BY NEDA McGUIRE
FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR
As we grow older, whether we are religious, spiritual or agnostic, our view of the world changes.
The small issues that used to stress us aren’t as important anymore. We begin to see that the world is very much interconnected, and there is something greater than just ourselves.
With the sunset of our lives closer in older age, most find a shift in attitude with deeper appreciation for nonmaterial things in life.
One person I recently interviewed, Nancy Jaquay, told me she realizes that there is someone else in control, and that we are here to learn lessons and help each other through this life.
“If we give of ourselves, we will receive fourfold,” she said.
Although our bodies and minds may be changing as we age, the perspective of “one-ness” and giving back allow people with this outlook to be happier and more content.
Another thing that’s common with older adults is a love of telling stories and reminiscing. If you have ever wondered why this is, it is because growing older compels us to do a life review. It helps us to come to terms with issues that may not have been completed and find peace.
Other stories may be told as a method of imparting wisdom to the younger generations. These stories help our older adults make sense of their lives.
One of my projects for my gerontology master’s-degree program was to interview an older adult and to do a life review with her. I chose one of my precious clients, Mrs. T., who was 98 years old.
She lived on her own and had a very sharp mind combined with great wit. She was still taking time to go to the ElderStudy program at the University of Mary Washington.
The process we undertook and the results of her life review is an experience I cherish and will never forget. I could see her trying to come to peace with unfinished business from some of the more difficult periods of her life. There were other stories where she took time to educate me, and she yearned to pass on her wisdom.
During this holiday season, as your family comes together, I hope you can take time to slow down and ask some questions of the older adults in your family. Make it an intergenerational game and you will see your loved one come to life! You can begin the conversation with questions such as:
What stories do you want to be passed on through our family?
What is your favorite song, and what memories does the song invoke?
What values or biggest lessons have you learned that you want your grandchildren to know?
Such dialogues and storytelling can help change our views on older adults. They help our younger generations see older adults in a different light, and the storytellers can be valued and assured that they still have much to give back to their families.
In this season of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all the older adults who have blessed me with their insights and love.
Neda McGuire is a local gerontologist and owner of Comfort Keepers, a home-care organization in Fredericksburg. She can be reached at fredericksburg@comfortkeepers .com or 540/370-0008.