, and remain productive
Granted that the physical and social environment are set, crafting and developing one's creative elderhood would typically entail providing assistance to other elders in keeping a personal journal. The pervasive availability of Information and Communication Technology tools could take the form of a digital scrapbook or slambook. (That sounds like "the medium is the message.") But the services of a Digital Historian could also come in handy.

Blogging is a good place to start. The textual form can then be enhanced by multimedia contents of photographs, audio and video.

Part of my involvement would be delivering online training via video -- as a natural extension of face-to-face training/teaching which has been a major part of my earlier productive life. After all, my passion has always been to leave a meaningful mark on other people's lives through education and in the process become a lifelong learner myself. Who knows, that can be my way of co-creating a collective spiritual legacy.

Tessa Yuvienco's Concept Paper on Late Adulthood Program

References:

Berk, Laura E. Development Through the Lifespan http://wps.ablongman.com/ab_berk_lifespan_3/0,8180,981256-,00.html

Bernstein, Arn. September 2007. Spirituality and Aging: Looking at the Big Picture. Online. http://www.agingwellmag.com/septstory1.shtml

Biancchi, Eugene (1994). Elder Wisdom: "Crafting Your Own Elderhood".

Leider, Richard. Claiming your Place at the Fire: Living the Second Half of Your Life on Purpose - http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/1576752976/ref=sib_dp_bod_toc?ie=UTF8&p=S007#reader-link

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