Inspiring Adults to Stay Active and Stay Involved

This Blog is a creation of the Confederation Park 55 + Activity Centre's Writing Club, No Dead Horses.  All Views expressed in this blog are strictly views of the writing club and not the Confederation Park 55 + Activity Centre. If you have any questions about the blog or would like to be a guest writer, please email info@yycseniors.com.

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  • 14 May 2021 8:50 AM | Anonymous

    Gratitude

    Has it been said so often that gratitude has become a cliché? The first time I remember gratitude being touted as a panacea for all of our issues was on the Oprah Winfrey show. She promoted a gratitude journal. Apparently she writes in one every night before she goes to sleep or so she said. I have no reason to doubt her.

    At the time, I tried it but what I found out is that working full-time and caring for a family, I was either too tired or disinterested to take five minutes to write anything. Brushing my teeth took priority with that last gasp of energy. The elegant journal purchased from Chapters became a place for grocery lists.

    Looking back I realize how much I had to be grateful for at the time. When we are in it, we don’t often see how precious the time is. I look now at my daughter who has a young family. She is working full-time and frazzled. I understand completely why she cannot take five minutes to recognize that this might be the best time of her life. Life is miscalculated giving us banquets when we should just have appetizers.

    So I have spent some time coming to terms with the concept of gratitude. There are reasons to believe it is a perfectly reasonable frame of mind. But one has to be very self disciplined to not stray from the parameters set out by gratitude.

    Number one is that you shouldn’t compare yourself to anybody else. Be grateful for what you have. Well, I am grateful for what I have. But there are moments of deep resentment of others who seem so much better off for so much less effort. I believe young people call it FOMO or fear of missing out. Life doesn’t measure up to that portrayed in the social media. The platitudes iterate that you don’t really know what goes on in other peoples’ homes. I do know what goes on in their homes! I see it and I hear it. OK, let’s get past that one.

    The next parameter of gratitude is to look at what you have, not what you have not. I can do that! However, on some days the bar is pretty low. My aches and pains are only a six out of 10. My friend has eight out of 10 pain. Whoops, I slipped into the comparing myself again. I know it’s not a good day when I compare myself to Anne Frank during World War II hiding in her attic. Yes, I’ve been isolated and alone for months. Not quite Anne Frank. Nobody is going to kill me if I poke my nose out the door and I have food and shelter. Too much food.

    Gratitude tells us to look around for the beautiful things we have each day - the air we breathe, the blue sky, the sunshine and fresh air. This platitude was not written by an Albertan. Last Sunday I experienced four seasons in less than four hours. Beautiful blue sky quickly turned into gray clouds, quickly turned into driven snow, quickly turned into rain and then back to blue sky. Gratitude had to do a Covid ‘pivot’.

    Yes, there are days where gratitude is difficult. One has to fight human nature to compare and complain. I may not write in a journal but I do take a moment every day to exercise gratitude. I accept my moments of bitterness and disappointment. I think back to when I was a young mother working and raising children. I should’ve been much more grateful. I don’t want to make that mistake now. Although gratitude has become somewhat of a cliché, some days it’s the only thing that gets me by.

    By Anita Goodman

  • 7 May 2021 1:34 PM | Anonymous

    I have pulled together some communication tips that you might find helpful. Take the word “should” for example.  Most of us have probably said something along the lines of: “You should have done it this way”; or “You shouldn’t have done that”.

    The point is you can’t know you should have done anything in a previous time. Telling people what they should have done often creates anger and frustration. There is a simple fix which can improve relationships AND performance – “Next time, please do it this way”.  People can change behavior in the future; they can’t change it in the past.

    Have you ever had this kind of conversation with your significant other? “Where would you like to go for supper? “

    “I don't care. You choose”

    “How about going to the Chinese place?”

    “Nah I don't feel like Chinese tonight.”

    “Would you like to try Italian then?”

    “Nope, don't think so. H ad Italian for lunch”

    if this sounds familiar then you might want to change the question that you ask. Instead of asking where would you like to go for supper try asking “Where don't you want to go for supper tonight?”

    Did you know that saying, “I need your help with this.” is a more effective phrase than simply asking “Would you please do this for me?”  Most of us like to be of help to others and asking others for their help gives them the opportunity to in fact do that.

    Do you have a grandchild who continually asks “Why?  Many children go through this phrase and it can drive adults batty. Next time he or she asks grandma “Why is the sky blue?”  you only need to respond “I'm not sure. Why do you think the sky is blue?” First of all, you'll get some extremely interesting responses. Secondly you are teaching them how to look for answers to their own problems, and thirdly you indicate that you are listening to them.

    The next idea is not a specific phrase but nonetheless it is phenomenally effective in building better relationships. Compliment other people behind their back. Things always get back to people- praise or criticism and if people hear the positive things you have said about them from someone else, they are more likely to believe that this is true. There is a type of inborn skepticism that makes us think if you tell me something nice to my face you're just trying to butter me up. However, if you hear what somebody has said about you when you weren't there, you think they are sincere, and it leaves it leaves you with good feeling toward that person.

    Most of us are mature enough to apologize to someone when we screw up. Instead of castigating ourselves and lamenting how awful we behaved, why not express your feelings about what the other person has done? For example, if you're late to a meeting with someone, rather than apologizing for being late try saying “Thank you for your patience.” This identifies the good quality of the other person rather than focusing on your faults

    Ever have a conversation like this? “How was your day? “

    “Uh OK.” Conversation finished.

    If you really want to know how a person felt about their day, change the statement slightly and say, “Tell me about your day.” This is much more likely to give you additional information. Of course, you may still get a response of “Yeah it was ok” especially from teenagers, but asking someone to tell you about what happened during their day sounds more like you are interested in them rather than the tired or old formula how was your day?

    Another helpful phrase to use with kids or young teens when they are being contrary is to ask them which of two things they would like to do? That is, would they prefer to do their homework before supper or after supper? Would they prefer to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt? Children, in an attempt to develop independence, will often object to being told what to do. However, if they are given a choice between two or three things they feel less as if they are being controlled and more as if they have some meaningful input into the decision.

    Finally, if you want some better control over how you feel, put music on that resonates with the kind of feeling you want to have. That is, if you are feeling lethargic and you would like to feel more energized then put on music that is very lively. Although our tendency is to listen to music that matches our mood this is often not very helpful because it serves to prolong that mood. So, if you want to feel better, play music that will help you feel better and not music that emphasizes the negative feelings you're experiencing.

    Small changes in how you phrase things can produce huge results.


  • 26 Apr 2021 2:16 PM | Anonymous

    Two Degrees of Separation

    The theory of six degrees of separation doesn’t apply to people from Saskatchewan. It’s more like two degrees. We are connected to “a small world.” This may apply to all prairie provinces.

    My father, from Saskatchewan, served overseas during WWII. He met Benny, from Manitoba, when they were on leave in London. Of course, they shared photos of their wives. When my dad showed a photo of my mom, Benny exclaimed, “That’s Annie!” They’d gone to school together in Winnipeg! After the war, we lived 52 miles apart and our families visited regularly.

    I grew up in Saskatchewan, but when I was pregnant, we lived in Ontario. My first doctor’s visit was in Lindsay with a Dr. Lindsay. He looked at my file and said, “Saskatchewan! Do you know where Togo is?” Well, I’d spent my childhood there, and as it turns out, had lived next door to his wife!

    At the BC/SK reunion before Expo 86, I met a friend from U of S. We walked over to the Kindersley side of BC Place to find her brother Rob. We found him…with my brother! They were best friends. I didn’t know because I never knew Rob’s last name.

    As a White Hatter at the Calgary Airport, I was helping Burton Cummings one day. We talked about Winnipeg, and when I mentioned my maiden name, he got excited because he was a childhood friend of my cousin.

    A different small world experience was when, also at the airport, I was helping a young man from a KLM flight. Being familiar with Holland I asked him where he was from, and I just felt he would say somewhere I knew. When he said, “Nunspeet”, I almost hugged him. I have a friend there! When I mentioned her name, he said, “She’s my mother’s best friend!” And he called his mother on the spot.

    So, a friendly hint - always talk to people when you travel or meet them. Don’t be afraid to ask “Do you happen to know…?” You may find a connection 2 degrees away!


  • 16 Apr 2021 10:29 AM | Anonymous

    Take a Shot . . .

    Did you know there are a number of people who say they will not get a vaccine to help slow down or even eliminate Covid 19?

    Here I am, a Canadian, an Alberta  Senior who is usually pretty laid back about things that our Governments do or don’t do.  I might complain to my friends about things like lack of a Pharmacare program, the scarcity of affordable housing, the cancelling of Provincial bus service and so on.  These things are  difficult, but for the most part are not life threatening. Covid 19 is a danger to us all.

    I look on myself as a moderate in many ways.  However, the reaction some people have toward steps taken to thwart the Pandemic has brought out a hard-nosed, unsympathetic side of me.  Refusing to wear masks as recommended is bad enough, but some of the reasons for avoiding the vaccine would be laughable, if not so startling and dangerous.

    One lady told me that she wouldn’t get the vaccine because she had been around lots of people who had tested positive and she ”didn’t get it”.  Another said she didn’t need the vaccine because she took Vitamin D which lessened the chance of becoming very sick if you contacted the disease.  The explanation that really made my jaw drop was that the idea that the government was injecting tiny microbes (?) into us so that we would be under the influence of mind-control!

    I have now come to be absolutely convinced that there should be no “right of refusal” to the vaccine.  Each of us must do  our part in defeating this disease.  Sometimes the driving force must be the greater good . . . laws to ensure the safety and well-being of the population.  I would go as far to make sure that existing vaccinations for ALL communicable diseases would also be compulsory.

     I am looking forward to the issuing of a Covid 19 “Passport” for travel both in- country and internationally.   This would be no more trouble than having a license to drive a car.  I imagine this document could be required by airlines, cruise ships, and other modes of transportation.  Will I feel that my personal freedom is being denied?  Not at all! 

    We are all in this together and we must do our part to keep each other safe.  Please wear those masks and get vaccinated so, hopefully, we can once again get together and enjoy life.

    Submitted by: Bev Cumming

  • 12 Apr 2021 9:54 AM | Anonymous

    Sunshine and Shoe Leather

    My happiness is weather dependent. Now, living in Alberta that leaves me quite vulnerable. The pandemic has added another level to weather watching. No question, the pandemic has affected us. But I find that I can cope with it much better when the sun is shining, the temperature is above at least 5°C and I can get outside for a walk.

    I’m not alone. Recently on the 6 o’clock news, my favourite anchor reported that psychologists and doctors are now prescribing going outside for a walk. That is, when people get out in nature for a walk, their mood improves. We are so fortunate that in Calgary there are multiple walking paths never mind the trails as close as twenty minutes outside the city.

    Throughout this pandemic, I have walked many, many kilometers. And I’m not alone. My normally quiet neighbourhood is bustling with walkers. I heard rumours that when we were in early lockdown and allowed to go outside only for groceries or to walk the dog that there was a hot market for canines. My somewhat chunky dog is now a lean, mean, walking machine.

    I’ve lost 17 pounds. For the credibility of this blog, I cannot credit solely walking for this achievement as I also watched my calories. But I think going out for a long walks has taken me away from the kitchen and away from the call of food. “Feed me!” as Audrey II, the voracious plant in the movie, Little Shop of Horrors would say. “Walk me!” pleads my pooch.

    Going outdoors has also allowed me to socialize with my friends. Protocols say no indoor gatherings. So, let’s go outside for a walk. At first the conversations were a little breathless as we huffed and puffed up the inclines. Now, the hills don’t seem quite as steep nor the pauses, quite as long.

    The simple act of one foot in front of the other offers so much mental health benefit, socialization and physical fitness. A ‘young’ friend of mine (60) speaks of her father who is 86 years old and in good health. She credits his two hours a day of walking.

    I am grateful that my legs still faithfully carry me without too many aches and pains. I know there will likely come a day when walking will be too difficult. Some of my friends are in that place now and the flights of stairs in my walk-out home act as a warning sign.

    I realize it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. One walks to maintain health but needs health to walk. Maybe one day I will be going for a ‘roll’ but I know as long as I can I will be getting outside. In the meantime, you will see me strutting, a sure fire way to help cope with this pandemic. So here’s to a sunny day, dry pathways and a good pair of shoes. See you out there!

    Anita Mann

  • 2 Apr 2021 7:07 PM | Anonymous

    They say that with age comes wisdom, but I don’t mean the wisdom of famous old philosophers like Aristotle or Nietzsche or Bob Dylan. Rather I mean the kind of wisdom that comes from having had a lot of experience, especially if the experience has been painful. We often refer to this as common sense.

    Many people believe that common sense is inherent in that is we are born with it ,but the truth is quite different. We forget that everything we know now, both the true and the untrue, we learned somewhere along the way. I believe that those who lack common sense merely have missed out on a lesson that would have taught them what they apparently do not know. There seems to be two ways of developing common sense: one is by learning from instruction or by learning from one's own experience. 

    Common sense is largely influenced by one’s experience in the world, but everyone’s experiences are limited and different, so the assumption that there is a baseline that rational, intelligence people share, is inaccurate; in fact, it seems impossible.

    For example, many Canadians think that it is only common sense to line up or queue as we refer to it, in a first come first serve order, to purchase something. However, that is not the ways that some cultures view it. I had a University student one time, from Eastern Europe, who told me that she loved Canada but we were such sheep because we lined up for everything and it was clear by the tone of her voice that she thought this a remarkable personality deficit.

    I remember being in Shanghai at the airport waiting for the line to form to book our flight. No line. No lines formed and it took me awhile to realize that if I wanted service and if I ever wanted to get out of China, I had to barge through with my suitcases and claim a spot in the front. This was so UN-Canadian. What to do?  I finally decided on a strategy. Gathering all my suitcases I bravely marched forward loudly proclaiming “Out of the way. I'm an American.”  

    If common sense, then, is held by an individual and not held in common by the entire group, what have the great writers said about common sense and what it means?

     Voltaire commented that common sense is not so common.  Larry Niven had a dual observation on what common sense tells us:

    1a) Never throw shit at an armed man.

    1b) Never stand next to someone who is throwing shit at an armed man.”

    René Descartes was a touch more cynical.  “Common sense is the best distributed commodity in the world, for every man is convinced that he is well supplied with it.”  But I think that Samuel Taylor Coleridge had it right when he wrote: “Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom.”  You see, as we age, and have more experiences, we become wiser and our cup of common sense floweth over.

    Submitted by Pat Pitsel

  • 26 Mar 2021 9:43 AM | Anonymous

    Conversations With Mom

    Opportunities, knowledge and growth often arrive in one’s life at a time when you least expect it to happen. As I reflect on 2020 - 2021, I am both delighted and amazed at the journey I have experienced into the past through conversations with my Mom. As a child, I lived each day in my “now” world where I explored, dreamed, learned, and usually found a piece of joy to treasure. I still am that person. The past is a place I don’t usually visit except for sweet cherished memories.

    Mom introduced me to our family history and stories through her world of advanced dementia. Mom’s recollections are mostly accurate and have given me great insight, knowledge and interest refreshing my memory as to how life was lived in our family many years ago.

    My 94 year old Mom proudly shares the detailed life story of her dad. Grandad’s Dad and brother treated him badly. At the age of 9 years old, he left his home in the USA and found jobs on farms. He worked his way to Canada to earn his way and survive. Grandad was a quiet man full of strength, willpower and direction. He made a future for himself through determination and hard work, wonderful lifetime long qualities. He taught himself many skills and became known for his excellent equestrian training methods, an exceptional farm hired hand and manager. Eventually became manager of Canadian Dry Beverages in Edmonton.

    My Grandad met my Gran in Heatherdown, Alberta and together they raised my Mom and her brother in the farming community. Life was simple but hard work. Mom rode a horse two and a half miles to school (one way) everyday and there were chores to be done when she returned home. In the winter, she had to walk because there was no shelter for horses. They lived without running water or electricity and bathroom facilities were outside. Mom said the smell of coal dust was heavenly which meant fires didn’t need to be tended at night. In order to survive, gardens were planted and harvested, animals fed, cows milked, wood and coal hauled, butter made, kerosene lamps filled, water carried for drinking and washing, clothes washed by hand, mending and sewing, bread baked 3 times a week, meals made, weather to contend with and always, the possibility of crop failures. Mom said it was a simple life but the hard work was rewarding and fulfilling. Family and neighbours were an integral part of their lifestyle and honoured.

    Learning about my Grandad and Mom’s past has given me reflection in my own life. I now understand myself with regard to commitment, tenacity, determination, work habits and willpower. I am proud of these inherited traits. My Gran was another influence in my life which I will share in another story. Even though Mom lives with dementia, she is always articulate and usually displays these qualities. Our family lineage which began with a small boy who sought a better life, became our role model, continues in our children and grandchildren.

    Jewel

  • 19 Mar 2021 12:58 PM | Anonymous

    DON’T LET IT GO TO WASTE

    I’m a little addicted to the news. I think it’s important to know what’s going on in the world and lately, there has certainly been a lot of news-none of it much good. But every now and then you hear something that makes you consider something you’ve never really thought about before. That happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

    I heard that the food bank in Calgary was struggling to fulfil the need because of their lack of volunteers. The issue seems to be that most of their volunteers are seniors and since seniors are in the high-risk group for Covid, the food bank couldn’t have them there and the seniors weren’t too keen on it either. Parallel to that I also heard about how there were concerns in the federal government about having a snap election. Of course, in the middle of pandemic, it doesn’t sound like a good idea generally. Nor does the millions of dollars it would cost sound wise during this economic hit. But that’s not the reason they gave.

    The issue it appears, is that most people who work elections are seniors. Although it’s not a volunteer job, having done the job myself, the pay is pretty bad, not quite volunteering but enough to keep you accountable to showing up. And, of course, putting it on your income tax.

    These two situations got me thinking about the pool of volunteers and incidental workers which is filled by seniors. A brief cruise of the Internet for volunteer opportunities in Calgary demonstrates clearly that seniors provide a wealth of service to the community. Covid has made it apparent that some places do not function well without these seniors.

    Confederation Park +55 Activity Centre is an organization which serves the needs of the seniors but is also powered by a group of volunteers, almost all of whom are seniors. When contemplating retirement, the intention to volunteer was part of my plan. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right place. But if you’re a senior reading this, I encourage you to pursue the right place for you to volunteer. Do not underestimate what you can contribute.

    Seniors represent a wealth of experience, education and wisdom. Once retired, our minds do not go to sawdust. I think about all the professional training my occupation gave me and which now I tap into as a volunteer. It strikes me that it’s an obvious move for society to utilize the expertise of seniors as volunteers. We are not simply burdens on society who drive too slow and complain too much because we have “nothing better to do”.

    The next time you are in the presence of seniors, I challenge you to ask them about their lives. In particular, ask the women. Sometimes we assume that only the men had responsible, ‘important’ jobs. What I’ve learned is that there are amazing female seniors whose stories tell of great accomplishment and tacit knowledge.

    Acknowledging the wisdom of elders is a tradition in many cultures. I’m not sure it’s a tradition in ours but it should be. Take away the seniors and leave many holes in service. This is another lesson Covid is teaching us. So seniors, go get your Covid vaccine and as soon as it’s safe, go volunteer. Society needs you!

    Anita Mann


  • 12 Mar 2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    The Ageless Mind – Perfection is . . .

    Perfection is the enemy of. . . ? Dr. Google has several possibilities – good, progress, done, profitability, excellence – the list goes on.

    Whatever word you choose, the meaning is clear – waiting until something is perfect generally means that it won’t get done.

    I thought about this as I sat down to write this blog. Having just celebrated a significant birthday (that means one with a 0 in it, and some reference to four score and something or other), I wanted to create the perfect post.

    First of all, I had to pick the perfect topic. Should it be about aging, acquiring wisdom, surviving the pandemic that is picking off seniors at a rather alarming rate? Should I be passing on all the wisdom I have garnered over the years? Perhaps I should be advocating for seniors stuck in deplorable long-term care facilities and who do not have a family to advocate for them. Or maybe I should just pass on, with appropriate attribution of course, the wisdom of someone else.

    After the perfect topic has been selected, then the perfect treatment has to be decided. It could be uplifting and motivating; humorous and self deprecating; erudite and scholarly; or informative and educational.

    Finally, the writing, the perfect writing, has to occur. Have I used the right word? Is there a better word, more precise, more descriptive, more evocative? And punctuation! Commas and semi-colons should not appear randomly I’ve been told.

    As I contemplated creating the perfect blog entry, a memory intruded into my mind. In the early 80s I was a Manager of Training with a Government department and I had my very own secretary (that’s what they were called then). She had gone to my boss complaining that I was too picky about the letters she typed for me and made her redo letters that had typos in them. (This happened before computers when the IBM Selectric was the height of secretarial status).

    I told my boss, with appropriate indignation, that I didn’t want letters under my name going out if there were spelling mistakes. He gently pointed out that having her do and re-do letters numerous times until they were perfect was not a good use of her time. “Besides”, he added, “three quarters of the managers who get them don’t spell any better than she does and will probably not even catch the mistakes”. Well, I knew an order when I heard one, no matter how gently it was wrapped so I went back to my office and thought.

    The resolution was relatively simple. I called her into my office and said that she knew what she as doing with the training and there was no need for me to write letters to everyone explaining the schedule. Why didn’t she just take on that job, sign the letters herself, and give herself an additional title “Training assistant”?

    The result? She was happier, office efficiency improved, and believe it or not, the letters that went out under her name had fewer mistakes.

    The lesson? It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to work.

  • 5 Mar 2021 8:59 AM | Anonymous

    MASKS

    We are learning that to win our fight with Covid 19 we must social distance, wear a mask, follow the arrows, wash our hands and sanitize. Of these, it is the idea of wearing a mask that has captured my thoughts.  Until now, I have recognized that masks of all kinds have played a part in our culture. Halloween, Indigenous ceremonies, the Comedy and Tragedy of drama, Hockey goalie masks and other face coverings have been familiar and easy to identify.  In fact, since the beginning, humans have used masks to hide, disguise, change, and protect themselves.

    Historically, the medical use of masks has appeared during pandemics and they were often worn over the nose and mouth as they are now.  At one time, masks held spices and perfumes for protection from unclean air!  Once we learned more about how diseases are spread, masks became a means to protect medical workers, patients and others from infectious diseases.   Masks, similar to ours, were common during the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.

     

    Without consistent information about the kind of mask most effective against

    Covid 19, it is hard to know which masks are best. I have bought masks at the Drugstore, ordered some online, and have a few made by friends.  I have gathered quite a variety including the common disposable blue along with cloth masks in solid colours, florals, and abstract prints. I am always impressed to see the women who have co-ordinated their mask with their scarves, hats and jackets. They manage to make quite a fashion statement!

    I keep my supply of masks in a variety of locations.  I have a couple in my car for visits to a store.   I also keep one or two in my purse, but the largest bunch, I keep in a basket by the door. For some reason, the last time I reached for one, my “Ageless Mind” suddenly thought about “Eleanor Rigby” from the Beatles song.  I was reminded about the less tangible masks we often wear.  These, too, seem to be for protection, but are more psychological in nature. 

    According to the lyric, she kept her “face in a jar by the door”.  When she goes out or stands at her window she presents a happy, contented face to the world.  However, when she is alone at home, her depression and loneliness are revealed.  The song’s chorus about “all the lonely people” seems to reflect the idea that our masks often deceive others about our true condition.  But I digress . . .

    Our unmasked facial expressions are important as we communicate with or without words.  Hopefully, the real masks that we wear will not cause true meanings to be lost as we deal with one another throughout this isolation.  Personally, I am looking forward to a day in the future when we can tear off the masks, smile and enjoy each other again! 

    Author:  Granny C

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