In challenging times, it is good to heed voices of reason.
The Coronavirus pandemic has shifted our ways of thinking and living.
The voices of the wisest among us are out there. Some have emerged in a Senior Writing Contest, recently concluded by Aging Gracefully TV, a digital and broadcast resource hosted by local senior living expert Kathryn Eyring.
Over the past weeks, Aging Gracefully TV has been accepting entries for this exciting opportunity for prospective writers.
And today, Kathryn reports that the winner has been selected!
“Aging Gracefully TV (AGTV) has selected the winning essay for its online community’s writing contest this week,” reports Kathryn. “Essays had to inspire, encourage, or promote the health and wellness of today’s actively aging population, and the winner was unanimously chosen by the staff of AGTV and The Villager Newspapers.”
Winning essayist is Mary Beth Ions, popular violinist who some might recognize from her performances at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square. In fact, she was working her magic as a string player for the Jesus Christ Superstar musical until the recent ban on public gatherings.
AGTV and The Villager Newspaper staff agreed there were many essays submitted by talented writers, but Mary Beth’s inspiring essay followed all the contest rules and is especially relevant at this time.
There were so many excellent entries that we are also including five other Honorable Mention winners for their insights and words of wisdom.
So, please enjoy these essays. And congratulations to Mary Beth Ions, winner of a $150 gift card!
By Mary Beth Ions
Bette Davis once said, “Old age is no place for sissies.” I don’t know at what age “old” begins but all seasons of a person’s life come with their share of challenges. We perceive challenges as inevitable but as we age we often view them as insurmountable. We do, however, have a choice. Aging gracefully is a decision.
Lemons into Lemonade
The Coronavirus has shifted our paradigm. Nothing is, at least for now, as it was. What an oddly perfect time to incorporate new ideas (safely!) into your life. Spring is coming. Listen to birds, lawnmowers, children and all the other sounds you hear once windows are open. But listen to yourself, too. What is your body saying? if you feel stiff, you need to move. Lack of light and seemingly endless gray days take their toll. Getting outside for even a short walk will clear your mind and give your soul a new perspective. Look at buds on trees and bright protrusions of green everywhere and envision what will soon burst forth. Notice the blue sky and feel the sun. Pet a (friendly) dog. Pay attention to everything. Breathe deeply and just let your mind turn off for a bit. Our brains can be kaleidoscopes of thought and worry. CHOOSE to let go and breathe.
Silver and Gold
An old song refers to “gold” as old friends and “silver” as new friends. As we age, we might begin to lose our precious gold. Please know the sun will continue to rise and your life will go on. There are senior center facilities in almost every community. Many are bright and vibrant and offer a big range of fun. Go to one (when permitted). Play cards, swim, sign up for a bus trip or dinner outing. Chances are you’ll enjoy yourself and welcome new friends into your life!
A Silver Lining
There IS a silver lining to aging. The wealth of knowledge, unique skills, and life lessons seniors offer is enormous. Volunteer to read to kids, offer a lonely neighbor some fresh-baked bread (and conversation!), drive folks to voting locations, be present and aware of opportunities to make the world better.
Our lives can be tapestries of connection. Why not participate and discover your purpose at ANY age!
How Can You Make a Difference?
By Susan Poole
I used to run a food pantry, which required managing a team of volunteers. One afternoon, a group of them were celebrating someone’s birthday. I went back and asked, “Do you mind telling me how old you are?” The birthday girl – let’s call her Pat – grinned from ear to ear. “Eighty-two!”
Wow. Not what I expected. She looked much younger.
Next I asked, “What’s your secret? Above and beyond staying active and eating well, how do you always appear so vibrant and upbeat?”
Pat smiled again. “I try to make a difference in someone else’s life, each and every day.” Here’s what Pat’s weekly schedule often looks like:
– Monday… Volunteers packing groceries for local families who visit the food pantry.
– Tuesday… Helps her neighbor with household chores, sometimes just sits with her and chats.
– Wednesday… Volunteers at a hospital, something she’s done for over two decades—dating back to when they were still called Candy-Stripers.
– Thursday… Picks her great-grandchildren up from school.
– Friday… This day remains open but is always available to family and friends if they need her.
A milestone birthday hasn’t interfered with Pat’s commitment to making a difference. She considers this time of her life an opportunity to do the things she always wanted to do, but never had the time for when she was working or raising her family.
I’ve learned several valuable lessons from Pat and her fellow volunteers. Above and beyond their commitment to helping others, I admire them for discovering other ways to make the world a better place by:
– Maintaining strong friendships. Pat and the other “Monday girls” have volunteered together for several years.
– Finding their passion. They followed their hearts and came together with a shared interest in helping people in need.
– Sharing joy and laughter. There’s no better medicine than that!
Even though I’m not close enough to retirement just yet, I’m already compiling a list of other ways I can be a difference maker—for those around me and also for myself. Start your own list today!
Susan Poole is the former Executive Director of Community Resource Services and currently makes a difference as the Development Officer at the Community Foundation of Lorain County. She is also a freelance writer.
(Susan Poole is the former Executive Director of Community Resource Services and current Development Officer with the Community Foundation Lorain County).
Easy Ways to Find Friendships that Combat Loneliness
By Denise McKee, PHR
Ever wondered why isolation is considered a harsh punishment. It’s because as people, we are wired to be social and surrounded by others. But as we grow older, isolation becomes a challenge. Children are busy with their lives. Family moves away. Spouses become ill and pass away.
Statistics show that those that are alone suffer more from depression, undertake poor life choices such as inactivity or smoking and have a shorter life expectancy.
So, loneliness as we grow older should be combated. And it can be.
Friendships – it’s the best remedy for isolation. Friendship offers support, companionship and relieves stress. And it’s easier than opening a can of tuna.
The key is to get out there…
Join a club – Here you can combine socialization with a common interest. Clubs can be found:
- Online – such as MeetUp, Active, Nextdoor, and Meet the Neighbors
- Social media – such as Facebook/Instagram or the combination of the two, InstaMeets from your local town
Sign up for a program – You can learn something and exercise the mind all the while getting to know a diverse group of people. Programs are found:
- Libraries – host sewing groups, book clubs and writing groups
- Colleges- have classes that range from art to cooking to learning a new language
- Religious institutions – have support groups and studies
Volunteer – this is an ideal way to not only meet new people but to also give back to the community. Can always volunteer at:
- Hospitals and nursing homes – Can visit patience that are alone
- Metro Parks – Nothing better than being out in nature
- Shelters – Can comfort animals or help feed the homeless
Whatever strikes your interest, get out there. Just imagine making lunch plans with someone you just met. Over the great meal, you talk and laugh about the new stitch you haven’t quite mastered that was taught at the library program or the kid that kept petting the snake at the Metro Park summer camp you volunteered at last week.
Volunteering for Hospice
By Joanie Kleinhenz Shackleton
DISCOVERING A WAY TO GIVE BACK. I discovered an opportunity to volunteer when my mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2004. We hired hospice to come into the home and care for her, and were impressed with how much of a difference they made in my mom’s final months/days.
TRAINING REQUIRED. Because I was not a trained medical professional, I took an extensive training course and became a hospice volunteer, where I traveled to homes, nursing homes, and hospice facilities to bring emotional comfort to patients. I talked with them, read to them, played music, prayed with them, or just sat with them.
VIGILING. I also experienced opportunities to sit with dying patients until they took their last breath. One time, I was asked to vigil for a man living in a nursing home with only hours to live. It was Ash Wednesday, and I noticed that the patient had ashes on his forehead. Although he was in a coma and unable to talk, I told him (I have always believed they can hear you even though they can’t communicate) that I also was going to get ashes, and that I was trying to figure out what I could “give up” for Lent. I told him that I LOVED popcorn – so much so that I didn’t think I could give it up for 40 whole days.
TRAITS NECESSARY FOR HOSPICE VOLUNTEERING. Shortly after this one-sided conversation, the patient passed away and I completed my paperwork and rushed to the church where my husband was waiting for me. He asked me how my patient was, and I said, “Well, I told him I was thinking of giving popcorn up for Lent, and he died!”
I find that having a sense of humor helps when dealing with terminally ill patients. It is not easy to show kindness, sympathy and compassion without becoming emotionally involved; however, I have seen how it helps everyone involved – the dying patient, the family members, and the community as a whole.
Forget Me Not
By Glenn Blair
When the Pain of Loss Eventual Subsides, Then What?
The period after a life-changing loss is heartbreaking and chaotic whether it be a death, divorce, illness, loss of a job or any one of a number of life’s setbacks. As friends we want to be helpful and soften the pain. Our well-meaning condolences and expressions of sympathy along with the brutal mechanics of dealing with the loss can be overwhelming and fill the days with frantic, distracting activity. But when all that eventually subsides, inevitably a time of emptiness and loneliness begins that may never entirely go away.
Plan a Later Contact
My wife responded to that emptiness in an extraordinary manner. After she wrote the initial note of sympathy, she marked her calendar for a month later. A time of quiet and most likely loneliness for her friend. My wife would call. Always a phone call. A chance to share thoughts, hear emotion in the voice, and explore subjects that are just too difficult to write about. She was the voice of a caring friend long after the required formal expressions of concern. And, then, she would do another reminder for a month later. As time went by the period lengthen, but there was always a reminder, no matter how distant, to call.
“Please Don’t Forget”
A London friend died too early a number of years ago. His wife wrote to tell us of his passing and ended her letter with, “Please don’t forget John”. Those words broke my heart then. They still do. I will never forget John. And I write yearly to assure her that I haven’t.
When my wife died, I was amazed and moved by the number of condolences that mentioned her practice of extending concern and kindness well beyond the initial time of heartbreak.
I am so proud of her. It gives me great comfort to know of the many who will never forget my wife…because she never forgot them.
(Glenn, a former Standard Oil executive and Baldwin-Wallace professor, returned to Westlake after his wife’s death. Until his early 80s, he had been a Senior Olympics athlete and professional model. He still plays trombone in the Baldwin-Wallace New Horizons Band).
My Father’s Shoes
By Dale Storch
It starts with my father who worked long hours in a hot dirty factory to support his family.
My father wanted me and my brothers to get an education and have a better life. So we did go to college and had professional jobs that didn’t require physical labor.
I watched my father go to work sick and fight through injuries to support us. As my father would say, “The biggest part of life is to show up and do your job.”
So starts my journey into a sport with grueling hours and pain in order to get better. I watched myself as an educated man identify with my father’s blue collar work ethic and go deep into a physically demanding sport as a powerlifter.
Through thousands of hours of training and many injuries, I truly had a greater appreciation of my father’s life as a laborer.
Since my fathers passing 14 years ago I have worn my father’s running shoes at every powerlifting meet.
I spent 42 years at the gym the same amount of time my father worked at his job until he retired. Although I won a world championship, I will never be considered a great champion. Like my father, we were grinders in life and are only appreciated by our family.
So to sum this up, powerlifting has destroyed my knees, my shoulder, my neck but has given me the opportunity to not only wear my father’s shoes, but to walk in them.
As I go to the world powerlifting championships, I am hurt but like my father. But I will show up and compete for the last time. I hope the shoes have a little magic left in them because my body has nothing left.
In loving memory of my Father, Frank Storch.