Senior Members of the LGBT Community Often Do Not Feel Safe in Long-Term Care Residences

Recently a friend was telling me about the discrimination that her relative suffered as a gay man entering a seniors’ home. The experience was so alarming that he felt he had to move. However, in his new community he was still afraid to acknowledge his sexuality. So back into the closet he went.

It is clear that the whole study of elder abuse must include some serious work among those who work with older adults or in long-term care facilities, many of which continue to be bastions of homophobia and discrimination against LGBT adults. As the Coalition of Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario has said, “We have lesbian great-grandmothers, gay uncles, and bi-sexual cousins! Principally what has changed is the number of people prepared to come out and be publicly identified.”

While there seems to be more support for younger LGBT people, the same attention and concern has not been shown for older members of the LGBT community. Many are afraid to come out or be open about their sexuality when they move into long-term care homes. Thus their dignity and rights to full-participation in society, as well as their sense of security and safety are severely undermined. It is imperative that we find ways to fight against this perverse form of ageism.

New Report from Scotland Reaffirms the Research: Loneliness Kills; Friendship Gives Life

I have written about this many times before. But here is another important reminder about the dangers of loneliness as we age. This time from Scotland.

On Friday my husband Richard left for St. Andrews, Scotland to visit his mother and father. His mother is 87 today and he wanted to celebrate this special day with her. He also wanted to visit his 89-year-old father, who is blind and now completely immobile and living in a nursing home. The visits are hard because Richard’s Dad no longer possesses the agile mind he once had; but occasionally there are glimmers of the old Alan Macgregor. Thankfully, he always seems to know family when they come, even if he does not always make sense.

Of course the person this is hardest of all on is Richard’s mother. Thankfully, she stays in touch with friends and goes out for coffee or lunch and attends various university lectures. I know she misses Richard’s Dad terribly, but these outings seem to help. She also gets regular weekly visits from Richard’s three siblings, who are very devoted in their care of both their mother and father.

For those who don’t have these connections, life can be very lonely. But a recent article suggests that we can all help to alleviate another’s loneliness and sense of isolation. In an article in The Scotsman, Adam Strachura says that every day 100,000 older people in Scotland live with chronic loneliness. Strachura, who is Age Scotland’s head of Policy and Communications, says that this is one person for every street in Scotland. Moreover, the numbers are climbing. But there is a way to help. Strachura says:

“…the way to tackle loneliness and isolation already exists in every community. We can all do something about it.

The answer is something that most of us have access to: time. It may be precious but a little goes a long way. Just a little bit of time can give an ­older person who lives alone on your street or an older family member the chance to go out, meet new people and feel connected again.

So how do we change this? Talk, invite and make time. From ­something so simple as helping someone home with their shopping while ­having a blether, to inviting your neighbour round for dinner, taking them with you to the football or ­asking them to join you as you walk your dog, every quality minute spent with an older person really does count. I truly believe that. And to be honest, you’ll feel great for doing it.

We should all be able to love later life without fear of becoming ­isolated or lonely. The time to take action is now.”

If you haven’t read my book, please read the following….”Re-Designing Your Life: A Practical Spirituality for the Second Half of Life”

At least sixty-five per cent of all major changes happen after age 65. These include, among other life-changing events, the loss of a spouse, the loss of a job, and the loss of health. It is also true that wisdom is often born out of wrestling with the changes we experience in life. As those who now find ourselves in the second half of life, we have the ability to act on this wisdom and the responsibility to pass it on.

Re-Designing Your Life: A Practical Spirituality for the Second Half of Life is intended to help people over 50 to cope with transitions and to help people live their lives with spiritual integrity. The book aims to help people discern their calling and to live lives of meaning and joy.

Readers are invited to think of their life as a house undergoing renovations where, with God’s grace, we get to design something new and life-giving. Through practical exercises, thought-provoking discussion topics, stories from the Scriptures, and memorable anecdotes, Re-Deigning Your Life will guide people through:

Coping with endings, empty-nesting and retirement;

Caring for self while caring for elderly parents, partners and grandchildren;

Letting go of things that get in the way of becoming your true self;

Strengthening relationships; and

Finding your passion and calling in the second half of life.

Both individuals and small study groups will find this book helpful. Each chapter comes with a set of questions for discussion, as well as suggestions for further reading and popular contemporary films that can promote further conversation and reflection. There is also a set of videos produced by the author to accompany each chapter of the study.

Mardi Tindal, former Moderator of the United Church of Canada, writes: “Re-Designing your Life is a must-read for pastors, congregations and individuals who want to discover God’s calling in the second half of life.”

 

I Would Love to be a “Bad A Grandma”! What About You? Are You a “Bad A Grandma or Grandpa”?

This past week I have been attending the Presbyterian Older Adult Ministry Network POAMN) Annual Conference, which took place on the beautiful campus of Louisville Presbyterian Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. One of the most active participants was a ninety-one year old woman from Grosse Isle, just outside Detroit. She is a founding member and has been with the organization since its inception some 35 years ago. She told us how her most important mentors in the faith were her mother and grandmother. Her story reflects that of the disciple Timothy, whose faith Paul credits to his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois.

Another woman at our conference told us about two very important faith formation groups in her church in San Antonio: “Grandfamilies”, a support group for grandparents raising their grandchildren, something we are seeing much more of these days, and “Bad A Grandmas!” I’d love to be a “Bad A Grandma”! I imagine Lois was a “Bad A Grandma” to Timothy, challenging him to be all that he could be and to do all that he could do to serve the Lord, but also loving him unconditionally as only a truly “Bad A Grandma” could do! Whether you have grandchildren or not, you can be a mentor to some young person seeking someone with whom to share their questions about life, someone to accompany them in their faith journey. You too can be a “Bad A Grandma or Grandpa!”

 

Giving Thanks: When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking

As we approach the celebration of our Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, we recognise that we Canadians have much for which to be thankful. This is good.  Studies have been done, for example, that show that when you express thankfulness, you also bolster your own self-worth and self-esteem. It also helps you to build friendships and strengthen existing ones.

The world’s most prominent researcher and writer about gratitude, Robert Emmons, defines gratitude as “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” This weekend, therefore, I invite you to give God thanks for all the blessings you enjoy in life. Think also of others who have not been so blessed and find ways to help them. Remember: gratitude is something that not only blesses the person being thanked; it also blesses the one who offers gratitude.

I leave you with an old reflection that you have likely read many times before, but which still packs a powerful punch:

  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator and I immediately wanted to paint another one.–  When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favourite cake for me and I learned that the little things can be the special things in life.

    — When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favourite cake for me and I learned that the little things can be the special things in life.

  • When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.When you thought I wasn’t looking I heard you say a prayer, and I knew there is a God I could always talk to and I learned to trust in God.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don’t.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t feel well and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come from your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s alright to cry.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I learned most of life’s lessons that I need to know to be a good and productive person when I grow up.
  • When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked at you and wanted to say, ‘Thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.’

 

 

“ReDesigning Retirement” — Clergy from Western Ontario Waterways, Horseshoe Falls and Antler River Watershed regions are invited to join in this special day away at Five Oaks!

“ReDesigning Retirement: A Practical Spirituality for the Second Half of Life”

I am very excited to be able to offer this one day workshop for our clergy who are nearing retirement, as well as those who have already retired! Please join me and colleagues Rev. Kevin Steeper and Rev. Ann Corbet for this special day in this beautiful, peaceful setting near Paris, Ontario!

Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019

10-4 pm

Five Oaks Retreat Centre, Paris, Ontario

This is a study day for clergy in the WOW, HF and ARW regions.

Come and enjoy a day of reflection, silence and fellowship in the

beautiful space of Five Oaks.

Cost: $40.00 per person and this includes lunch

Copies of my book, “Re-Designing Your Life”,  will be available

at the cost of $20.00.

Registration: Please contact Ruthanna Mack at RMack@united-church.ca

 

Friendship: A gift to those suffering from poor mental health

Yesterday I listened to a CBC interview with a Toronto psychiatrist who was being asked how strangers can be helpful in preventing suicides on the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission). Sometimes a kind, friendly word — a bit of small talk — can be the difference between someone jumping to their death on the subway tracks and saving a life.

There is solid evidence to show that depression increases for Canadian men and women after the age of 65. Plus there is an increased of risk of suicide for men in the final third of life. For those of us with family and friends experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, it is important to encourage them to get medical help and counselling. But there is another gift we can offer those suffering from poor mental health: friendship. In fact, David Bieble and Harold Koenig assert that “healing…can only occur within the context of supportive relationships.” (New Light on Depression.)

University of Aberdeen Professor of Theology John Swinton looks to Jesus as the model for the kind of friendship that is needed. When we observe the friendships of Jesus the primary thing we notice is his ability to see the whole person, the person behind the sickness. The first thing he does after healing someone is to send them back to their family and their community. Jesus knows that true healing depends to a large degree on being in relationship with others. People who are hurting don’t just need doctors and counsellors. They also need friends who will listen to them.

While committed friendship is never a substitute for medication and psychotherapy treatments, it can greatly aid in the recovery process. Offering a kind word, sitting with someone through a difficult time,  listening to their concerns, and just being there for them is what friends do. Indeed, sharing a coffee and engaging in a bit of small talk, can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.

Tips for Grandparents Seeking to have a Relationship with their Grandchildren when Family Members Are Estranged

Someone has said that “All that children need today is access to the internet and a grandparent!” There is much wisdom in this statement, especially the second part of this statement. Spending time with grandparents has been shown to be highly beneficial and very therapeutic both to the children and the grandparents. Often it is the grandparents who serve as the link between Church and the younger generations. Certainly grandparents are in a unique position to pass on their legacy of family stories, faith and values.

But what happens when couples split and children must divide their time between each parent and two separate homes? Whenever I speak with the grandparents whose children have undergone a divorce, one of the most common complaints is that they no longer get to see their grandchildren that often. And that’s sad!

This is why a recent article from Next Avenue caught my eye. The article offers some excellent guidelines on how to maintain a relationship with grandchildren amid estrangement. Check it out!

The Freedom and Opportunity of Menopause — Living Fully in the Afternoon of Life

Someone asked me the other day what was the best part of my summer holidays and I said, “Oh, that’s an easy one! It was connecting with friends who go way, way back — back to childhood, back to high school, back to my university and seminary days.” Connecting with family and friends across Canada, in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. It is fun to catch up with these dear friends and family and learn what they are doing in the second half of their lives and how they are making a difference.

This morning I read a wonderful article in The Atlantic Monthly by Liza Mundy called “The Secret Power of Menopause.”  Mundy notes that most of us do not realise how unusual it is that “non reproductive females persist.” In most species females continue to bear offspring until they die. Not so with the human species. Many women, at least in the west, live long past menopause and enjoy many years of productive living after they have raised their children.

In fact, some years ago anthropologist Kristen Hawkes came up with the “Grandmother Hypothesis.” In her research on the Hadza and other tribes, Hawkes deduced that women were able to bear and raise multiple children only because of the presence of grandmothers — post-menopausal women who could find and feed infants who had been weaned but who were too young to find their own food.

Very few other species enjoy such a long postmenopausal life. One exception, Mundy notes, is the killer whale. She refers to the work of Darcey Steinke, who observes that in the ocean non-reproductive females play a vital role in guiding their young to the best salmon, thus ensuring their survival. As she writes, “The wild matriarchs have given me hope. They are neither frail nor apprehensive, but in every way leaders of their communities.”  I love that!

It reminds me of what Carl Jung said long ago: “The afternoon of life is just as full of meaning as the morning; only, its meaning and purpose are different…”  Now, in the second half of life, we too can play an important role by sharing the wisdom of our years in helping to guide the next generation.

 

A new, safe community for people suffering from Dementia

This past year has been a challenging one for my husband’s family, especially Richard’s  mother. His Dad, who was in hospital in St. Andrews, Scotland, for nearly six months, has now moved into a nursing home. Richard’s mother and siblings visit him several times a week. Unfortunately Richard cannot get back to Scotland that often, but keeps in regular touch with his mother. This coming Sunday will be their 64th wedding anniversary, but it is doubtful that Grandad will remember, such is his cognitive impairment. Still, I am sure they will share a nice cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.

As anyone who lives with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s will tell you, this can be one of the toughest illnesses, both for the person suffering and for their family and close friends. This is why I was intrigued by an article my daughter Alexandra sent me while she was attending a wedding out in B.C. last week. British Columbia has just established the first ever Dementia Village so that those who are afflicted by severe memory loss can live in a normal environment with complete safety.

Check it out here! Would love to hear what you think!