Flourishing in the Eighth Decade!

Women everywhere, welcome to our blogspot, a space for sharing experiences, thoughts, and ideas about how to overcome obstacles and thrive as we approach and endure in the eighth decade of life. We hope this exchange will be a source of inspiration for the next generation of seventy year olds. Those baby boomers are hot on our heels, and want to know more about what lies ahead. Nobody gave us a guidebook or shared what this path might be like. As we burn those seventy candles, we can help shed some light on the trail for them.

What has this transition been like for you? Serious, funny, commonplace, unusual, short, long stories, all are welcome. How does it feel to be among the oldest in the crowd? What does it take to thrive in this decade? How do you think others see you? What contributes to well-being and yes, flourishing at three score and ten?

We welcome the comments and reflections of women everywhere. All cultures, ethnicities, socioeconomic status and backgrounds; as diverse a sample as we can reach.

Please contribute brief anecdotes, observations, thoughts, ideas, and life stories by posting them in the comment section below.

Alternatively, you could email longer stories to us at 70candles@gmail.com. Please include information about your age, ethnicity/cultural background, geographic location, education, and work status. We will organize, collate, and share your emailed stories anonymously on this blogspot. Ultimately this may become a book about how our generation flourishes. Spread the word!! 

Posted in 70candles | 35 Comments

Top o’ the morning!


I had the pleasure of meeting the engaging 98 year old Mavis at my friend’s house.

She told charming stories with vivid detail of her childhood in French Quebec, and of her adventure-filled career as a professional coloratura soprano. 

She allowed me to interview her about her current morning routine. I share it here as an inspiration for us all, and created the following reverse acronym in her honor.

Jane

Muscle Activation Via In-bed Stretching.

An interview with Mavis, age 98

Morning exercise to me is the most important thing in my life. Making myself do it becomes a plus because I hate to get up in the morning, so this is a good reason for staying in bed a little longer.

I had fallen in Canada where they said, “Go to your doctor and tell him that you’re too old for us to do anything here.” So I came back to the U.S. where my doctor sent me to an excellent physical therapist. He was wonderful, and he’s the one that gave me these exercises to do. He said don’t miss one, and don’t get out of your bed until you do them. I haven’t.

What are those exercises? Well if it’s cold, and I like to sleep in a cold room, I pull the covers off of half of my body, lengthwise. I put my foot out, and wiggle a toe to see if it’s warm enough to stay out. Then it’s up to the chest with my knee and then up to the ceiling with my leg, and back down again. I do that stretch up to 25 times on each leg.  I have also added something else because sometimes I find when I do the second leg the same way I get a little stiff, so here I do something for my ankle at the same time. I twist my ankle to the left and to the right. By then I’m tired, and he said I could rest in between, so I do. By that time I can let the covers off the other leg and test the temperature, and do the same thing again on the right side. 

I usually start with my left leg. I don’t know why.  I think it’s because I sleep on my right side and so when I turn over flat on my back that left one seems to have priority. 

Now for the upper part of your body, your arms, your chest, you need to get some deep breathing in.  I used  to be a singer and know how to deep breathe, so that wasn’t a problem. But to do it while you’re doing your exercise, that’s more complicated. First of all, I tried panting, but that didn’t work, because it was too short. So I do the deep breathing where you use your abdominal muscles. Deep breathing does it for me.  Our French voice teacher used to say, you don’t have to gulp a whole bunch of air, that doesn’t do you any good. She always told us, “ You need enough breath taken in to blow a rose petal off your hand.”

The upper part of your body needs as much exercise as your legs do. So here’s what you do. 

Lying in bed, you put your arms at your side. Your raise them up above your head and then bring them down hard with elbows bent, and then stretch them back up. When you pull them down you have to press strong, so ladies with long fingernails, you better watch it. You’re squeezing your hands so you’re getting limber fingers.

Now this is something I added myself because I found it on PBS from a lady who was giving a lecture on exercise. She had everyone in the audience stand up and shake their whole body.

For those who are well developed, what she did next sometimes is a little complicated. What you have to do, while you’re lying on your back, is straighten both arms out wide and then cross them across your chest. Then open and cross them again several times.

And finally, after all this you get tired, so you put one leg out on the side of the bed and then you drag the other one out, so you’re sitting. Then as you sit you kick as hard as you can and as high as you can, up and down.

And then, you can reach for your cane and stand up!

And that’s It!

Muscle Activation Via In-bed Stretching – MAVIS

Posted in 70 from other perspectives: looking forward and looking back, 70candles, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Attitudes about aging, Our bodies, our health, Resilience | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

AgelessAuthors writing contest

For those of you who enjoy writing, I pass along this information about AgelessAuthors.com. Deadline for submissions is March 15th. Check out the website to read rules and writing categories.

Full disclosure: I’m a judge for the contest…but all submissions are judged without authors’ names, so I can’t play favorites.
Good luck with your entries!
Jane

Ageless Authors, is an international group exclusively for senior writers age 65 and older. This group is now conducting its third annual writing contest, awarding cash prizes and publishing. Deadline is March 15.
Visit agelessauthors.com/current-contests/ to submit stories or volunteer as a judge in the contest. For more information, email larry@agelessauthors.com.

Posted in 70candles, Poetry, Share your story, What do we do with our time? | Leave a comment

About loneliness

Irena, Almost 71

After my divorce, I lived 25 years alone. In an effort to survive, I didn’t have time to think about being lonely until the weekends came. I remember how I hated weekends. I would start planning something already on Thursdays. Looking through the newspapers, to see if there something good happening. By good, I mean a free or cheap entertainment. Movies were an option, but my anxiety at being alone prevented me from really enjoying the entertainment. I would go around visiting my handful of friends I had. I lived in a relatively big city, but I was alone and lonely. 

Then there is the stratum of citizens that are having the hardest time being alone. Older retired people, some of whom are heartbroken from the death of their spouse or disillusioned after divorce. Retirement removes the daily routine and responsibility of going to work. Without any hobby to fill in their free time, they become grouchy, depressed, sick, miserable, lonely. 

I am married, but I am lonely sometimes. It goes like this: I am miserable, I don’t talk to my husband because he hurt me. He was rude! He offended me. He cut me off. He didn’t let me finish my sentence. Apparently, he knew what I wanted to say. And so, we walk by each other without a word, without eye contact. I walk and look through him. He is not there; he is invisible to me now. 

I talk to myself about what a rude and disrespectful jerk he is. I have tears in my eyes whenever I think about the deep perceived injustice that happened to me. Nevertheless, after a few hours the veil of invisibility dissipates, and I forget why I’m not talking to him. Then there is the awkward situation. When we pass by each other, he has his eyes full of remorse and says “hi.” He has no clue what happened or why. So, I say “hi” back, and it’s over. “What can I do for you?” he asks, and I offer to make a dinner together. 

There is that strange loneliness when there should not be any reason for it: people who live together, but don’t talk or see each other much; a family breaking apart when the kids leave home. Of course, there are marriages that never lose their spark, but I am not writing about that. I am exploring loneliness.


Posted in 70candles, Attitudes about aging, Family matters, Loneliness | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

About women in their 70’s from the New York Times

https://nyti.ms/2Rlcnnk

Posted in 70candles, About turning 70, Aging, Gratitude and Spirituality, Resilience | 4 Comments

My story

Gail,

I’m very glad to have found 70 Candles, but I must admit, at 69+, I am not at at all thrilled about my next birthday.

Young to Old:

Brought up to believe that looks were everything, I knew that one day when mine faded, I was going to be very unhappy!  Mothers today, unless their heads are firmly buried in the sand, have become wiser regarding this foolish and unhealthy dynamic, especially when raising daughters.  However, since money is to be made and our world is more greedy than ever, the push to be physically appealing continues. Parents need to find ways to encourage their kids to find interests, passions, hopefully, that happen outside themselves so that they can grow and flourish from within.  This is where true beauty lies.  Fortunate people are born with a calling, pursue it and live purposeful, productive lives. I know that this is where true fulfillment and happiness live.

I have never been a happy, happy person.  My upbringing was rocky with a perfectionist, critical mother and an alcoholic, melancholic dad.  Despite, I knew they loved me and boy, did I love them.  All I wanted was for them to be happy and for mom to speak to dad.  It was tough.  When I became a teenager, all thoughts turned to “boys.”  My parents did not care about how lousy a student I was.  I was definitely ADD but that was not yet a thing.   College was not discussed.  I was very immature.  My older brother, who did have a calling and pursued it, told my parents that girls now *had* to go to college.  Since he was their idol, I went to college.  Again, the immaturity – I was not ready for college, never studied and basically just enjoyed living in the dorm and socializing.  I am glad that I went though because, for the first time, I was noticed, even among 30k others,by guys who were smart, cute, motivated, some even with “callings.”  That did help boost my very low self-esteem.

After graduation, I became an elem school teacher, like so many others.  I was basically forced into teaching, but I liked it at first.  And, it was yet another source of self-confidence, I actually felt like I was respected for the first time in my life.  I went on to work for IBM and HP.  Though the greed and Old Boys Network sickened me, I loved working for these companies. I still had a lot to learn about how to conduct myself in the “adult world.”  I met a guy at IBM, we married and had a daughter. I didn’t want kids and neither did he, but boy, did we adore her.   I tried my best to raise her with confidence, praise, encouragement, as a feminist, etc., and she has done well, but though we were very close, she did do the teenage rebellion thing and quite fiercely.  Once she was in her early 20’s, our good relationship returned.  However, when she turned 25, she began to act strangely around me and I found out that she thought I was pretty much a loser with no self-esteem, no confidence in my decisions, I allowed my anxiety issues to affect my life (yes, that has been a real “joy”to live with since age 21), etc.  Today, I am still not comfortable with her and feel like a loser in her presence. It’s exhausting.  I have to hope that this is a 2nd adolescence and that she will change back one day. I just don’t know.  It makes me feel like I really was not a good mother at all.  “She saw thru me” kind of thing. 

Through the years, my work became my oasis.  There, I had purpose, I was productive, I had some friends, definitely found comfort in the presence of others going through the same things in life.  When both my parents died, I went to the  office to work after the funerals, both on weekends when it was quiet and I was all alone.  It was my safe place where I felt best about who I was and what I could do.  I could focus on other than bad feelings and my constant feelings of failure as a person. 

Once I was booted in an ugly way from my HP job in 2010, set up mercilessly for failure in 2008, age-related, I did find other jobs, but they were pretty horrendous.  After almost 20 years, I had become a mentor of sorts at HP, felt pretty good about myself finally. I still had so much to give, more energy than most of my co-workers and had finally learned how to behave in the corporate world!  I fought so hard to stay, so hard.   In these new jobs, I was a newbie at 60+!  And everyone was younger, much younger.  I began to notice the lack of connection with others.  Let me say here, I like being around people and am outgoing, but have never needed a robust social life.  Always liked one on one relationships with a few good friends.  Needed alone time very desperately.  

Until age 67, I looked much younger and did not yet feel invisible!   One day I woke up with crow’s feet, age puckers between my eyes, crinkly chin and wrinkled neck!  My very fine hair began to shed.  I also found out I had Lynch disease, a cancer syndrome.  And here I was, a cancer-phobe who freaked over health issues in general, (a definite trigger for that lifelong paralyzing anxiety).   I was old.  

An avid exerciser since my 20’s has held me together emotionally and physically.  I can’t do what I once did and now have found out I have osteoporosis of the lumbar spine, so that of course, impacts what I can do working out as well as everyday activities. 

I stopped working in 2014.  I was with a small firm and the owner was quite mad.  That was fine with me, as believe it or not, I have a very upbeat and quirky sense of humor.  However, when his political beliefs became an every day rant, I had to leave.  

Since then I have done all I can think of to do to be *purposeful.*  It has taken years for me to find a few things I enjoy that I do each week.  I believe that I could still work full time, but if you don’t use it, you lose it.  And I have lost the desire really to work at all.  I don’t want someone to tell me what to do anymore.   I did so for many decades at much lower pay than men or obnoxiously aggressive women.

When I was young, I had issues but I had HOPE.  I saw life as a lovely upward path, paved with stones and flowers.  Today I see nothing but sickness and pain and the end of life for myself and people I love.  Some days I feel almost human, and I do feel better when around people, but I can’t do late evenings anymore *with* people, only by myself.  I do enjoy those couple of hours before bedtime when I almost feel like my old self.  I am unable to stop thinking about the reality of being a short timer and I find it terrifying.

Sorry this is not a happy story.  I wish I could live each day in a mindful way.  I’ve tried classes in mindfulness, meditation, been in therapy all my life.  Nothing works.  I used to have moments of such great joy and happiness, it’s not possible to describe, even in my earlier 60’s.  Now, sometimes when I work out, drink wine, hear certain songs (I love music) or am inspired by the many people I know in their 70’s living vital lives, dealing with whatever comes their way, I do still feel a slight blip of joy, but it doesn’t last.  When my looks and my job went away, my hope went with them.  I would like to fulfill the one constant dream I’ve had since my first bouts of panic and anxiety in my early 20’s:  Peace. 

I know this is a negative bio, but I can be quite helpful to others and do have an upbeat nature at times.  I hope I can learn to look at life in a healthier way through 70 Candles and also bring some of my better self to others.  At least those feeling as I do will know they have a sister. 

Thank you. 

Posted in 70 from other perspectives: looking forward and looking back, 70candles, About turning 70, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Aging, Attitudes about aging, Family matters, Our bodies, our health, Share your story, Stories, Work life and retirement | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

2018 Holiday Greetings!

To all our 70Candles! Friends,

Our thoughts are with you this holiday season as we send warm wishes for your best health, well-being and fulfillment in the New Year ahead.

As the world continues to spin precariously out of control, let’s hope we edge closer to civility and peace on this earth.

We thank you for enriching our 70Candles! family.

Jane and Ellen

Posted in Stories | 3 Comments

Curious about what’s changed

Jane & Ellen,

I’m writing because I’m curious about what you think has changed in the almost 10 years since you turned 70. Even though there’s no fixed lines in the sand for some of these trends, it seems the 70Candles audience were among the first cohort of women who had worked and retired from a career or paid employment in a large number.

I’m turning 69 this week and as I approach the 70’s, the eighth decade, I’m wondering what might have changed, or what looking back from the eighties, women might have done differently. By my calculation, the first wave of Baby Boomer women reaching 70 started a couple of years ago.

I’m still working full-time and I enjoy my work. If I’m given the opportunity to keep working in my current position, I likely will. From what I’ve read of the 70Candles book, it seems a few of the women in your audience did retire and then went back to work, often by desire sometimes by necessity.

I’ve read ’70Candles’ and am curious about whether the situation or perspectives of women, including yourselves, have changed in the almost 10 years since you started the blog and research.

As you look back to the beginning of your 70’s are there opportunities or challenges you think might be different for me, women from the Baby Boomer generation retiring? I try to look back 10 years and it’s pretty hard to get a feel for what I think might be different about turning 60 today and then sort of extrapolate going forward into the next decade.

I suspect the number of women turning 60 while in the workforce is larger today than even 10 years ago. I’m also guessing the number of women who find themselves single in their sixties, either by choice or fate, is growing as a percentage of the overall total.

I’d appreciate any opinions you have to share regarding what to expect. I have an intention to live as ably and well as possible until I reach 100. There don’t seem to be many well-worn patterns to follow.

Thanks,

Ann Fox
Longevity Explorer & Guide
afox2069@gmail.com
Aging is Living

A very interesting question from Ann Fox. Maybe we can all think about this and add our perspectives.
Jane and Ellen

Posted in 70 from other perspectives: looking forward and looking back, 70candles, About turning 70, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Aging, Attitudes about aging, Looking ahead, Stories, Work life and retirement | Tagged , | 6 Comments

71 – Looking for a purpose

Barb, Age 71

Looking at many web sites re women and aging. Just found yours. Maybe some insight will follow.

My story is probably similar to some. Born the first of 3 children in 1947. I was the pretty child. Not the sharpest in the box but attractiveness was important to my Mom and her family. Became a registered nurse, married the love of my life and had 2 sons. Stayed home for 6 years when my boys were babies and then went back to nursing. Started taking Intensive Care and Cardiac care courses so that I could work in ICU/CCU. Eventually became a permanent charge nurse in ICU. Enjoyed my job. Loved being a Mom and wife. Very involved with my boys, their hockey, their school, cubs etc. Also took extra courses for work. Constantly upgrading my skills and knowledge.

Long story short, my husband died at 55 from cancer, boys grew up, married, have children. Two years later, severely damaged my spine downhill skiing and could no longer work. Remarried 3 years later. And then went through a horrid breakdown. Thought that my life was over as my career was over, my boys were raised and really did not need me, and my first husband was gone. My reasons for living were gone. And, I had completed my goals of getting married, having children, being a nurse. I was done and why was I still here?

I turned 71 this year. Some days are difficult but I have had a lot of help mentally and physically. Feeling lost, drifting, the invisible senior does get to me some days. I attempt to golf, yoga, walking, beading, sewing, reading. Active with my grandchildren. Love them unconditionally. But no longer queen bee as their parents are, especially Moms. It should be that way. Maybe a daughter would have made it easier.

Always looking for a purpose, something meaningful. My current husband has been ill off and on since marriage. He has cancer and heart issues.

Sorry if this sounds like a downer but looking for answers, opinions and ideas.
Barb

Posted in 70candles, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Aging, Caretaking, Dealing with loss, Family matters, Grandparenting, Our bodies, our health | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

On becoming an icon

On Becoming An Icon
By
Sherrill Pool Elizondo
Age 69

I finally googled “older invisible woman” to see if this phenomenon is actually real or not. Sometimes I get down about no longer being 40 or 50 (30 anyone?) Time speeds by after a certain age. The invisible feeling started when my oldest son turned 40 and, when he recently turned 45, I was sure that as
I approached 70 I would either have to fight this feeling or accept it. I’m not a good candidate for accepting what society thinks one way or the other on many subjects and aging (gracefully or not) is one of them. I never imagined that one day someone might consider me an icon at this stage of my life.

For years I kicked myself for not fulfilling my potential. I did not feel successful and I certainly was not iconic in any sense of the word. I looked more at negatives than positives of what I had accomplished. My generation opened up so much for women in the workplace and won freedoms that had been
denied previous generations but I was one of the women who chose to be a stay at home Mom. Again, nothing notable and nothing iconic. The choice came with certain sacrifices though there were many well educated women who made the same decision. We were the ones who put off fancy vacations, ski trips, the latest fashions, expensive cars, and would have rather swallowed nails than to take our children to day care. There, I said it. Remember THAT woman? We cooked every night, didn’t have maids, and ran our children and other people’s children to every imaginable school extracurricular activity. I DO take my hat off to the women who managed BOTH a career and did all of this! Extraordinary women indeed. There were those in the 1970’s and 80’s who pursued careers and others who ended up like me…home makers who stayed busy with family, friends, hobbies, and volunteered. We took our family responsibilities seriously above all else. Some eventually went back to work or school. Others did not. Some took on part time jobs like I did for several years as a substitute teacher.

When I volunteered for many years at a hospital and at an assisted living center is when I felt like I contributed to society. A skilled nursing floor of a hospital is not for everyone but I enjoyed the work immensely. The patients were terminal but I never saw much sadness or regret on that floor. For years I had worked in genealogy alone and with other researchers and made contributions to a book but decided that, since so many people fail to write the biographies and memories of the elderly, I would do this at an assistant living center. Every week for 5 years I interviewed residents. Sometimes this would last 2 hours and often I would return for another session. What beautiful people with incredible memories and unbelievable stories to tell. I took copious notes and another volunteer would type up the memories for the residents and their families as a gift book. Eventually I saw the narrowing gap in my age and the person who I was interviewing and realized that the 90-100 year old people I had talked with years earlier were eager to discuss their lives but, before I stopped interviewing, I found the younger ones were not as forthcoming with information plus I was getting depressed being around older people! It was time to move on.

I am a late bloomer or, at the least, spent many years putting my family first and allowed some of my interests to become stagnant. I started writing years ago and attended writers’ meetings hoping to some day be published but nothing came of that endeavor. A few years ago I opened a closet and found bags of stories with many beautifully written rejection slips. Some of the stories dated back to the 1970’s. I decided that some could be rewritten and needed a regional publication so I went online and found what I was looking for in a website/newsletter from a place where I had vacationed since childhood. I discovered other publications that accepted essays and, although I am still not a professional writer by any means, I am happy that certain editors finally did take notice. Still, there are days I wake up thinking I could have been so much more in life. I wondered if others were like me and were seeking the same recognition or sense of achievement that I craved. I have three good, well educated, and successful sons and several beautiful grandchildren who are remarkable in all they do…but me? Every day I throw off the covers in the morning so I don’t stay in bed and think too much about my faults or recent physical limitations or aging or what comes next on life’s journey! Becoming an icon in any form was not anywhere on the radar.

I have been physically active starting with my first dance class at the age of 5. I did not become a professional dancer or performer on stage in New York like I could have done but what I do is to continue to dance. Every morning I remember what a cousin said: “I hope you dance until you drop!” In my young adult years I attended ballet classes between and after the births of my children and later other danced based aerobics. For some, swimming, running, or other physical activities are a passion but for me it was always dance. I am elated that, after recent back problems when I was in physical therapy and receiving cortisone shots for several months, I finally returned to a jazzercise center where I exercise and socialize with many caring, accepting, and remarkable women from all walks of life and professions who see me as a contemporary and not as an older woman. I am NOT invisible there. This is a place where no judgements are made and where women receive hugs and encouragement. There are a few women my age and older and I heard there are those at another center who are over 80. The younger ones, though, have made me feel special and have told me that I am an inspiration. Maybe I don’t go into second classes as often as I used to or always do high impact or have managed to trim an expanding waistline…do I care? Yes, I certainly do but I try to remain positive. Doing a routine onstage to “Uptown Funk” on my 68th birthday helped my morale tremendously! The day that a manager looked me in the eye and told me that I was an icon at our jazzercise center was truly a blessed moment in my life. Was this some form of recognition or accomplishment? It is difficult getting there certain mornings but I have something to live up to now and, if the day comes that I have to enter the doors to the center with a cane or a walker, well so be it! I didn’t realize being an “icon” was such hard work but so much fun too.

On a couple of occasions I still hear someone call me “Mama” with affection. I try not to cringe but rather take it as a compliment and try to smile through some of the heartbreak of what might have been. At least I have finally realized that I am so much more than a mother of three and grandmother of six. If the truth were known, sometimes when I am on the floor dancing my heart out I visualize my own stage Mom mother and my childhood dance teacher in my imaginary audience beyond the instructor and raised stage looking down on me with smiles. They would both be proud.

[Please enter your response as a Comment directly at 70candles.com, rather than as a Reply to this email. Tx]

Posted in 70candles, About turning 70, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Attitudes about aging, Goals ahead, Older women connecting, Our bodies, our health, What do we do with our time? | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Multigenerational aging in communities

An update just in from ChangingAging.org about Dr. Bill Thomas’ Minka project, launched on the campus of the University of Southern Indiana, in Evansville.

To see pictures and to view the video of Dr. Bill Thomas’ inspiring speech at the ribbon cutting ceremony at USI go to ChangingAging.org

Let us know what you think about multigenerational aging in communities. Is the MAGIC future possible? Would you like to live in a Minka home 🏡 in such a community? Are any of the currently planned sites near you? Is this an idea worth advocating for in your area? Is yours an age-friendly City?
Jane and Ellen

Minka MAGIC Homes and Communities
by ChangingAging

Nationally renowned aging expert Dr. Bill Thomas unveiled today the first-of-its-kind robotic prefabricated Minka house built on the University of Southern Indiana (USI) campus in less than a week featuring universal design accessibility and advanced manufacturing technology. The Minka will serve as a model house, simulation lab for USI students and a building block for creating age-friendly communities.

The USI Minka model house is the culmination of a year-long “MAGIC” (Multi-Ability, multi-Generational, Inclusive Community) pilot project supported by the USI Foundation and AARP that is kickstarting a cultural transformation related to aging and community design. It builds off Dr. Thomas’ near 30 years of innovation as founder of The Eden Alternative global non-profit, The Green House Project, Senior Emergency Room and ChangingAging.org.

“This Minka house represents history in the making,” said Dr. Ann White, dean of USI’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. “This exciting pilot project is bringing together a variety of academic disciplines on our campus to work with Dr. Thomas and our community in innovative ways. USI is proud to be a leader in exploring new approaches and solutions to the broader societal issues of aging and independent living for all people.”

Minka MAGIC Homes and Communities
Dr. Bill Thomas speaks at the USI MAGIC Minka ribbon cutting.
Minka, launched in 2017 by Dr. Thomas, is now working to design and build MAGIC communities with partners in Evansville, as well as in Clearfield, Penn., Loveland, Colo., Victoria, Texas and other communities. Minka’s prefabricated housing system was created in collaboration with Denmark-based AGJ Architects to develop a globally-affordable housing platform that can be adapted to meet the needs of people of different ages and abilities.

In Pennsylvania, a vacant elementary school and 23 acres of woodland purchased by the Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging (AAA) this month will be transformed into an intergenerational dementia-friendly community featuring Thomas’ Minka and the MAGIC model inviting people of all ages to live together.

The Clearfield AAA partnered with Dr. Thomas’ New York-based Minka and AJGA to develop the 60-home “Minka Village of Hope.” The development will include a mix of single family and multi-family Minka homes featuring smart home technology, universal design accessibility and will repurpose the schoolhouse into a mixed-use commercial and arts engagement center.

Minka MAGIC Homes and Communities
Draft site plan for the Village of Hope Minka village.
To create places where people living with dementia can thrive, Dr. Thomas says “we must build communities that embrace people of different ages and abilities, rather than putting them in institutions just because they are frail or forgetful.

“I spent decades fighting to make the long-term care system better and created innovative alternatives such as The Green House,” Thomas said. “But I’ve also learned that people want real communities, not facilities.”

The Girard Goshen Elementary School, closed since 2013, will be converted into a community center featuring a mix of retail, health services and local creative arts engagement programs designed with community participation to help reconnect people living with dementia to their community, said Clearfield County AAA director Katherine Gillespie.

“Our families are devastated by skyrocketing rates of Alzheimer’s disease because our communities quite frankly are not designed to include them and help them thrive,” said Clearfield County AAA director Kathleen Gillespie. “We’re partnering with Dr. Thomas to build the Village of Hope to give families hope that people living with dementia can participate and enjoy life when they live in a community that welcomes and includes them.”

Clearfield community stakeholders embraced an emphasis on arts engagement in the first of a series of MAGIC participatory design workshops led by Dr. Thomas’ team in August 2018.

“Each person lives with a unique set of physical and cognitive abilities, and every one of us needs to use those abilities to their fullest extent. The creative arts offer some amazing pathways for building relationships and communities,” said Thomas, who launched Minka after spending four years touring North America with a theatrical production called the ChangingAging Tour that has performed in 128 cities. Sponsored by AARP, the tour uses theatrical arts and participatory design to support age-friendly and dementia-friendly community development in the U.S. and Canada.

Both the USI MAGIC project and the Village of Hope draw on the Tour to support people of all ages and abilities to overcome the social stigma associated with aging or memory loss, said Minka director Kavan Peterson, who co-founded ChangingAging and leads its age- and dementia-friendly programs.

“For decades the only story we’ve heard about aging is one of loss, decline and despair,” Peterson said. “But there is a new story. It is a story of connection, expression, joy and growth. It is a story told by people living with dementia, by those who love them, and by people of all ages who want to live in diverse and welcoming communities.”

Posted in 70candles, Adaptations and accommodations as we age, Caretaking, Looking ahead, Where to live | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment