If you live in the Vancouver area, or are planning a visit there, here are a couple of excellent seminars you will want to be sure and attend!
This coming Saturday, April 1st, 2017:
PEACE OF MIND, MENTAL WELLNESS AND THE CHURCH: Carey Institute, Vancouver. This seminar is about how the church can better address the implications of psychological factors often accentuated in later life (e.g. anger, depression, anxiety). It also aims to help us better understand the complexities of living for those dealing with dementia and those providing care. Led by Rev. Dr. Paul Pearce, Director of the Centre for Healthy Aging Transitions (CHAT) Carey Institute, Dr. Sandra Yuk Shuen Wong, Registered Psychologist, and Rev. Doug Johnston, who for over 21 years worked in a nursing capacity at the veterans Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver, where he ministered to many living with dementia.
AGING MATTERS: July 17-21, 2017, Regent College, Vancouver. Led by Rev. Dr. Paul Stevens, author of the wonderful new book by the same name, and Rev. Dr. Paul Pearce, Director of the Centre for Healthy Aging Transitions (CHAT) Carey Institute. Accommodation available through Carey Centre, Vancouver. Here is a description of the course, which I quote from the Regent College website:
“Every ten seconds someone in North America becomes a senior. This demographic reality has inspired both fear andhope. In this course we will explore the challenges and opportunities of becoming an older adult (55+/), including critical issues such as diminished energy, the search for significance, continuing to work after work, calling and service in the world and church. This course is designed to help those needing to address the issues of aging — whether older adults themselves or people working with an aging population (e.g., pastors, counsellors, social workers)—from a Christian perspective. In light of the realities of aging, the course will address the issues of vocation, meaning and security, and spirituality. There will be lectures, case studies, interviews and guests.”
One of the joys of having adult children is the possibility for new relationships to grow and blossom. I was reminded about this just this past weekend when my 29-year-old daughter Alexandra and I enjoyed a wonderful day together in London. The day passed quickly. Plus, we had so much to talk about over lunch! A month ago, Richard and I had a delightful time also with Alexandra’s younger brother, 27-year-old Lachlan. When he was little, I remember organizing special outings for him and his siblings and friends. Now he was organizing day trips for Richard and me – wonderful outings, including a trip to a Berber village in the Atlas Mountains and visits to the coastal towns of Morocco.
Not everyone is blessed with good relationships with their children or parents. Sometimes we go through rough patches. But the years after 50 can often provide us with an opportunity to revisit earlier relationships we may have had with parents or children, or even siblings. When we do, we often discover that it is possible to build new friendships with our loved ones, including healing for old wounds.
My friend Joyce Payne says that one of the real joys of retirement was the possibility to build a new and special relationship with her aging mother. Joyce had not been very close with her mother for many years. The death of a dear friend and a much loved pet led her, in her mid-50’s, to experience an epiphany. “Jesus,” she says, “kept opening doors for me and building the platform of a new life of service in the church.” Coinciding with this epiphany and her call to enter more deeply into lay ministry in the church, was a greatly improved relationship with her mother. At the end of their first heart-to-heart, Joyce’s mother proclaimed excitedly, “God has given me my daughter back!”
Joyce’s mother died last spring, but not before learning that her precious daughter had been voted in as President Elect of London Conference of the United Church of Canada. She could not have been prouder! And when Joyce is inducted as the 93rd President of London Conference, among those surrounding her in “that great cloud of witnesses to the life of faith” (Hebrews 12:1) I truly believe there will be one enormously satisfied and well-pleased mother.
Where are you being called to re-build relationships with family and friends in the second half of life?
One of the most fascinating excursions we took when Richard and I visited our son Lachlan in Morocco, was the road trip to the coastal town of Essaouira. A common site along the road to this beautiful seaside town was that of goats climbing the argan trees.
Yes, that’s right! There were goats climbing trees!
Food is scarce in this area, but goats love the fruits that grow on the argan trees and so frequently climb up into their leafy branches to enjoy the tree’s tasty treats. You may recognise the name of the argan tree from some of the skin and hair products you have on your bathroom shelf.
When we first saw the goats in the trees, we wondered how on earth they got there. Surely someone must have put them there! Goats can’t climb trees. But it seems that they can and do climb trees all the time – and not just argan trees.
According to blogger Michael Graham Richard, over the centuries goats have “evolved for difficult climbs and precarious jumps and have an innate sense of balance” that enable them to climb trees and mountains. This was something they needed to do to avoid predators. As he notes, “They are helped by their hoofs, which have two toes that can spread out to create more secure footings and two vestigial toes higher up their legs, called dewclaws, that can be used as leverage to climb up mountain side or tree branch.”
So it wasn’t a hoax! The goats get up into the trees all by themselves!
But what if they had been placed there by human hands? Would that have been so bad? Not at all. We still would have enjoyed watching them in the trees. It’s okay to ask for help to get to where we need to go. We have all received assistance along life’s path to help us get to where we needed to be. Parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, colleagues and other mentors have all been important to our daily climb. Let’s give thanks for all those who have helped us climb the ladder of life.
And let’s do something more. As Boomers, you and I are uniquely placed to help those coming alongside or after us. The late Daniel Levinson said that those of us who find ourselves in the second half of life have a special calling to encourage those in whom we see gifts and talents. This is part of our vocation and one of the ways we can make a positive difference in our communities.
There will always be a few who – like the goats we saw in Morocco – will be able to get there all by themselves. But most of us need a helping hand. Think about whom you can help and how you can support them in fulfilling their dreams and life goals.
By the way, if you live in British Columbia, check out this upcoming workshop which former United Church Moderator Mardi Tindal is helping to lead:
I am finally back! Sorry for the long absence! I was away visiting my son who is teaching in Morocco. Richard and I had a wonderful visit with him and really enjoyed our time in Marrakech, Essaouira and surroundings. We also enjoyed our week in Barcelona before heading to Morocco.
One thing I could not help but notice while in both Spain and Morocco, was the number of people of all ages you see out and about, even late into the evening. Children, youth, young adults, middle-aged and older adults all seem to congregate in the outdoor coffee or tea cafes and, in Marrakech, also in the famous souks we visited. People came together in community. I didn’t see a lot of folks suffering from the more western affliction of isolation. I think our European and North African friends may be onto something here.
In her research, for example, Dr. Laura L. Carstensen has found that being alone or isolated from others is not good for our health. Carstensen is Professor of Psychology and Public Policy at Stanford University and the founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. Knowing that there are people who care about you, she observes, is essential to healthy aging. As she writes, “The perception that you are alone is as great a risk factor for mortality as cigarette smoking.” Carstensen’s observations, however, are alarming when we consider the Baby Boom generation. In her observations below, Carstensen affirms what Robert Putnam noticed over 15 years ago in his ground-breaking book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.
The 55-to-64-year-olds just about to join the ranks of the elderly are far less socially engaged now than their predecessors were at the same age 20 years ago. And this pattern emerged across virtually all traditional measures of social engagement: Boomers are less likely to participate in community or religious organizations than were their counterparts 20 years ago. They are less likely to be married. They talk with their neighbors less frequently. And it doesn’t stop with participation in communities and neighborhoods: boomers report fewer meaningful interactions with their spouses and partners than did previous generations, and they report weaker ties to family and friends.
In the opening pages of the Bible, we are reminded of our need for community and its centrality to healthy living: “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). I take this not so much to be a commentary on men and marriage, although studies show again and again that men live longer and happier lives when they are married; rather, I see this primarily as an observation on how essential friendships and other relationships — married or single, straight or gay – are for women and men both. Indeed, one of our greatest fears in life, from early infancy right to older adulthood, is that we will be left alone. Perhaps this is why the authors of our United Church’s A New Creed thought that it was so important to highlight, not once but twice, that “we are not alone.” Healthy living means being in relationship with God and others.
What are you doing to nurture your relationship with God and others? I would love to hear!
Footnotes:  Laura L. Carstensen, “Baby Boomer Are Isolating Themselves as They Age,” Time Magazine, May 23, 2016.
 A New Creed , the United Church of Canada, (1968; rev. 1980, 1994).