Last week, a close friend attended one of my bi-weekly senior “talks” and as I stood in front of the ten or twelve people in attendance, sharing, I noticed that my friend had a kind of grimace on her face.
When I passed the hand-outs to everyone, and the real discussion began, we explored the way seniors have lost the art of communication and do not know how to talk to each other kindly or with respect.
As our discussion crawled along, I was once again taken by my friend’s absence of expression, except for the look of impatience and an obvious need for us to wrap it up so that she and I could go shopping after my work day was over. She and I are near the same age, and she, like me, is very active. She has no time to sit around and bemoan the fact that we are getting older. I knew she had something she wanted to say.
As soon as everyone cleared the community room, my friend helped me pick up the remainder of my handouts and whispered a little too loud, “I don’t know how you do it”. At first, I thought she meant how do I work in the office and still do the side things like organizing groups for our peers and sharing little-known resources available to seniors. Then, she continued, “I mean, they are sitting there waiting to shoot down all your discussion material, some are nodding off, while others are not participating at all”. I decided I would not answer all of her questions right then, and told her I would clock out and meet her in the parking lot.
When I got into her car, we decided to go to one of our favorite healthy drink bars. She shook her head and continued her mini-tirade. “You could do so much better”, she began and went into all the reasons I should be doing something else with my life.
“These people are just sucking the life right out of you” she warned. I tried to explain why I love being a senior, a mentor and life coach to seniors and an encouragement. I told her, “They are not “they”…because we are a “we” and they are really just as important to know as you are”. She sniffed indignantly, “I don’t see how”.
I laughed out loud. I began to explain that everyone is different, just as when we were young. Now, some have been saddled into thinking that life is over. Part of my passion is to open the doors to new adventures and opportunities for seniors.
These days, many do not address the daily needs and personal struggles of our peers, unless there is hearing loss, incontinence or cremation involved. I am blessed to be able to help others. One day, I might need those resources for myself. At that time, I sure hope someone will come along and remind me to inhale and exhale and get on with my life. I want to be more than a stack of my aging challenges.
Though these are realities, older people cannot be summed up as depressed denture and diaper wearers. My goal has always been to embrace the place of life I am in. As a teen, I was eager to discuss all things “teen”. As a young wife and mother, I was the one the other moms came to with questions about pregnancy that I was just learning and they were disinterested in discovering. I bought all the books, including the one by that famous doctor who told you how not to discipline your children. I wanted to know and I wanted those who did not know to gain and retain knowledge about our bodies and emotional health as well. Nothing has changed.
I have always been a researcher of sorts, so finding new information, offers, activities and such for my new season of life is just as important to me. That little blurb on TV says, “The More You Know” and it applies to seniors as well as those young’uns it targets!
I encourage my peers not to “tighten up” but to “lighten up” about getting older. We do not need to take ourselves so seriously trying to fit into categories that society has whittled out for us. We are the same generation that made the changes that made history and shall always remain.
I work with seniors because being a senior allows me to do hands-on work that is beneficial to all. I also work with my peers because it is my passion. It has to be my latest passion because I have never been this age before, and it is exciting to share with each other and take care of each other.
My friend didn’t get it. She did not like the attitudes and confrontational stances, but I recognize each one of them from past lives. The cheerleader, now in her sixties, does not like the way her face and body has changed. The mother who has been disregarded and left behind by the children she still loves and cherishes.
The gentleman who used to work two jobs to support his wife and family, now a widower with nothing but time on his hands. The stories are endless. I introduce role-playing games and interactive games that spark laughter or we go and volunteer at places where we feel needed and useful. I try to reintroduce LIFE!
Many of my neighbors range in age from mid-fifties to early eighties. Many are surviving independently, but are not actually living. I am dedicated to helping to make positive changes in the life of those around me. I always remind my friends and neighbors that we came from different backgrounds and lifestyles, we all have a story or more to tell, and we are all in this together.
I would encourage all of us to take a stand on fighting loneliness, isolation, and depression among our peers. We each can make a difference, make new friends and set out on new and unexpected adventures!
Zenobia L Silas-Carson is a native of Chicago IL and has lived in Minnesota for the last 30 years. She has worked as an advocate for battered women, and those being released from the prison system. Zenobia is also a former elementary school teacher and nursing assistant. Currently, she resides and works in a fifty-five plus community where she holds the position of office assistant and activities director. She facilitates three food programs, is the proprietor of Zenobia’s Community Store and in her so-called spare time is a life coach for seniors. In her other spare time, she is a mother grandmother, great grandmother and licensed minister.