The Warmth of Spain Melts Ottawa

Earlier this week 150 people came to Lindenelm, the residence of the Spanish Ambassador, to talk about the book and support HIPPY. The Ottawa branch of this international organization supports 50 families and their preschoolers through home visitors who speak French, English, Spanish, Arabic and Creole.

After my talk, people had lots of questions:

How has my research affected my own life? What am I doing differently?
Did the elders’ finances affect the quality of their aging?
What about spirituality and its impact on aging well?
What did the elders say about the loss of a spouse?

We pulled ourselves away from the group discussion to enjoy the “vino y tapas” and to bask in the gracious hospitality of the Ambassador and his wife. They brought the warmth of Spain to a cold, snowy January night.


New Year's Resolutions

Readers are using the advice from the elders to “think different.”

  • You’re deepening and widening your emotional circle. You’re making new friends and adding some younger friends. And you’re not taking your family and friends as much for granted.
  • You’re taking up new activities – sculling, rowing, dancing, music lessons.
  • You’re mixing up your traditions and breaking down old patterns in order to make memories. e.g.  Doing something completely different for your holiday.
  • You’re taking risks – buying that boat and heading off for an extended cruise, quitting work, relocating, finding a new partner.
  • You’re re-organizing your library while you still have the wherewithal.
  • You’re rethinking retirement and planning to mix in some part-time consulting or deciding to re-train in a different field.
  • You’re downsizing or you’re re-considering the suitability of your cottage as a retirement home.
  • You’re getting rid of your stuff, and trying to convince your partner to do the same.
  • You’re getting together with relatives to research your family tree while there’s still time.
  • You’ve given the book to your partner and said, “After you’ve read it, let’s talk.”
  • You’re reminding yourself about the importance of passion and the need for a challenging, creative interest.  And you’re figuring out how to find it.

What’s your new year’s resolution? Share it by commenting below!


We CAN Learn New Tricks 

One of my great sources of inspiration is the way seniors are embracing new technologies. I met 90-year-old Simon Goldenthal when we were on CBC’s The Current. Every day, Simon goes on Facebook to connect with relatives spread all over the world, from B.C. to New Zealand.

In October The Current interviewed Ted Broostad who’s 100 years old and lives on his own in Calgary. About six years ago, his granddaughter talked him into getting a computer. He loves taking digital photos, and every morning he’s on Skype talking to his daughter in Kaslo, B.C.

Then there’s my friend who told me this story about her aunt. “At age 80 she’s taken up keyboard. Her son's girlfriend needed to store her keyboard at her house - so she thought it would be a shame to let it go to waste. She's really good at FreeCell, (the computer solitaire card game), so figured she'd be good at keyboard, too. I love her spirit."


Mansbridge Has a Big Audience

I can always tell when CBC replays my interview with Peter Mansbridge because I get lots of mail. People wrote from right across the country including Surrey, Fort McMurray, Sault Ste Marie and Moncton. Here’s a sample of what they had to say:

(Martha) "I am 72. Age has nothing to do with it. It's all attitude!!!!!!! The way I think, and am, are the same as they always have been. That never ages. The body does... but, so what. Aging is great for wine... it's great for me. The important thing is to create, be creative, to touch nature, to be open. There is never enough 'time' for that. Be positive.”

(Michael) “When your interview started with Peter I thought you had somehow found my daily notes on what I have been experiencing in my life. Your book may help me understand why some of my closest friends have been shying away from the past fun things we used to do together.”

(Bill) “I felt compelled to thank you for your discussion with Peter on healthy aging. I am dealing with a mother who suffers with the old mindset of self-limiting attitudes relating to socialization and learning new skills. I found your approach provided a language to frame and describe my observations. As more of us live longer we are going to have to radically change our behaviours in order to optimize our time frames for healthy living.”



Learning at the Library

For me, the highlight of this busy fall has been the talk I gave with Sydney Bacon at the Toronto Reference Library. Sydney (pictured above) is 100 years old and is one of the book’s role models. There were over 80 people in the audience and Sydney’s wise and witty take on life had them spellbound. Here are some questions he was asked:
Q. Should you tell your age?
A. No – it’s irrelevant. What matters is who you are as a human being.
Q. What is important in life?
A. From the age of 62 I have lived Polonius’ advice to Hamlet: to thine own self be true.
Q.  How do you keep your mind so sharp?
A. I accept whatever stage I am at, and make the most of it. And I never stop making friends.
Talking with Sydney forces us to throw away our assumptions about aging.