Senior Viewpoint: Hands of Time, by Esther Margaret Ayers

“Do wrinkles hurt?”

The eleven-year-old boy asked it suddenly as we sat together on the piano bench. I had asked the student to observe my hands on the keys, showing him the proper position: curved fingers, the wrist forming a level bridge from hand to forearm.

“What?” I was caught off guard, unable to think of a simple reply. With three fingers and a thumb, he stretched the thin skin on top of one of my hands. It obligingly yielded, rising in a pale tent of tissue. He released it, and the tent slowly collapsed. “Old people have such cool skin,” he murmured.

“Okay, buster,” I retorted, gently batting his hand away. “Your turn to try this.”

I was thirty-two years of age at the time. I certainly didn’t accept the notion of myself as old. This was the first occasion a student had even hinted at such a thing. After his lesson was over, I briefly contemplated my hands, then set the moment aside. I was, after all, a young wife and mother, a teacher, a graduate student; I had no time to think about Time.

In my forties, a single parent, I continued to teach piano in addition to my full-time job as a vocal music teacher. My students continued to teach me, too.

One student, in her fifties, studied with me for eight years. She had grown up in a poor rural family, but had always wanted to play the piano. Over the years she mastered the basics, learned to play hymns and popular songs of her youth. Yet she loved the classics and we began to learn the much beloved Adagio Cantabile from Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique. She learned the notes and rhythms readily, but neither of us could understand why certain passages were so difficult, why it didn’t sing. We labored in some frustration until one day she sighed, “Maybe it’s my hands. You’re still young; you wouldn’t understand. But I’m getting older.”

I tried to brush it off. “Oh, we all have different hands. You’ll be playing in your seventies.”

“No, look at my hands. I think it’s the arthritis.”

I looked—really looked—at her hands, seeing them for the first time. I saw the swelling and redness. I had been so focused on the music and the instrument, I had been looking right past her hands. How could I have been so blind?

I took her hands in mine. She encouraged me to feel the knobs forming at her joints. “It’s probably from the laundry.”


“Yes, that’s what the doctor thinks. I was the oldest of nine kids. My job was to hang wet laundry outside on the line. He thinks it’s a miracle I can play the piano at all, but says it’s good for my hands.”

I closed my eyes, picturing the little girl in the woods near Big Bay, her bare fingers freezing in the winter wind as she pinned up the family washing.

“Shall I play it again?” she asked.

Yes, please. Tears ran down my face this time as she played the timeless melody.

It’s been twenty years since the woman with arthritis suggested I was too young to understand, and 30 years since that boy cast me as an ‘old’ person. I still work full-time: mornings are for writing, afternoons for piano teaching. Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of students of all ages, all with something to teach me.

This fall, a new student began lessons with me, a professional woman in her forties, with a good ear and a ready laugh. She took lessons as a child. As a yoga instructor, her posture is already perfect. Her fingers curve beautifully over the keys. However, when she plays the Arabesque, I hear a brittle, tense tone. I observe how her wrists and arms are locked.

I say, “Watch me play for a moment.”

“Oh,” she exclaims, after a few measures. “You make it look so easy. Your hands move so naturally.”

“Here.” I pat the bench of my piano. “Come sit beside me. Let’s draw some circles with our wrists and elbows.”

It’s true my presbyopia makes me fiddle with myriad sets of glasses, which amuses my young students. But I wouldn’t trade the eyes I have now for anything; I see more clearly, with more openness.

It’s true my ears don’t work as well as they once did, especially that left one. But I hear my students better, for I have finally learned how to listen to them.

And even I will admit I have “old hands.” But these hands are still learning—from my own teacher, now in her mid-seventies, who guides them in making even more beautiful the music I still desire.

Esther Margaret Ayers (known to her students as Esther LaVoy Barrington) lives and writes in Marquette. She has taught piano from her home studio near McCarty’s Cove since 1983.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Winter 2017 – 2018 Issue, copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

Senior Viewpoint: Elders + Youth Increase Happiness Quotient, by Barb Dupras

What can be sweeter than a tender, intimate moment shared between a grandchild and the grandparent, or a senior and a young one? This contact not only brings delight to the child but also a cherished moment for the senior. Why is this so important, especially in today’s world, and how can we nurture or create these experiences today?

Generations ago, having extended family was part of life; those relationships grew and developed over a lifetime. In today’s world, with people living thousands of miles away from each other, it is more difficult to maintain those relationships in a close way. The intimacy and learning can be lost.

There is now more awareness of the importance for the younger generation to learn about the different stages of life through contact with the elderly. And because of the age difference, children learn important social skills. So activities have been created to give children who wouldn’t ordinarily have this opportunity time with older adults.

There are a variety of such options here in the U.P. Some churches’ youth programs include trips to nursing homes, particularly around the holidays. A children’s group calls Bingo at Valenti Nursing Home once a month. Foster Grandparents in Gladstone, sponsored by Escanaba’s Community Action Board, brings grandparents into schools to play with and read to children. The Bridges program, run by Pathways Community Mental Health, pairs at-risk youth with developmentally disabled adults in weekly meetings with activities. Marquette’s Peter White Public Library offers the Book Babies program, in which seniors/adults read to youngsters. Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Marquette always has openings to match seniors/adults with young people needing that relationship.

Interesting programs across the country are also bringing generations together. One such is All Seasons Preschool in Minnesota. The preschool is housed inside a senior living building, providing daily opportunities for those precious relationships to flourish. All Seasons Preschool’s philosophy is that “. . . quality of life is enhanced when all generations live and work together.” Daily activities with seniors include storytime, active games, cooking, and rhythm band.

Being around the seniors brings out the best behaviors in the children. Just being aware of another’s needs leads children to modify their behavior around the seniors. For example, those who were usually overly active slowed down. Children also learned about the differences in older people – wrinkled skin, white hair, can’t see/hear well, memory problems – learning empathy as a result. Long term studies have also showed improved vocabulary and advanced social skills result from these relationships. All Season Preschool has been so successful overall that developers interested in replicating this model elsewehere have been contacting the school.

As much as the younger generation needs the wisdom and patience of the older generation, the older generation needs the innocence and vitality of the young ones. At All Seasons Preschool, seniors who didn’t usually participate in activities came out of their shells once the children were present. Spending time with children helps to alleviate boredom, loneliness, and feelings of helplessness. How can you be depressed when a lively young one is in your presence?

Margaret Mead stated, “Somehow we have to get older people back close to growing children if we are to restore a sense of community, a knowledge of the past, and a sense of the future.”

As this country values independence, too many people feel dependence is a weakness. Seniors concerned about being a burden on their families do not ask for help. As a result, they tend to isolate, become detached. If we are to handle the increasing proportion of seniors in a life-giving way, we need to prioritize bringing them back into community. Too many seniors are lonely and alone, and too many children are deprived of this vital connection. Playing with electronics is not a substitute for a loving intimate relationship with a wisdom-filled older person.

Those interested in learning more about inter-generational activities may want to explore Generations United (, the only national membership organization devoted to the well-being of the younger and older generation and building bridges between them. More such ideas are also described at Legacy Project is a “big picture learning and social innovation project” that includes community building through activities connecting generations.

So what do grandparents in our community have to say? One grandma who has a close relationship with her young granddaughter discussed the difference between parent-child and grandparent-grandchild relationships. Parents are often distracted with their own worries or have limited time. This grandmother feels that because she is not responsible for her granddaughter 24/7, she is more relaxed, focused and present; she can be at her best with her.

Several grandmothers told me they love to play pretend with their grandchildren. One described how her grandson loves to come into bed with her in the morning to play pretend octopus, whale or other sea creatures or animals together, which builds imagination along with learning. She also loves to sing with her grandson, making sure to sing in his range so he’ll be more comfortable singing along. She also feels it’s important to continue the stories of the past. She tells stories that came from her mother, and talks about what it was like growing up in a different era to educate her grandson on his lineage.

Grandparents have the unique opportunity to pass along their wisdom – in whatever way it comes through. If you are fortunate enough to have a grandchild, have fun nurturing your relationship with him or her, and know you play an important part in shaping a little life!

Barb Dupras is a retired Senior Center social worker and an energy healing practitioner who enjoys living on the Chocolay River

This article was reprinted with permission from the Summer 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

Here Ye, Hear Ye: Is Bluetooth Technology For You? by Carol Rose

Bluetooth is a wireless technology used for exchange of data over short distances between devices such as cell phones, personal computers, televisions and radios, and other sound devices. It also presents some helpful alternatives for the hard of hearing.


While the information in this article is aimed at those who have hearing aids equipped with a t-coil, hard-of-hearing people can still benefit from the products described by listening via headphones or ear buds to help boost the sound.  The advantage of listening with t-coil equipped aids, however, is that the sound is transmitted directly to both ears at a level programmed specifically by the audiologist for their individual hearing loss.


What’s a T-Coil?

As the name implies, t-coils are simply tiny coils of wire mounted inside the hearing aids. They are also referred to as telephone coils, tele-coils, audio coils or t-switches. If you’re getting hearing aids for the first time or are in the market for new ones, I encourage you to talk to your audiologist about equipping them with a manual t-coil. While auto t-coils can help with telephone connections, manual ones are powerful enough to connect to a Bluetooth neckloop, whose advantages I describe below.  If you have aids and do not know if they have t-coils, call your audiologist. You might have t-coils already and just need them activated.


Hiding in Plain Sight

You’ve probably seen business people walking down the street or sitting in the airport, talking with no phone in site.  Their cell phones are most likely in their pockets, purses or briefcases. Depending on the size, you may or may not see the earpieces themselves, which connect wirelessly to cell phones via Bluetooth technology.


As a person with a profound hearing loss, I too carry on a phone conversation with my phone in my pocket.  However, my “earpiece” is my hearing aid, and I wear a Bluetooth neck loop. The loop is equipped with a wire that can send sound waves to my t-coil equipped aid.  A small device connected to the end of the loop is paired with a Bluetooth enabled cell phone.  (Nearly all cell phones made after 2007 are Bluetooth compatible.)


What Can This Loop Do?

A Bluetooth neck loop can be paired with other Bluetooth compatible devices, such as any standard Bluetooth enabled cordless phone, any radio device that has a standard Bluetooth transmitter, certain iPods or MP3 players, and Bluetooth enabled computers. With this equipment, those of you with hearing loss can more readily enjoy phone conversations on a land line, music, and movies played on your computer. And if your TV or other sound system isn’t Bluetooth compatible, you can hook a Bluetooth transmitter up to it.


Recently a friend excitedly showed me her Christmas present – a small speaker about the size of a Pringles potato chips can. She turned it on, connected her computer’s Internet to a music website, pressed the Bluetooth icon on her computer, and music poured out of this speaker… wirelessly.  If I’d been wearing my neck loop, I could have easily paired it to the speaker, turned on my t-coils,  and enjoyed the music in both my ears at a sound level designed for my particular hearing loss.


quattro, bluetoothShopping for a Neck Loop

I’ve checked out many different Bluetooth neck loops on the Internet, and if you’re interested in pursuing this method of hearing phones, music, TV and more, I urge you to do the same.  One that impressed me is the “Clearsounds Quattro Amplified Bluetooth Neckloop.”  It’s small and has earphones for the hard-of-hearing person without t-coil enabled aids. Clearsounds also has a complementary product called the QLink for converting a non-Bluetooth enabled device to Bluetooth.  The price wasn’t bad either, ranging from $108 from one company for the neckloop alone, to $159 from another company for the neckloop, earphones and transmitter.  So shop around and be sure to find out about returns and possible restocking fees, as well as shipping and handling charges, before making your final decision.


Everybody’s Doing It!

As described on, another advantage of Bluetooth technology is that the stigma once associated with wearing visible electronic devices has nearly disappeared. Today, many wear earpieces, headphones, and other devices for hands-free cell phone, portable game, and MP3 player use. These accessories have become cool, with attractive colors and flashy styles that are meant to be seen. This trend has helped ease hearing aid wearers’ concerns about standing out or looking odd because of wearing something on or in their ears.


Take It Outside!

Speaking of wearing something on your ears… if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, check out the colorful protective sleeves for your hearing aids at  I believe my aids will sport a pair next time I embark on a canoe trip!


And if we’re still experiencing wintry weather when you read this, or to help prepare yourself for next winter, check out this blog on hearing aids and WINTER –!


Carol Rose is a writer/photographer living in Grand Marais.  She also writes for the Grand Marais Pilot and Pictured Rocks Review.  With the advent of spring, she is looking forward to hiking, canoeing and driving her 1995 Jeep on the back roads of the U.P.


More to Consider When Purchasing a Hearing Aid:


Some aids are too small to allow a t-coil to be added, so make sure the ones you’re considering are large enough for this option. I also suggest making sure your t-coil has both the “t-coil” setting and a “t-coil/mic” setting.  Both allow you to hear information direct to your aid, but the “t-coil” setting shuts out other sounds, while the “t-coil/mic” setting allows you also to hear additional things at the same time, such as conversation in the room and, most importantly, traffic sounds when you are driving.


This article was reprinted with permission from the Spring 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2014. All rights reserved.


Senior Viewpoint: Going Through Extremes, by Barb Dupras

One thing I love about the U.P. is the unpredictability of the weather.  As they say, if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.  I also love the contrasting seasons.  But this winter’s subzero temperatures have shown us what it feels like to be in such an extreme condition.  Our bodies deal with these temperatures in their own ways, but people of later years need to pay particular attention in order to stay safe and healthy in this type of weather. Extreme summer temperatures also can be an issue.  This article will describe ways to help the elderly with challenging winter and summer temperatures .

Changing weather affects conditions that are common in seniors such as arthritis.  Do you ever wonder why joints seem to hurt more at certain times, especially when there is a change in the weather?  Dr. Mark Gourley of the National Institute of Health explains that the pressure in the joints changes as the weather changes.  Think of the tissues surrounding the joints as balloons.  When the air pressure decreases, the balloon expands a little, putting pressure on the joints which can create discomfort.  Some say they can predict changing weather by pain in their joints and they are right!  Dr. Gourley suggests the following to ease the discomfort when the temperature goes down:

  • Keep warm by bundling yourself in several layers from head to toe.
  • Be sure your home is kept warm and also preheat your car before entering it.
  • Warm your clothing by putting it in the dryer before dressing.
  • Sleeping with an electric blanket can be helpful.
  • Drinking hot liquids also keeps the body warm.
  • Before going out in the cold, exercise the affected joints.
  • Maintaining a regular movement program is helpful for loosening stiff joints while helping to prevent winter weight gain and the stress this can add to painful joints.

Respiratory problems such as rheumatoid lung disease and asthma can be affected by breathing extremely cold air.  If you have any condition that affects your lung capacity, wearing a face mask and/or covering your mouth to help warm the air you breathe may help you cope with frigid temperatures.

Often seniors fear slipping and falling on ice.  For those with osteoporosis, this is of even greater concern because more porous bones can fracture easily.  It’s probably best to stay indoors when conditions are icy.  If you need to venture out, prepare yourself.  Putting ice grippers on the bottom of boots, shoes and canes is a wonderful way to help prevent falls.  Call your local medical supply store to inquire about these.

Over time, burrowing inside to escape low temperatures can negatively impact one’s mood. Depression can affect anyone, but seniors are especially at risk in winter as they’re less active and more confined to their homes.  The lack of sunlight in our area during winter can also be a factor. If you or your loved one typically feel low in the winter, you may want to try using a full spectrum light for a period of time daily to improve mood and energy level.  I use the Verilux Happy Light, which can be found online.

Planning stimulating indoor activities before winter hits can also assist. Really delve into your interest.  Stained glass?  Painting?  See what online and community classes are available to you.

Keeping in touch with loved ones is also uplifting.  Try Skyping, a free video conference call over the computer with your loved ones.  Look into different ways to keep in touch.

Another way to beat the blues is to exercise.  Whatever your activity level, even if you’re in a wheelchair, find a program that suits your needs and keeps your body moving.

So plan for a better winter – make an intention!!   Hindsight is always good, but foresight is even better!

Now for the other side of the weather spectrum – heat!  Seniors frequently have a medical condition or are on a medication that can affect the body’s cooling system and ability to perspire. Certain psychotropic medications can also affect a person’s ability to feel extreme heat.  It’s important to check on senior loved ones frequently during this time. Here are some guidelines that may be helpful:

  1. Make sure the senior rides out the heat in an air-conditioned environment – if not at home, then at the senior center, neighbors home, library, etc.
  2. Encourage your senior loved one to drink plenty of water.
  3. Check on your loved one twice a day.  If you are at a long distance, you can Skype to know he or she is safe.  Seeing your loved one sometimes is better, as one can hide distress in the voice.
  4. Have a back-up plan and transportation arranged in case the power goes out.
  5. Check on those seniors in your neighborhood who may not have family or anyone close to do so.

To keep yourself or your loved one cool during extreme heat, take cool baths/showers, avoid heavy meals and strenuous activity, keep shades down and blinds closed but windows slightly open, keep electric lights off or turned down, and wear loose, lightweight clothing.  Muscle cramping can be the first sign of a heat-related illness.   Pay attention; if you suspect a senior could be too hot – take action!

You may want to keep this article handy as an informative reminder. Knowing what to do to keep yourself or your loved one safe in extreme weather is invaluable for the coming years!

Barbara Dupras is a retired senior center social worker who also is an energy practitioner and enjoys her home on the Chocolay River. She can be reached at


This article was reprinted with permission from the Spring 2014 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

Caregiver to the Caregivers, Waino Liuhas

By request, we’d like to share with you the following article from the current issue of Health & Happinesss U.P. Magazine.

Each person is unique, leaving his or her own particular mark on the world, some more subtlely, some less so. At the end of 2012, our area lost someone whose mark was so very positively noticeable to those in the know that we’d like to honor his legacy here with some stories of the man – Waino Liuhas, an elder who looked out for many others in many ways, leaving quite an inspiring example.

Waino was a World War II veteran, a Tracy Mine worker, Michigan social worker, husband, father and tireless volunteer. Below are what just a few people had to say when asked to share the words, stories or remembrances that come to mind when they think of Waino.

Negaunee Senior Center Director Kristy Basolo responded, Since Waino has been gone, I find myself asking more and more, “What would Waino do?” He was the face of the Lions Club eyeglass recycling project, Aging Services, RSVP, every Veterans program known to man, the back pew of my church (Immanuel Lutheran). But he was so much more. The part of him that remains with me most is his simplicity. If there was a need in the community, he would simply find a way to fulfill it. He didn’t think in terms of liability and red tape the way things sometimes go today. If someone needed something, he would simply make it happen.

Basolo added, “If he felt there was any sort of injustice going on, he would expose it.”

“His simple honesty knew no political correctness. He would say what was on his mind in plain, but polite, terms. And if he didn’t get satisfaction from you, he’d find someone up the chain who would make something happen. Some may have thought of him as a pest, but in my eyes he was the most pure advocate for those people and agencies in need that I have ever known. So now, when I am faced with a conundrum, I simply ask myself, “What would Waino do?””

“Waino is my mentor.  Constantly on the go, and always working to help form connections    between agencies, shared clients and people in his life,” explains Amy Mattson, Director of    the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, (RSVP).

“We were chatting in the office one afternoon last year and he told me he drove more than 7,500 miles back and forth in the course of his volunteer work in the previous twelve months.  Impressed with his dedication and worried about his wallet, after he left, I submitted a mileage reimbursement request for him.  A couple weeks later he stopped in again and handed me the check, saying he did not need the mileage reimbursement and we should give it to someone who did.”

“From January 1 to the end of November, 2012, Waino reported 736 hours of service through RSVP.  This total does not include uncounted (and probably numerous) hours for agencies that are not connected to RSVP, or his work with many service agencies and private individuals.  As you can see by the list of places for which Waino volunteered, he was interested in helping people of all ages – if people were in need, sooner or later they (or someone who was trying to help them) would cross paths with Waino.”

“From the time he joined RSVP in 1994, Waino reported 10,022 hours of service at AMCAB, Lions Club of Negaunee, Lutheran Social Services, Pioneer Kiwanis, Tracy Mine Retirees, VFW Post 3165 of Negaunee, Thrivent Financial, D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans, Eastwood Nursing Center, Ishpeming Senior Center, Mather Nursing Center, Marquette County Medical Care Facility, Marquette Range Iron Mining Heritage Museum, National Ski Hall of Fame, Negaunee Public Schools, Habitat for Humanity, Lake Superior Community Partnership, Alzheimer’s Association, Marquette Adult Day Services, Marquette County Aging Services Advisory Committee, Marquette County Community Foundation, Negaunee and Ishpeming Area Community Funds, Department of Human Services, Medical Care Access Coalition, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program – with Triad, as a special projects volunteer and as an advisory council member, Salvation Army of Ishpeming, St. Vincent de Paul of Marquette, United Way, and the  YMCA.”

Mattson continued to report, “In 1996, Waino was selected as one of the Northern Michigan University

President’s Award Recipients for Distinguished Citizenship.  In 2007, he received the Claude Pepper award, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Senior Advisory Committee, for his work and strong concern for senior citizen rights.  And in 2008, he was chosen as the U.P. Veteran of the Year and honored at the U.P. State Fair.”

“I met Waino two years ago through his service on the Board of Directors at Marquette Adult Day Services,” describes this organization’s director Melissa Luttrell. “I truly appreciated his service to our agency; he asked many a good question and kept us all thinking. Besides those decadent cashew clusters, I loved his smile, his enthusiasm for life and for giving to others, and his ever present questions – “Do you have what you need?”, “Are you getting that raise you deserve?” He was always looking out for those of us serving the community and for those we serve. I loved him and will greatly miss having him in my life.”

“A kind and personable gentleman, he was so gracious and funny!” Tendercare Munising administrator Pamela McKenna declares. “The first time I met Waino, I was attending the Aging Services Advisory Committee meeting regarding my involvement with the State Advisory Council and was a little nervous sitting in the waiting area. Waino went out of his way to introduce himself to me, joking with me and really putting me at ease. He was so kind and funny. I really appreciated that. He was a strong advocate for veterans, always speaking up for those who came back and are coming back from serving our country.  He was truly a “voice” for many people and spoke with eloquence for what he believed in.”

AMCAB Food Service Manager Brenda Mattson says, “What I admired about Waino was his dedication to people serving in our military.  In meetings with local and state politicians, I often heard him ask the question, “How will this help the people serving our country?”  He had a heartfelt concern for the future of all military personnel and their families.”

Mattson adds, “One memory that I have is seeing him standing alone showing support for the men and women marching in the 2012 Labor Day parade. I couldn’t help but think that after all the good deeds this man has done, he is still humble enough to rally for his community.  How great is that?”

AMCAB CNS Director Lori Stephens-Brown describes Waino as “tireless, kind, giving, and humble.  The closest to a saint I have ever had the pleasure to be around.  Waino was a role model for all of us working in the human services field.  And if you didn’t have Waino’s support on a project, it probably wasn’t going to fly.”

“Waino encouraged so many of us to best serve in our programs.  He would always ask how specific things were going, issues that I had mentioned that were challenging me.  Every time I would see him, he would check up on that issue until it was solved.  Waino was always there for us.”

“Questions. Waino always had the questions.  And there was a lesson in every one of his questions, but not everyone got them,” Stephens-Brown continued.

I made sure my teenagers worked side by side with Waino, so they could learn from him, and for them to see what a true hero is.  My daughter got to work in the ‘fry tent’ with him, my son helped him haul donated books every year for the RSVP Recognition Dinner, and we all picked up trash at Mattson Park after the July 4th festivities every year.  I think I also wanted Waino’s approval that I was raising ‘good citizens.’  Thanks, Waino.”

This article was reprinted with permission from the Spring 2013 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

The Gifts of Aging by Barb Dupras

The definition of aging is “the process of growing old or maturing.”  A synonym for aging is “obsolescence” (becoming obsolete).  Of course, no one wants to become obsolete.  We are constantly bombarded by the media with messages telling us we should not look old but instead try any product we can to regain our youthful appearance.  It’s as if aging is a terrible malady we should avoid at all costs.  Our youth-oriented culture has lost touch with the deep meanings that can collect around being old, as if it would be better to eliminate autumn and winter from the four seasons. “Let’s get rid of the hideous autumn foliage and withered leaves so everything can be green all the time.”  But then the world would miss out on the true spirit of elders.

This mysterious process called aging has been part of the greater rhythm of life since life began.  For me, one of the gifts of this later phase of life, as a result of all my life experiences, is the opportunity to be more inner-directed.  As we come closer to the realm of the spirit, we have the opportunity to look back at our life and glean the lessons that we may or may not have learned earlier. We can learn to be more conscious, as we are no longer so distracted with children, the roller-coaster ride of hormones, or the outer challenges inherent in making a living. And we have the wisdom to look at it all.  We may identify patterns in our life reoccurring time and again.  It’s as if the original situation, (which may have occurred in childhood or when we were younger), keeps repeating itself throughout our lives in a futile attempt to resolve itself.  Now we have the opportunity to identify unhealed issues and look to whatever means we are drawn to to heal or integrate them. I believe everything that happens in our lives is for our growth, and that we can come to a sense of peace about challenging experiences.  One book that really helped me with this is The Presence Process by Michael Brown.

As we grow older, many of us focus on the physical changes.  At sixty-two, I do notice the changes in my body.  More and more, my body seems to have a mind of its own!  It will no longer tolerate my pushing it to the limit and has announced to me in various ways that the pace is different now.  And I am more focused on maintaining my health.  I know that the “golden years” can be fraught with pain and disease.  But I invite you to take a different perspective about your body.  It has served you well for many, many years.  And the natural state of our bodies is one of perfect health.  No matter what state your body is in, it is always trying to rebalance or heal itself, (even if it means compromising other systems).  For example, one day my lower back was giving me great discomfort.  I sat and meditated for a while and totally relaxed.  When I got up, the pain was completely gone.  When you relax, your body has the opportunity to address the issues at hand.  There are probably some reading this who have severe health issues thinking, “Sure, you are younger and in good health – easy for you to say!”  But I do invite you to take some time every day to relax completely and think positive loving thoughts about your body.  Your body does respond to the thoughts you think about it. Experiment and see what happens!

A friend in her sixties shared with me that she feels more like herself than she has since she was a child. I also feel that way. She explained that she is not dealing with midlife responsibilities so now she can pursue her passions.

I remember my life loving adventures – camping, solo canoe camping, backpacking, etc.  Now I don’t feel the push to do those things.  It was almost like I needed to prove something to myself.  Now I feel peaceful and more grounded, with the opportunity to put things in a healthier perspective. A friend in her seventies said she did not start feeling old until her friends started dying.  Then she started thinking about her age and her body started giving her challenges.  She also said she no longer does things to mark them off her list; instead, she only does things she finds fun.

Historically, cultures have turned to the elders for answers to life’s deepest problems. Unfortunately, in this modern age the reins of power and leadership often go to individuals who have not yet gained the experience and wisdom necessary to make good decisions.  There is a new philanthropic effort acknowledging that we once again need to access the wisdom of the elders to solve problems.  “The Elders,” an international non-governmental organization of twelve elder public figures – peace activists, noted statesmen and human rights advocates, was brought together by Nelson Mandala in 2007.  Its goal is to use the “almost 1000 years of collective experience” to work on solutions for seemingly insurmountable world problems such as poverty, human rights abuses, environmental issues, peace, and climate change.  Some of the elders are: Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson. You can learn more about this organization at

With all the years that we seniors have lived, how wonderful it is that we can guide the next generation toward making good choices! There is groundedness and power in that.  This phase brings the opportunity to explore life in a whole new way.  Let’s embrace all the qualities in us that have served us well and share our innate wisdom. Let’s nourish our precious relationships And above all, let’s honor each other and be supportive of one another’s life journeys.  There are more opportunities for us to explore than ever before.  Let’s not waste time!

Barbara Dupras is a retired Senior Center Social Worker and practices Energy Medicine.  She loves gardening, hiking, and kayaking in the Chocolay River, on which she lives.

Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2012 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2012.