Creative Aging Expert

September 2008

In This Issue


Civic Engagement is Fun!

While traveling in California, I met an eager crop of senior volunteers. Texans Pete and Jean were Campground Hosts at Dorst Campground in Sequoia National Park. As their children were growing up, they cris-crossed the U.S. and Canada in their RV, staying at many beautiful parks. In retirement they decided to give back by volunteering at national parks across the country. Not only were they hosting one section of the campground, but also registering campers. Jean was quick to lend me her Western bird book to help me identify some strange new birds. The park gave them a free spot for their RV and two days off each week to explore the marvelous sights in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Driving up Route 1 along the rugged Pacific Coast, I stopped at an overlook where Elephant Seals were resting. I was greeted by Docent George Larson, a retired high school history teacher who wore a lapel pin celebrating his 700 volunteer hours. Three days of training offered by the non-profit organization, Friends of the Elephant Seal, and research on seals on the Internet enabled him to answer my many questions. He also had assembled a photo book of highlights in the seals' lives to share with interested onlookers. George was one of 80 volunteers who give this site daily coverage - driving over two hours one way from Bakersfield one day every week year-round! George also gives presentations at schools and churches.

Staying at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel in Pescadero, CA I met Pamela, a senior volunteer at the lighthouse gift store who found the opportunity in an ad. Twice a week, Pamela drives from her home an hour away. The store has become a very important part of her weekly doings and has piqued her interest in the history of lighthouses. Her jacket displayed a collection of buttons from lighthouses she and her husband had visited all over the country.

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Ted Roszak's New Book Serialized on Second Journey Web site

Ted Roszak, author of The Making of a Counter Culture published 30 years ago, has written a sequel, The Making of an Elder Culture. Commercial publishing houses have not been interested in publishing it (even though he is a successful author of 20 books), believing that boomers don't read books about aging! So Second Journey has agreed to serialize it on their Web site beginning in October in four installments of three chapters each. They describe it as "an extraordinary and masterful work of social commentary by an astute, engaged and visionary writer." In October go to secondjourney.org/Roszak.htm. Here's an excerpt from the foreword to give you an idea of what's ahead.
    And no, boomers - the best educated, most widely traveled, most innovative generation we have ever seen - are not too frivolous to face the dilemmas of longevity. On the contrary, I believe they will, in growing numbers as the years unfold, recognize that the making of an elder culture is the great task of our time, a project that can touch life's later years with nobility and intellectual excitement.

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Growing Older - Feeling Sad Reply

I only got one reply to last newsletter's story about a 60-year-old woman depressed about aging. It was from Noreen, who said, "I just turned 58 and, for the first time, I am feeling anxious and a little depressed about this whole aging thing. Although you couldn't have convinced me on this at 25, the best decades of my life - my 40s and 50s - are coming to an end. And did they ever fly by!! But I am grateful for my excellent health and that I still look youthful... and I am determined to make this next decade a time of adventure, success, love and excellent health. Besides 60 is the new 40!!"

Right on, Noreen - lots of adventures ahead of you. Go for it. But 60 isn't the new 40 - it's the new 60. We just have to get used to it.

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What's Wrong with Aging?

This piece was referred to in the Sept 1st Human Values & Aging Newsletter a publication of AARP. It is taken from a web log about topics and issues discussed in the book, Human Odyssey: Navigating the 12 stages of life by Thomas Armstrong. news.aarp.org.

There's been so much in the news lately about anti-aging remedies from anti-wrinkle cream to human growth hormone that I just wanted to speak for the pro-aging side. What's wrong with aging? I see the faces of elderly people who have decided to deny their aging with chin lifts, botox injections and facial implants, and I get this creepy feeling inside. Why are they avoiding the natural wrinkles, creases, bumps and sags that come with growing old?

I've always felt that there's something beautiful about the faces of aging people. When I was a child, I'd see these photos of older Native American leaders in the National Geographic, and even at that young age I felt a deep beauty in their faces. I'd look at the faces of my grandmother and great-grandmother (who I was privileged to live with for a year) and be in awe. In some ways I get the same kind of feeling when I look at ancient trees.

It seems that people in our youth-oriented culture have lost touch with the deep meanings that collect around being old. It's as if they wanted to eliminate autumn and winter from the four seasons. It's as if they were saying, "let's get rid of the hideous autumn foliage, and withered leaves, so everything can be green all the time." There's a life-denying quality to those artificially stretched cheeks and foreheads; a kind of tension there that wants to pretend time doesn't exist. But it does. What a great honor it is to be part of this mysterious life process that unfolds, that has been unfolding for as long as there have been living things!

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Training the Brain at Delaware Senior Centers

Working with several other organizations, the Delaware Senior Centers have developed a three-part strategy to raise awareness of the importance of mental fitness as a key element in overall well-being and healthy, active aging. The Time of Your Life program, funded by AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, is targeted to boomers who want to remain vibrant as they get older and to senior adults interested in maintaining or improving their overall mental functioning.

This program includes: Brain Boosters for small groups and individuals in senior centers and community settings. Toolkits for organizations that include general information about mental fitness, an Internet guide that lists free mind-flexing Web sites, games that stimulate different parts of the brain, meditation resources and books. Orientation to program implementation, newsletter articles, evaluation tools and quarterly feedback.

Food for Thought is a second program offered in the evening at several sites in the county. A brain-healthy meal and a presentation with discussion give participants the opportunity to socialize with lively conversation. Topics have ranged from the Alzheimer's Association's Maintain Your Brain program and a debate on the death penalty to a cooking demonstration and a history lesson on African-American schools in Delaware.

This information comes from the July 2008 Senior Center Voice of the National Institute of Senior Centers. For more information, visit wilmingtonseniorcenter.org or call the Center at 302-651-3400.

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Cell Phones for Seniors

I'm hard-of-hearing, so I have difficulty hearing on most cell phones and often have to ask friends to do my hearing for me. Recently I bought a phone with a speaker phone button that makes it so loud, I annoy the people around me! But now I can hear on my own. Another cell phone mentioned in an earlier newsletter is the Jitterbug, which "doesn't play games, take pictures, or give you the weather." Developed with Samsung, it's for people who want a "simple cell phone experience." It has large buttons, a volume up/down button on the cover, and is hearing-aid compatible. For more complete information, go to jitterbugdirect.com or call 1-866-540-0297.

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Help in Giving Up Driving

Did you know there are such people as driver rehabilitation specialists? They are professionals who can evaluate an older person's ability to operate his/her vehicle safely. To learn more or to find a specialist in your area, visit www1.aota.org/olderdriver. Another resource is the Family Conversations with Older Drivers Web site at thehartford.com You can download a very instructive free brochure, or order one by mail, that provides very good information on helping an older driver give up the car keys. A "Getting There Worksheet" and a "Warning Signs" page offer helpful, specific guidance on how to have these difficult and sensitive conversations.

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Workshop with Dene Peterson: Creating Community for the 50+ Set

I know this is short notice, but in case you live in the DC area, I wanted to inform you of a very interesting workshop to be held Saturday, September 13, in Gaithersburg, MD from 2-4:30 p.m. led by Dene Peterson, founder and developer of the acclaimed Elder Spirit Community in Abingdon, VA. Cost is $35. If you are pondering what kind of place you want to live in as you grow older, this workshop may stimulate some creative thinking. It is a rare opportunity to meet and talk with Dene about how YOU can create the community you're looking for.

Attendees will look at the traditional concepts of eldering, wisdom, leadership, dignity and ritual - all within the context of "aging in place in Community." Learn about how this community has evolved principles that enliven and enrich the years in the second half of life. Learn how you can organize a community based on these principles AND learn about a new community under consideration in Clarksburg, MD.

To register online, visit intentionalcomm.meetup.com, or call 703-663-3911, or e-mail Ann Zabaldo. To learn more about The Abingdon community, go to elderspirit.net.

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Make It Happen! Plans

After a wonderful month on the West Coast hiking the high Sierras in Sequoia National Park, exploring the rugged Pacific coastline along Route 1, and experiencing San Francisco's wonders, I am back home and raring to go. Will keynote the Coliseum Health System of Macon, GA Women's Symposium September 27, and the Virginia Recreation and Park Society's Senior Resource Group's Fall Conference on Senior Programming, Therapeutic Recreation and Aging on November 14. In between, I will entertain the Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club with a slide show of my three-month bicycle tour of Ireland, Wales and England. It's good to be back in the groove.

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Emily Kimball
3220A West Grace Street
Richmond, VA 23221-1306
(804) 358-5536
Fax (804) 358-2415

web: TheAgingAdventurer.com
email: etkimball@aol.com