Recently I had lunch with more than a dozen seniors.
A great lunch…
Working with Seniors has proven to be very interesting. Like waves on a beach, one time a tsunami, most times water surges that lap the sands of patience and energy and other times lulling whooshes appreciated as being able to suntan on a tropical beach. The final verdict of the value of this work is still out.
For more than 6 years I have worked with Seniors in some capacity, not without any regrets. There have been times when I saw this work as discouraging and unsatisfactory like being on a life raft in an intense gale. Age has not brought all of them proportionate amounts of sensitivity, caring or empathy for others. As in other demographics, they have their share of intransigents and self-serving obstinants. Thank goodness as in all things in life there is a yin and yang to the demographic, a full spectrum of good and bad, of sensitive and of selfish. At present, my waves are more tropical, balmy breezes beckoning to attend the beach chaise and practice ocean-side meditation. I am relieve the gales and storms have passed, for now.
I have worked with Seniors in a variety of positions and with an assortment of groups: an executive in a retired professional business association, a member of a Seniors municipal committee, the initiator of an older adults technology club at the central Pickering Library, a computer teacher to Seniors in a City of Pickering computer lab, and secretary of a local branch library book club. All but one of these has been a very gratifying experience and I hope continues to be. Most recently, a couple of months ago, I was fortunate to be hired to moderate a very special group of Seniors at the Better Living Center in Toronto where I act as a moderator of a discussion group relating to issues in the media each week. This has proven to be enlightening and gratifying in many ways.
This Better Living discussion group is something for which I had no expectations and limited experience. The group meets weekly to discuss issues in the current news. My role, to lead and moderate the discussion. My years as a secondary school history teacher are valuable experience and have proven to be useful practice for this role. As I used to do in all my classes everywhere, I learned the names of all the participants within the first few minutes of meeting and retained the names in my overtaxed memory to the present. My teaching experience has made me more empathetic to these people as individuals, as thinkers who can and do contribute to the development and deeper understanding of every topic we discuss in each class.
The group, nearly 30 in number, are all over 65 years of age. The oldest is 94, Maimie Shearer, sharp as a tack to use a cliché, very involved, energetic and a positive and constructive contributor to all our discussions. I remember when Maimie came to the class the first time, about the 4th session. To my question of where she was before this class, she replied, “The weather was still nice and so lawn bowling was more attractive than indoor activities.” I marvelled not only in what she said but also in how she looked. Facially, a touch of makeup, a bit of lipstick, a hint of foundation. To be honest, her unwrinkled complexion needed no cosmetic enhancement at all. She was dressed impeccably, a subtly coloured sweater, pants pressed with a paper cutting edge, shoes as polished as any old time boot black could do. The lady exuded class among a class group!
The gender division of the discussion group favours women 5:1 and at risk of sounding sexist or maybe ageist, I would venture the following reasons for this ratio: women are more motivated to remain socially active in intellectual pursuits than men; women outnumber men as we enter older aged demographics. Curiously, my computer class ratio was exactly the same with the women demonstrating more tenacity, more motivation and more determination to achieve and succeed than the man. Again, curiously, the book club to which I belong has an identical membership ratio but the two men seem to be dedicated and driven to continue their active membership as much as any of the women.
The Better Living discussion group is a lively and energetic bunch. They demonstrate an awareness of current issues that continually surprises me. They have a familiarity and comprehension of what is happening everywhere in the world but especially back home, nationally, provincially and municipally. The voice diverse opinions about social, health and political issues with as well read and well examined views as any other generation, maybe better as they seem to have more time to read and watch the news. They are as critical of the negative as any other group, maybe even more so as when discussing waste in the financial world or self-interest and ineptness within the political.
They are well read, maybe even more so, than any other group. But not only are they well read, they also write well. One of the group, Walter Cooke, is a published author, having written three books relating to Canadian history and culture: TORONTO…CITY OF WINNERS, CANADA – GLORIOUS AND FREE, CONTEMPT FOR DANGER. The more I learn about the group, the more they amaze, inspire and motivate me as a Senior.
As I learn more about these intelligent, thoughtful and active Seniors in our community I will revisit the website to write a little more about them. As I talked with a number of them at our Christmas lunch, I was learning that to a person, each has a “book” of living which interest others and maybe would encourage other seniors to become more active, socialize more with peers and become more involved with their community, their library and the various activities, events and goings-on that are happening in the city around them.