on September 19, 2016 by in Golden News, Comments Off on The Best is Yet to Come

The Best is Yet to Come

I remember the moment well. I lay in a hospital bed in the ICU of a local hospital recovering from a successful neck surgery and grieving. I hadn’t lost any loved ones due to death or illness, and I wasn’t without a job or resources. It was worse –; my youngest child had moved out of the house and into his own life. I felt adrift and without a sense of purpose, even with a successful career as a writer and artist.

I grieved because I was no longer “needed” to raise my children. They were capable and thriving on their own. When the nurse asked me if I’d like something to soothe me, of course, I readily agreed so I could dull the pain of my loneliness and sorrow. Then I asked her to find a Chaplain for me to talk to.

The Chaplain, Nora, arrived, and we had a wonderful visit. She was an older woman who had served her community through her work. We talked about the sadness I felt as I transitioned into the empty nest, along with my husband. Next, Nora told me about a book, “The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully,” by Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun, who is outspoken on the topics of advocacy, justice, peace, and equality –; especially for women. She is also fearless about the issue of aging. Sister Chittister challenged readers to examine the aging process, not as a thing to be feared, but to be embraced as there was, and is, so much more to it.

“We don’t change as we get older –; we just get to be more of what we’ve always been,” she said.

Sister Chittister’s words moved me. Soon, I was searching for new ways to fill the new voids in my life, and find it I did. I looked for work in numerous organizations and eventually landed a job in a retirement community in Westminster where I could use my love of writing and the arts to help improve the quality of lives for residents. I no longer felt “down” about aging, and instead, I became more excited about growing older. Yes! I said it! I became more excited about growing older. With aging comes possibility!

Our residents and many others in our surrounding communities are intelligent, and their lifelong experiences and shared wisdom have added a wonderful new dimension to my life and the lives of others. They are proof that active engagement in life can have a positive effect on mental and physical wellness. Our residents are hungry for knowledge, and they soak up new experiences at LifeConnect University, Covenant Village of Colorado’s on-campus lifelong learning program. They love trying their hand at something new, such as beginning watercolor classes, fused glass workshops, bead working, writing programs, poetry sessions, music classes, and ecumenical programs.

Growing older can and will open us up to new possibilities, new social opportunities, and lasting friendships. In other words, life is worth living for, and aging does have its benefits! Research also suggests senior adults who participate in lifelong learning activities benefit in profound, healthful ways. Lifelong learning creates opportunities for:

Socialization: Taking classes, learning a new trade or stepping outside of our comfort zone to learn something new connects us with other like-minded people and creates new friendships.

Brain stimulation: Classes like chess or the “Think” Brain Fitness Boot Camp at LifeConnect University can improve brain health and slow down the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s in some people.

Physical activity: T’ai Chi, yoga, hiking, or any other activity that requires you to master something new is as good for the brain as it is good for the body. Physical activity is proven to boost your mood and help build muscle and balance.

Happiness: Lifelong learners get immersed in their activities or tasks; hours go by like minutes and they are happy, energized and fulfilled from having participated with a community of learners.

For more information on the LifeConnect University and a list of upcoming classes and programming (free for Covenant Village of Colorado residents, $ 25 for guests, with all supplies provided), call (303) 515-6342. Or, get involved in your community arts-based programs and classes. Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning is another great resource, (303) 871-3090.

Embrace aging with grace, as Sister Chittister suggests, because the best is yet to come!

Vickie Krudwig is Resident Life Director at Covenant Village of Colorado, a faith-based, not-for-profit continuing care retirement community located in Westminster and administered by Covenant Retirement Communities, the nation’s fifth largest not-for-profit senior living provider. For more information, visit www.covenantcolorado.org or call 877-341- 0295.

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