When our family was together over Christmas we all walked to a neighbourhood park near our son and daughter-in-law’s Winnipeg home to play in the snow with the children. My husband Dave and I spied a pair of swings and promptly sat down and started pumping till we were quite high in the air.
“Oh look,” our ten-year-old grandson said pointing to us and calling out to the rest of the family, “Grandma and Grandpa are being children.”
Our grandson’s comment got me thinking about whether it was a good thing that we were ‘being children’ because adults are sometimes chastised for ‘behaving like a child.’
A little online research revealed that sometimes ‘acting like a kid’ is good for you no matter how old you are.
British therapist Adam Eason says being playful and childlike can relievestress, help you feel younger, stimulate your imagination, enrich interpersonal relationships, and give you more energy.
Dr Stuart Brown has written a book called Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. He says playing isn’t just for children. We all need to play like kids at times if we are going to flourish.
DrBrown has interviewed thousands of people about the role of play in their lives. He says playing with the passion and fun-loving spirit of a child helps foster social skills, intelligence, creativity and problem-solving.
According to him adults especially need to play like children during challenging times in their lives because it helps them remain optimistic.
Marelisa Fabrega is a lawyer and entrepreneur with a blog called Daring to Live Fully. She has some good suggestions for adding child-like fun to your life.
One is to have a play drawer where you keep jigsaw puzzles, colouring books, paper and paints, adult playdoh (yes there is such a thing) and Lego. She encourages adults to take time to indulge in an activity from their play drawer regularly.
She suggests play dates with friends where you visit a playground, go mini-golfing, go tobogganing or ride your bikes.
Marelisa also recommends hanging out with kids as a surefire way to start ‘acting like a kid’ yourself.
I LOVE the fact that our grandson thought his grandpa and I were being children on those swings. We probably need to do that more often.
On Saturday my husband Dave always takes the New York Times crossword puzzle out of the newspaper and heads off to a coffee shop to have breakfast and complete the puzzle with his friend Les. He leaves the easier Premier Crossword in Saturday’s paper for me to do.
Normally I finish my puzzle by the end of the morning but last weekend I was so busy working on a writing project I only got about a third of the clues done.
I left the puzzle on the nightstand by my bed so I could work on it every night before I went to sleep.
I knew seeing that unfinished puzzle by our bed was driving my husband Dave crazy. He does crossword puzzles every day and NEVER leaves one undone. To him, an unfinished crossword puzzle is like a hang-nail. He can’t leave it alone.
On Wednesday when I slipped into bed and reached over to pick up my crossword puzzle……. it was finished. Dave just hadn’t been able to stand looking at it in its incomplete state any longer.
I figured he’d actually used remarkable self-control by waiting for four nights before he finished it.
My husband is a bit obsessed with crossword puzzles. But I guess he could have far worse addictions.
This week I am visiting four seniors homes to talk about the story in my book Lost on the Prairie but mostly what I’ve been doing is listening to seniors tell me stories. And their stories are delightful. Yesterday a 99-year-old man regaled me with a tale of his family’s vacation trip to South Dakota after I mentioned I’d gone there to research my novel.
He said in the 1930s people didn’t have radios in their cars so they had to make up their own entertainment. As his family had travelled to South Dakota in their Austin 14 they had composed a song with seventeen verses about their journey.
And ………the gentleman proceeded to sing them to me. He still remembered the song clearly. His family had needed to hurry their return trip because his mother held an important position in the Aid Society at her church and she had to be home for their monthly meeting.
That is just one of many stories I’ve heard in the last three days. I’m off to visit another home today. I wonder what stories I’ll hear there.
Rita one of my Facebook friends, and a member of my husband’s extended family, had four words in a social media comment yesterday that she said had become her motto.
BE OLD! BE BOLD!
I think it’s good advice because sometimes it seems the OLDER we get the less inclined we are to take risks and try new things. But really what better time in life to do that than when your children are independent, your career has come to an end, and you have fewer demands on your time?
I find that I have become more outspoken as I’ve aged. I used to worry about what people would think if I expressed strong opinions. Somehow as I’ve gotten OLDER that doesn’t cause me anxiety anymore and I have noticed especially with my newspaper columns, that I have become much BOLDER about saying what I believe.
The pandemic put a crimp into our travels and we are still feeling a little wary about it, but now we have decided to BE BOLD. Next month we will embark on another cycling trip, this time in southern Ontario that will end up on Pelee Island in Lake Erie. We will cycle the island for several days learning all about its history and plants and wildlife from an expert guide.
And then in January, we hope to be off on a two-month adventure to Tanzania and other African destinations. We have started to make bookings for that already.
Jennifer Ailshire a California professor of gerontology says baby boomers are redefining what ageing looks like. William Chopik a Michigan psychology professor studied 500,000 people over fifty and found that those who reported feeling younger than they actually were, lived longer and healthier lives.
I hope society is starting to change the conversation around ageing. Growing OLD can be about growing BOLD. Our last decades of life can be a time to pursue long-held dreams, discover passions for new things and explore exciting places and possibilities.
The other day my husband asked me if I was ever going to try skiing again. I replied without thinking “I’m too OLD for that.” I should have replied, “I’m BOLD enough to give that a try.”
You are never too OLD to set another goal or to dream a new dream. – C.S. Lewis
We had plans to see the latest Shakespeare in the Ruins play Much Ado About Nothing on Saturday night with friends. After a lovely dinner at an Italian restaurant, we headed over to the Trappist Monastery in St. Norbert where the outdoor production of the play was being staged.
I had bought our four tickets online but the ticket seller couldn’t find my name on the audience list for some reason. It was then I discovered that by mistake I had purchased tickets for June 25th rather than June 18th. The seller was apologetic but since the play was sold out they couldn’t trade our tickets.
We had bandied both Saturdays about as possible dates for the evening with our friends but had definitely settled on the 18th. Why in the world had I purchased tickets for the 25th? I can’t tell you.
I apologised profusely to our friends. My husband reminded me that this wasn’t the first time I’d messed up in this way.
Did I remember the time I’d gone to catch a plane at the Hong Kong airport at 1 pm in the afternoon when I should have caught it at 1 am the previous morning?
Did I remember the time we were in Croatia and I’d booked a tour for one day but pencilled in the date on our travel itinerary for the following day so we showed up twenty-four hours late?
Did I remember the time in Portugal when I’d booked a tour for the wrong day too?
My husband Dave is usually the one to make our travel arrangements and social engagements but sometimes I do take a turn and have on more than one occasion really messed things up. It worries me.
Am I just getting old or am I too scatterbrained? It makes me wonder if there are other things I have missed or completely forgotten.
On Saturday of course our friends were polite and kind about my error. My friend even gave me a hug because she knew I was feeling so awful about the whole thing.
I am going to try to change our tickets for another night because now the 25th doesn’t suit our friends. So we may get a chance to see the play yet. But the fact is….. I messed up. I probably will again.
Would I consider MAID? It’s something I’ve thought about as I watch my elders reach their final life phase and realize that time is approaching for me.
Younger people seem startled by the suggestion I might consider medically assisted dying, but when discussing it with folks I know who are my age I find the majority would prefer to make their own decision about life’s end. They’ve witnessed a parent’s or grandparent’s challenging experience and have no desire for something similar.
My mother-in-law spent her last year dependent on caregivers for her most basic needs after a stroke. She told me it required more courage than any other life chapter. Knowing the challenges Mom had already faced in the past I was so sad for her. “Growing old is not for cowards,” she confided.
Several family members in their 90s are currently enduring debilitating health challenges. They are people of strong religious faith and have shared their bewilderment and even anger with God for not allowing them to die. Their peers are gone, and they are living in difficult circumstances, their ability to find joy and hope curtailed further by the pandemic. What possible purpose might God still have for them?
Recent medical advancements have made it possible to extend life to such a degree that current generations are perhaps the first to really have to consider just how long we want to take advantage of the health care system’s ability to keep us alive.
Experience is teaching me that caring for older family members is challenging. If at some point I am no longer independent I would grieve if my children were forced to make tough decisions about whether to steal important time away from relationships with partners, children, and grandchildren to tend to me.
Researching long term care for seniors in my family has opened my eyes to the state of the facilities where many people spend their last years. To be honest, it would be tough to be institutionalized in even the nicest ones, but some places I’ve visited are truly deplorable and we should be ashamed that in a wealthy country like ours this is the way we treat our elders.
Rather than spending time and energy trying to fight MAID legislation as some do, I’d suggest investing one’s resources in volunteering at a senior’s residence, advocating for pay and benefit advancements for nursing home workers who do one of society’s most challenging jobs and pressing politicians to increase funding for home care and other supports for the elderly.
I believe we should be able to make our own decisions about the end of life. I know people nearing their hundredth birthday who despite some physical and social challenges still enjoy each day and find meaning and purpose in their routines and relationships and their connection to the natural world.
My mother faced considerable health problems, but little pain, before she passed away. Even in her last days she connected meaningfully with loved ones and still appreciated music, flowers, and laughter. MAID would not have been a choice for her.
I don’t know what my end-of-life experience will be or whether I will decide that MAID is the best decision at some point, but I am glad I live in a country where I have that choice.
I know I blog a fair bit about the nearly addictive puzzling habit I’ve acquired since the start of the pandemic. I thought it might abate as the pandemic eased but it has not. And as I do one puzzle after another I am learning new things.
This latest puzzle was unique in that it was the first one I’ve done where each piece had an alphabet letter on the back of it. The puzzle had been divided into 9 sections and the pieces from that section all had the same letter on its back. I only noticed this after I’d completed the puzzle frame. When I divided the puzzle pieces by alphabet letter the puzzle became incredibly easy to complete. I did one section at a time.
And that’s how lots of things you take on as projects can be. You organize the things you need to complete into doable sections and then tackle them one by one.
I’ve gone back through my old puzzle blog posts and I’ve found lots of ways that puzzles have helped me learn about life.
Connecting the different sections of a puzzle takes hard work just like connecting diverse groups of people.
Sometimes it’s great to puzzle with others but other times it’s good to puzzle alone just like we all need alone time as well as social time.
It can take awhile to find a missing piece to a puzzle just like it can take awhile to figure out what’s missing in a relationship or in your life.
You often start with the frame when you do a puzzle. How you frame things is important. Experiences you have in life can be interpreted so differently depending on how you frame them.
You don’t have to finish the whole puzzle to feel satisfied. Every piece you put in gives you a small sense of accomplishment. The process of doing something can be just as rewarding as the final product.
Some puzzles are too hard and some are too easy. It takes awhile to find the ones that are just right for you. And it’s like that with determining the sweet spot between other extremes like whether you are too busy or not busy enough.We have to find what’s right for us.
I am sure I will learn more lessons as I keep indulging my puzzling habit. The next one is already purchased and ready to spread out on the dining room table.
I was giving a tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery yesterday to a group of teenagers from a high school in the Interlake region of the province. I told them about a piece currently on display in the gallery that had been retired from public view since 1953. I told the students it was the year I had been born. One young man seemed genuinely surprised. “I thought you might be around 45.”
Since I have a son who is almost 45 the young man’s comment was obviously erroneous, misguided and far-fetched. Perhaps he didn’t notice all my wrinkles with my face under a mask. But………. I have to say that initially, I felt pretty good about his comment.
But later I started wondering why. Why is it a compliment to say someone looks young?
I certainly wouldn’t want to be younger than I am. I am enjoying this stage of life- where I get to be flexible about where and how much I work- where I get to experience the incomparable joy of being a grandparent- where I have had the freedom to travel and see the world – where I have time to explore new opportunitiesand develop new skills– and where I’ve been fortunate enough to feel pretty healthy.
Liketoo many of us, I have probably been brainwashed by our youth-obsessed culture and media and the industries that make massive amounts of money from people who are trying to look younger than they are.
I like my age and I shouldn’t need or want people to tell me I look younger than I really am.
On Sunday the Winnipeg Free Press carried a story about the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Thrift Store on Selkirk Avenue where I am a regular volunteer. Profits from the store go to the Mennonite Central Committee an aid organization that has programs to help those in need in North America and around the world.
Volunteering at an MCC store is a family tradition. My mother Dorothy volunteered at the store in Steinbach Manitoba for many years and my mother-in-law Anne was a volunteer at the MCC store in Leamington, Ontario. After my parents moved to Winnipeg my Dad Paul volunteered at an MCC store in the city’s Kildonan area with friends from the seniors’ complex where he lived.
The Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Store movement which has spread across North America was co-founded fifty years ago by a group of friends from Altona. Selma Loewen (Auntie Selma to me) was part of this group. She was an honorary aunt of mine since she and her husband Bill were dear friends of my parents.
Clearly, in volunteering at the MCC Thrift Store I am carrying on a family tradition.
I began working at the Selkirk Store when I first retired from teaching and have filled many different roles there but for the last number of years have worked on the second floor of the building with a group of women from my church, sorting through boxes of donations and pricing items for the store shelves.
My friends and I visit and talk and share stories as we work and eat our lunches together. We tell each other about the good times as well as the challenges in our lives.
We are lucky to have Marge Sawatsky as our leader and organizer. Every week she sends out an e-mail to our group giving updates on our work at the store and the news we’ve shared about our lives. So even if we haven’t been able to make it to the shop that week we are kept informed. Marge’s messages help to create a wonderful sense of community that keeps us coming back to volunteer.
I hope I can continue my work at the Thrift Shop for many more years carrying on a family tradition with friends.