That is the title of a course I am going to facilitate at the end of January for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of North Florida. It is a six week course and each class will last an hour and a half. I announced the course in the catalog this way:
Old is not just a state of mind...it's a state of body, too. Things are changing for all of us elders. How are we coping with the changes in mind and body? Are we feeling redundant? Depressed? Anxious? What are the things we can still do and what are some things we still want to do. How do we make this part of our lives meaningful? How do we love the life we have? This class is for finding some of those answers by sharing our experiences with new friends who feel what we are feeling. Every class will be devoted to the discussion of a particular topic about our aging process, plus a little writing to stimulate ideas. This is designed for you who are 65 and better and willing to share yourself in a supportive and protective environment. So come and have a little whine and a lot of understanding!
I turned 80 last year and for several years now I have been writing about aging, both for a local newspaper and for myself, with thoughts of putting my observations about my own aging process, and aging in general, into a book. The reason I decided to create this class was because I have felt slightly or at times greatly displaced here in Florida after my move back from New York City. My best friends are scattered around the country with one of them battling Alzheimer's Disease. I joined a new writing group here and think highly of the women as writers and equally as people. Three of us are the same age - the others a bit younger. They were the only friends I had before I began giving classes at OLLI. However, we really don't have the time to discuss aging at length, unless one of us happens to write about it, and then it's mostly critiquing the writing to see if there are too many commas, or a better word needed for 'complaining.'
I have two daughters here and grandchildren not far away. I learned quickly when I returned to Florida that it isn't a good idea to complain about your feelings or loneliness or aches and pains to your children. First of all, it scares them, and then...after all, they haven't been through it so while they sympathize they cannot really relate. It's best to talk among our peers. But I didn't have enough of them so I created a class of them.
I honestly did not expect more than a handful of people to sign up. I'd been told that many people don't like to discuss aging at all. So, to my surprise, the class filled in one day. Now, with more people than I imagined to have in a class...20...I know we will have the kind of discussions I was hoping for.
If you've ever watched the TV program: Wisdom of the Crowd...it is the crowd that helps solve a crime by remaining vigilant and sending information to the primary source of inquiry. My class will operate on the same principal...not that aging is a crime to be solved...but that all of us together will help to find solutions for problems, dilemmas, and also to show each other ways to look at this time of life as I have learned to do, with a determined, positive and creative outlook.
And, surely, there will be whining....but not for long. I have too much planned to allow us to complain for too long about anything. It's just good enough to hear someone else mention the aching knee...hip, disrespect for elders, etc. But not to linger long without finding a better way to look at those things.
I will be writing again on the topics we discuss and how the class reacted to each other. But for those of you who are reading this and who are in the same place that I am, why not look for or form a group of elders who need to talk and want the company of others who understand? None of us can do this aging thing alone. Though there are gray days and we may at times be lonely and discouraged, the sun always comes out again. It might just be in the form of understanding friends.