Check out article I wrote for London Free Press: Boomers Need Passion, Not Pot!

Marijuana will become legal in Canada in October, just in time for Canadian Boomerfest! But guess what? It takes more than a little THC to make the second half of life fun and interesting. Check out my piece in The London Free Press to find out what boomers REALLY need to make life meaningful.

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“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces that recreational marijuana…

Celebrate Your Wrinkles and Grey Hair!

Image result for the kings speechA few months ago I was speaking with an older friend of mine who remembers too vividly the humiliation he suffered because of a severe stutter during his adolescence and early young adult years. Although very bright, people often thought he was stupid because he had trouble getting his words out properly. Fortunately for him, his parents were able to the hire the services of the famous speech therapist Lionel Logue, who had helped King George VI to overcome his stammer. (Remember the recent film and book by the same name, The King’s Speech.) Logue assisted my friend over several years and eventually things turned around for him too. He went on to become a distinguished professor of education with a special interest in helping those in developing countries to reach their full human potential.

Discrimination in all its forms — whether based on race, colour, gender, religion, gender orientation or being differently abled, as in the case of a speech impediment — is horrible because it undermines the image of God in the lives of God’s children, preventing them from living into being all that God calls them to be.

But there is another more insidious form of discrimination that does not get talked about as much as it should: ageism.  Bill Plotkin says that we live in “a patho-adolesecent culture”.  He writes that it’s time we grow up.

Author and speaker Missy Buchanan says that “most of us believe that aging is an enemy, something we must battle with daily.” Sadly, this kind of thinking has infected our faith communities. Buchanan wants people to see how we can use the gifts that come with aging to help build the kin-dom of God.   By obsessing about youth, our congregations deny many important gifts that accompany growing older: introspection, self-awareness, reflection, patience and wisdom, not-to-mention the valuable ability to look at things from a third-person perspective — all things that are crucial in a world  bent on self-destruction through climate injustice or nuclear weapons.

So the next time you look in the mirror and moan about another wrinkle or a new grey hair, remember that these are the badges of honour of a full and long life, and a reminder to share your hard-earned wisdom with others!

Day Three After Surgery — Growing Mobility Issues for Boomers

As some of you may know, I had surgery on both feet this past Friday. While I am blessed to have a caring and supportive husband and the prayers and healing energy of many friends, I am also getting a ‘bit’ of an idea of what it must be like to suffer from mobility issues. When I do walk, I am like Frankenstein, on my heels and waving my arms about frantically. It’s quite a sight! It can also be dangerous, as I discovered last night as I teetered at the top of our stairs and nearly fell backwards to the hard ceramic floor below!

While not in excruciating pain, thankfully, I am being forced to rest more and to pace myself, something this workaholic boomer does not like to do! So far walking up and downstairs — which I do very slowly, carefully and not often — has been the biggest challenge. That and showering! Between Richard’s failing hearing and my compromised mobility, we make quite a pair! Is this a sign of things to come?

The advances in healthcare and bio-medicine have had major implications for the longevity revolution. But as we Boomers live longer, we face new health challenges. Recent studies have shown, for example, that while baby boomers are living longer than earlier generations, by roughly 20 years, we are not necessarily healthier.  We are less likely to smoke, have emphysema, or a heart attack, but we are more likely to be obese, have diabetes, or high blood pressure than the previous generation at similar ages. We are also more likely to have mobility issues.

Vicki Freedman, a University of Michigan demographer, has noted that disability levels have continued to decline among the oldest people (ages 85 and older) but held steady among Boomers. She said that she and other researchers “had expected baby boomers to be doing better, given advances in public health and education during the lives of the baby boomers.”

These findings will have a major impact on the rising costs to healthcare as well as implications for family members who may need to provide more care for ailing loved ones. May they encourage us to find new and creative ways to care for ourselves and others, and nurture and cherish our health while we have it.

 

Boomers, Faith and Choice

One afternoon, a few years ago, while my wonderful sister-in-law was visiting from the U.K., we were having lunch at a nice restaurant in St. Jacob’s. The waiter was very solicitous, and asked a number of questions to ensure that our dining experience was a pleasurable one. My sister-in-law was very polite but also somewhat bemused by all his questions: ‘Would you like brown bread or white? Would you like that toasted or plain? Would you prefer mayonnaise with that or mustard? Would you like the soup of the day or tomato juice? Would you like a garden salad, spinach or Caesar? Would you like French, Italian, Balsamic, Thousand Island, Blue Cheese or Caesar dressing on your salad?’ The waiter repeated the same litany of questions with my brother-in-law, my husband and me. After he left, my sister-in-law laughed and said she had never ever been given such an array of choices. On reflection, it did seem a bit over the top; but we all had a good laugh about it and enjoyed our meal together.

I thought about that experience in the restaurant as I was reading Reginald Bibby’s latest book, Resilient Gods. Being Pro-Religious, Low Religious, or No Religious in Canada. Bibby argues that the 1960’s, when the first wave of Boomers became of age, “brought with them a number of key cultural and social trends.” (p. 21) One of these trends had to do with “the legitimization of choice.” (p. 22) Whereas the past had been characterized by certain moral and religious absolutes, now there was flexibility and freedom.  Now people could have different views (certainly different from their parents and grandparents) “on things like racial intermarriage, women being employed outside the home, [pre-marital sex], sexual orientation, family life and religion.” (p. 22)

Churches soon discovered that if they were not open to a certain amount of flexibility and freedom, then they could expect to decline. This is true of congregations that do not invite feedback or input from their members and adherents.

This is just one of the ways that the culture has changed since the Boomers began to make their presence felt back in the sixties. Congregations that want to grow may need to offer choices when it comes to style and time and place of worship and other activities or spiritual opportunities.

Now will that be French dressing on your salad or Creamy Garlic?

 

 

 

It’s Father’s Day on Sunday! Boomer Dads Have Been Fully Engaged with Their Kids Right from the Start!

I am married to the most amazing husband anyone could ever ask for and the most wonderful father a kid could ever want! I say this not just because it is Father’s Day on Sunday, but simply because it’s true. Our four children have been blessed by a father who has been fully involved in their lives right from the moment they drew their first breath. And not just the fun stuff like taking them to the park every evening after supper, reading them bedtime stories, coaching their soccer games, or taking them to basketball and hockey and choir. Richard often helped to feed them and bathe them, to get them ready for bed, and even changed their nappies. When our first child was born, the older nurse at the little hospital in St. Marys ON, where Alexandra let out her first cry one bitterly cold winter’s morn, said she was amazed that Richard actually wanted to be there when she showed me how to bathe our baby. Apparently she had never had any father who showed a real interest in the more practical aspects of parenting.

Today of course many Dads take a more active role in caring for their little ones. It is not uncommon to see Dads pushing the stroller or baby pram — I never saw this when I was growing up in the late 50’s and 60’s. That was Mom’s job. But in the 70’s and 80’s, when Boomers started to become parents themselves, things began to change. More Dads, like Richard, decided that they wanted to play more of a role in their young children’s lives. Nowadays it is not uncommon to see Dads do all the things that used to be done solely by our mothers. Many fathers take parental leaves as well so that they can stay home and take care of their infants.

And now that many Boomer men are becoming grandfathers, I see even greater involvement in the lives of their grandchildren. Often retired or semi-retired, these Boomer grandfathers have more time to spend with their grandchildren and are enjoying every minute of it!

This is not to say that many pre-Boomers have not been good parents. I have known many older men who have been loving and devoted fathers. My own Dad would be 104 now if he were still living, and he was always interested in everything my brother and I did and would often play ball with us in the backyard or teach us how to skate. But he was usually the only father in the school auditorium who came to watch opening exercises when his children were giving the welcome. Not only was that not cool back then, but most fathers did not have the kinds of jobs that would have allowed them to go into work a half hour late so that they could get to their kids’ performances. That said, Dad never changed a diaper or prepared our meals.

This is simply to point out that we have come a long way. So hats off to our Boomer Dads and Grandfathers, and hats off also to all the Dads and Grandfathers who have given us a human face to God’s love!

Canadian Boomers and Addictions

Did you know that a growing number of Canadian Boomers suffer from substance abuse? Years ago it was much more common for addiction centres to treat people who were mostly in their 20’s and 30’s. Now older adults are increasingly seeking help for alcohol and prescription drug abuse.  Some are also returning to drugs they used back in their teens and young adult years.

Why are treatment centres seeing an increase in substance abuse among Boomers and older adults? The primary triggers are loneliness, the death of a loved one, retirement and health issues.

According to the Edgewood Health Network, there are several signs you should look for if you think you or someone you love is suffering from a substance abuse problem:

  • – Changes in sleep patterns
  • – Lack of personal hygiene
  • – Mood changes such as irritability, depression and anxiety
  • – Mental confusion
  • – Changes in eating patterns (eating more or not eating at all)
  • – Falling and injuring themselves more often

At Canadian Boomerfest 2018, one of the topics we will explore will centre around mental health. Dr. Paul Links will address the topic of “Men at Risk”. Dr. Jane Keupfer will lead us in a workshop on how to care for yourself while caring for others, since the demands of being a caregiver can place very real stress on Canadian Boomers. Former Moderator of the United Church of Canada, Mardi Tindal, will talk about how to live independently while being inter-dependent — an important topic since relationships in retirement are key to a healthy second half of life.

Please join us at 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 17th to Friday, October 19th at 3 p.m. at Siloam United Church for the inaugural Canadian Boomerfest 2018!

 

Canadian Boomerfest Explores Healthy Living Arrangements

Thanks to my friend Maria for sharing this wonderful video about alternative housing for Boomers and older adults, which recounts how three single Boomer women in London, ON have chosen to buy a house together, not only to share expenses, but also for companionship. This is something that more and more Boomers are trying, sometimes to reduce their carbon footprint, sometimes to reduce living expenses, and always in order to maintain healthy relationships.

In his study about men and aging, Harvard psychiatrist and aging specialist George Vaillant discovered that the number one factor in healthy aging is “relationships, relationships, relationships”. As one of the women in the above video says, when you live alone you can sometimes go for hours without ever talking to another human being. That’s not healthy. Studies show that even very introverted people are healthier when they are in relationship with others.

This October former Moderator of the United Church of Canada Mardi Tindal will be talking about her experience of shared living arrangements at Canadian Boomerfest 2018. Mardi and her husband have recently bought a house together with other couples who recognise the value of living together and sharing housing with one another. Mardi says that, as they age, this is a way for her and her partner to continue to live independently through interdependence. Come and hear about Mardi’s experiences at Canadian Boomerfest 2018, October 17th to 19th, Siloam United Church, and learn how you too can maintain a healthy independence as you age through living life interdependently.

 

Come

The United Church of Canada Foundation Supports Canadian Boomerfest 2018 — a unique, first-of-its-kind event in Canada!

Had a great conversation with the members of the of the United Church of Canada Foundation this morning and felt very encouraged by their support of my research (The McGeachy Senior Scholarship) and their enthusiastic feedback on my book, Re-Designing Your Life: A Practical Spirituality for the Second Half of Life, as well as the videos that go with it. I am pleased to report their excitement also for Canadian Boomerfest, which the Foundation has also generously supported through the Alfred J. Mitchell Fund.

For those of you who have had a chance to look at the book, you will notice that I use the metaphor of home renovations to frame my discussion of the second half of life and how we answer God’s call when many of us may be retired or semi-retired or find ourselves as empty-nesters. Years ago not many of us got a chance to have a long retirement; but now, with advances in medical science, more of us in Canada are living an extra twenty to thirty years beyond what we used to think of as normal retirement age.

Cultural anthropologist Catherine Bateson’s says that these extra years have not been tacked on to the end of life but can be thought of as a kind of atrium at the center of our lives, a time when most are still active and healthy and have much to share. In the book I try to look at some of the challenges we face as we enter the second half of life, particularly the transitions we undergo. By this time of life, many of us, for example, have known loss: the death of parents, partners, or siblings; possibly the end of a marriage or a partner suffering from Alzheimer’s; the loss of a job that brought meaning to our lives, whether through downsizing or our choice to retire. The questions we seek answers to are profoundly spiritual: Who am I now that I am no longer defined by my job, my partner, or my children? Where is God calling me to serve?

A lot of us Boomers find ourselves in the Sandwich generation, having to juggle the needs of frail, elderly parents, full or part-time work, and still helping adult children or caring for young grandchildren — all the while, trying to find ways to care for ourselves and nurture our own spirit.

This is why I am also very excited about the other project that the Foundation has generously supported, Canadian Boomerfest: A Colloquium and Celebration on Boomers and Spirituality! We have a wonderful group of speakers and workshop leaders who will be addressing many of these issues that so many of us face as we enter into the second half of life: growing our spirituality and learning new spiritual practices as we age; caring for ourselves while caring for others; learning about the risks to our emotional well-being and developing a strong ecology of health, especially good mental health; new rituals and new living arrangements for the second half of life; and how we as a community of faith can better connect to the younger generations and leave a valuable spiritual legacy.

Hope to see you there! October 17th to 19th, Siloam United Church, 1240 Fanshawe Park Road East, London, Ontario.   

REGISTER HERE: http://canadianboomerfest.siloamunitedchurch.org/

Canadian Boomerfest Can Help You to Care for Yourself While Caring for Elderly Mothers and Fathers

It’s been nearly 22 years since I said goodbye to my wonderful mother. There is not a day goes by that I don’t think of her or that I don’t miss her. More and more, I see her staring back at me in the bathroom mirror!

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Sheila’s mother, Elsie, with granddaughter Alexandra

One of the things I deeply regret is not having been there for her in her final months and years of failing health when I could have been of more support to her. Not only did I live nearly three hours away then, but I also had three small children and a full-time job in ministry. In the church we say that half-time is full-time and full-time is really overtime, so you know how busy I was!

Most of my Boomer friends have had their parents far longer, but because my mother and father did not have their children until late in life, they have not been here to see my children grow up. Mom did not even know our youngest, who was born the year after she died.

But if my Boomer friends are getting to enjoy more time with Mom and Dad, they are also often facing similar challenges. Some live considerable distances from their aging parents, which makes it difficult to care for them properly. Some are caring for grandchildren while still holding down full or part-time jobs. Some are also caring for partners who are not well. One Boomer friend told me that over the last three years she has been running back and forth between two different hospitals in two different cities, as she has tried to visit her mother in one hospital and her husband in another.

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Sheila with her mother, Elsie, on her wedding day

At this Fall’s Canadian Boomerfest, this is one of the challenges we will try to address: how to care for yourself while caring for older parents, partners who may be suffering from ill health, or grandchildren — sometimes juggling all three at once!  This is why we call Boomers the Sandwich Generation. An important question for those working in health care or providing leadership in our faith communities is how do we support older adults in their quest for spiritual health and wholeness while seeking to care for the caregiver? There is no question that the longevity revolution parallels the care-giving wave. These are some of the concerns we will address at Canadian Boomerfest 2018.

Please join us at Canadian Boomerfest 2018 from October 17th to 19th, Siloam United Church, 1240 Fanshawe Road East, London, ON! See you there!

Register Soon to Ensure Your Place at Boomerfest 2018!

Folks are already registering for this first-of-its-kind event in Canada, so you will want to be sure and get your registration in as soon as possible! While the seven keynote addresses, meals and entertainment are available to everyone, the workshops are on a first-come, first-serve basis. So register soon to get the best choice!

This is an event you will not want to miss, especially if you are someone in the second half of life and are seeking to deepen your spirituality OR if you work with Boomers and older adults OR if you want to explore some of the challenges of this period of life and how you can care for yourself while caring for others.

Come and discover the unique opportunities of this time of life, how you can create a spiritual legacy, and how you can connect your church or community with  younger generations of Canadians.

Check out the following link to learn more!

https://vimeo.com/266765280