FOCUS ON SENIORS: What we can learn from our elders

Opinion Jan 14, 2016 by Kathryn Poirier Brant News

David Suzuki is a well-known Canadian. He is an academic, a science broadcaster and an environmental activist.

A few years ago he said: “I’m in the last part of my life, and that’s reality. This is the time when we must fulfill our most important duty – to reflect on a lifetime and then sift through the accumulation of experience, observation and thought in order to winnow out lessons to pass on to coming generations.”

He was talking about the value of lived experience. This term has come to epitomize, in many ways, the thrust and direction of the work being done by the Grand River Council on Aging.

Its members are passionate about speaking with older people to hear their stories, utilize their insights and feedback, and assist with planning and research for the future.

It seems that communities everywhere are waking up to the realities of changing demographics and increased life expectancy.

In Canada, the numbers illustrate a dramatic increase in the average life span. A hundred years ago, the average life span for a man was 49 years and for a woman 54 years. Today the averages are 79 and 83, respectively, but there is also a growing number of the “oldest old” – those individuals over 85 years of age.

What can our elders tell us about living their long lives? And in turn, what lessons can be applied to life today and in the years to come?

Karl Pillemer is an example of one person keenly interested in what elders have to say about life and living.

He is a professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University and is a professor of gerontology in medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College. In 2004, the “Legacy Project” began when he started collecting practical advice for living from America’s elders.

Using a number of different research methods, his team gathered almost 1,500 responses to the question: “What are the most important lessons you have learned over the course of your life?”

People from across the country, in their 70s and beyond, shared their wisdom for living. Their advice ranged from how to be happy on a day-to-day basis, the secrets to a successful marriage, tips on raising children, ways to have a fulfilling career, strategies for dealing with illness and loss and how to grow old fearlessly and well.

Many of the responses gathered can be viewed on YouTube, where seniors share wisdom from their lived experiences.

Based on his experience with the Legacy Project, Pillemer went on to write a book called “30 Lessons on Living.” It quickly became a hit.

Readers loved the advice and great stories from ordinary people who shared what they wished they knew when they started out.

The Grand River Council on Aging has also conducted research and collected data through a variety of means.

The COMPASS project was charged with talking to seniors. Over a two year period, volunteers spoke to older adults and seniors from the City of Brantford and County of Brant. Conversations and dialogue varied from seniors needing a particular program or service to special reminisces about days gone by. What they had to say was fascinating, thought-provoking and relevant.

In a similar fashion, the intergenerational autobiographical writing class recently completed at Laurier Brantford provided opportunities for older adults to share their experiences with university students. This inaugural class was successful beyond the planners’ expectations, as participants not only learned from each other but developed strong bonds of friendship.

Plans call for Phase 2 of the COMPASS to launch sometime this year. This will be a more in-depth study to ask seniors specifically what lessons they have learned to pass on to others.  

The writing class will continue with participation in an exhibit at Themuseum in Kitchener-Waterloo. As well, GRCOA will work with Laurier Brantford on another study looking at an age-friendly assessment tool.

The age-friendly community summit, a partnership between GRCOA and MPP Dave Levac, is also generating interesting results. Four of the planned eight gatherings have taken place and the response from seniors has been incredible.

The timing is right for all these projects and endeavours. They have been created in direct response to the changing needs of society. The success has been surprising to all.

Seniors weren’t accustomed to being asked for their opinions, but they are relishing the opportunities to speak up. The Council on Aging will actively search out more ways to engage seniors. The mission is to promote the voice of seniors and, after five years of work, seniors are being heard.

FOCUS ON SENIORS: What we can learn from our elders

Grand River Council on Aging values lived experience

Opinion Jan 14, 2016 by Kathryn Poirier Brant News

David Suzuki is a well-known Canadian. He is an academic, a science broadcaster and an environmental activist.

A few years ago he said: “I’m in the last part of my life, and that’s reality. This is the time when we must fulfill our most important duty – to reflect on a lifetime and then sift through the accumulation of experience, observation and thought in order to winnow out lessons to pass on to coming generations.”

He was talking about the value of lived experience. This term has come to epitomize, in many ways, the thrust and direction of the work being done by the Grand River Council on Aging.

Its members are passionate about speaking with older people to hear their stories, utilize their insights and feedback, and assist with planning and research for the future.

It seems that communities everywhere are waking up to the realities of changing demographics and increased life expectancy.

In Canada, the numbers illustrate a dramatic increase in the average life span. A hundred years ago, the average life span for a man was 49 years and for a woman 54 years. Today the averages are 79 and 83, respectively, but there is also a growing number of the “oldest old” – those individuals over 85 years of age.

What can our elders tell us about living their long lives? And in turn, what lessons can be applied to life today and in the years to come?

Karl Pillemer is an example of one person keenly interested in what elders have to say about life and living.

He is a professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University and is a professor of gerontology in medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College. In 2004, the “Legacy Project” began when he started collecting practical advice for living from America’s elders.

Using a number of different research methods, his team gathered almost 1,500 responses to the question: “What are the most important lessons you have learned over the course of your life?”

People from across the country, in their 70s and beyond, shared their wisdom for living. Their advice ranged from how to be happy on a day-to-day basis, the secrets to a successful marriage, tips on raising children, ways to have a fulfilling career, strategies for dealing with illness and loss and how to grow old fearlessly and well.

Many of the responses gathered can be viewed on YouTube, where seniors share wisdom from their lived experiences.

Based on his experience with the Legacy Project, Pillemer went on to write a book called “30 Lessons on Living.” It quickly became a hit.

Readers loved the advice and great stories from ordinary people who shared what they wished they knew when they started out.

The Grand River Council on Aging has also conducted research and collected data through a variety of means.

The COMPASS project was charged with talking to seniors. Over a two year period, volunteers spoke to older adults and seniors from the City of Brantford and County of Brant. Conversations and dialogue varied from seniors needing a particular program or service to special reminisces about days gone by. What they had to say was fascinating, thought-provoking and relevant.

In a similar fashion, the intergenerational autobiographical writing class recently completed at Laurier Brantford provided opportunities for older adults to share their experiences with university students. This inaugural class was successful beyond the planners’ expectations, as participants not only learned from each other but developed strong bonds of friendship.

Plans call for Phase 2 of the COMPASS to launch sometime this year. This will be a more in-depth study to ask seniors specifically what lessons they have learned to pass on to others.  

The writing class will continue with participation in an exhibit at Themuseum in Kitchener-Waterloo. As well, GRCOA will work with Laurier Brantford on another study looking at an age-friendly assessment tool.

The age-friendly community summit, a partnership between GRCOA and MPP Dave Levac, is also generating interesting results. Four of the planned eight gatherings have taken place and the response from seniors has been incredible.

The timing is right for all these projects and endeavours. They have been created in direct response to the changing needs of society. The success has been surprising to all.

Seniors weren’t accustomed to being asked for their opinions, but they are relishing the opportunities to speak up. The Council on Aging will actively search out more ways to engage seniors. The mission is to promote the voice of seniors and, after five years of work, seniors are being heard.

FOCUS ON SENIORS: What we can learn from our elders

Grand River Council on Aging values lived experience

Opinion Jan 14, 2016 by Kathryn Poirier Brant News

David Suzuki is a well-known Canadian. He is an academic, a science broadcaster and an environmental activist.

A few years ago he said: “I’m in the last part of my life, and that’s reality. This is the time when we must fulfill our most important duty – to reflect on a lifetime and then sift through the accumulation of experience, observation and thought in order to winnow out lessons to pass on to coming generations.”

He was talking about the value of lived experience. This term has come to epitomize, in many ways, the thrust and direction of the work being done by the Grand River Council on Aging.

Its members are passionate about speaking with older people to hear their stories, utilize their insights and feedback, and assist with planning and research for the future.

It seems that communities everywhere are waking up to the realities of changing demographics and increased life expectancy.

In Canada, the numbers illustrate a dramatic increase in the average life span. A hundred years ago, the average life span for a man was 49 years and for a woman 54 years. Today the averages are 79 and 83, respectively, but there is also a growing number of the “oldest old” – those individuals over 85 years of age.

What can our elders tell us about living their long lives? And in turn, what lessons can be applied to life today and in the years to come?

Karl Pillemer is an example of one person keenly interested in what elders have to say about life and living.

He is a professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University and is a professor of gerontology in medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College. In 2004, the “Legacy Project” began when he started collecting practical advice for living from America’s elders.

Using a number of different research methods, his team gathered almost 1,500 responses to the question: “What are the most important lessons you have learned over the course of your life?”

People from across the country, in their 70s and beyond, shared their wisdom for living. Their advice ranged from how to be happy on a day-to-day basis, the secrets to a successful marriage, tips on raising children, ways to have a fulfilling career, strategies for dealing with illness and loss and how to grow old fearlessly and well.

Many of the responses gathered can be viewed on YouTube, where seniors share wisdom from their lived experiences.

Based on his experience with the Legacy Project, Pillemer went on to write a book called “30 Lessons on Living.” It quickly became a hit.

Readers loved the advice and great stories from ordinary people who shared what they wished they knew when they started out.

The Grand River Council on Aging has also conducted research and collected data through a variety of means.

The COMPASS project was charged with talking to seniors. Over a two year period, volunteers spoke to older adults and seniors from the City of Brantford and County of Brant. Conversations and dialogue varied from seniors needing a particular program or service to special reminisces about days gone by. What they had to say was fascinating, thought-provoking and relevant.

In a similar fashion, the intergenerational autobiographical writing class recently completed at Laurier Brantford provided opportunities for older adults to share their experiences with university students. This inaugural class was successful beyond the planners’ expectations, as participants not only learned from each other but developed strong bonds of friendship.

Plans call for Phase 2 of the COMPASS to launch sometime this year. This will be a more in-depth study to ask seniors specifically what lessons they have learned to pass on to others.  

The writing class will continue with participation in an exhibit at Themuseum in Kitchener-Waterloo. As well, GRCOA will work with Laurier Brantford on another study looking at an age-friendly assessment tool.

The age-friendly community summit, a partnership between GRCOA and MPP Dave Levac, is also generating interesting results. Four of the planned eight gatherings have taken place and the response from seniors has been incredible.

The timing is right for all these projects and endeavours. They have been created in direct response to the changing needs of society. The success has been surprising to all.

Seniors weren’t accustomed to being asked for their opinions, but they are relishing the opportunities to speak up. The Council on Aging will actively search out more ways to engage seniors. The mission is to promote the voice of seniors and, after five years of work, seniors are being heard.