The Unspoken Truth… about Ageing and Purpose:

By Terri Klein

September 20, 2016

Finding meaning and attaching to a worthy cause can literally transform one’s life—and at any age!

I would like to share a fascinating story with you.

This past year, I’ve seen a woman’s life transformed right before my very eyes. She happens to be my 88 year-old dear mother-in-law, Magda, lovingly known as Na-mama to her grandchildren.At the end of last year, our conversations tended to revolve around her sadness and overall discontent regarding her new, far less independent and quite limited lifestyle. She sounded very sad and obviously felt depressed—life was becoming far too difficult for her.

After beginning seniors outpatient programs at Baycrest in early 2016, her outlook on life started to change. It wasn’t so noticeable at first to the family, but slowly the difference was becoming evident.

This past weekend, as I visited her home with my husband and watched her knitting away on the chair in front of me, I saw the power of purpose being applied and lived!

You see, at Baycrest my mother-in-law took up knitting and silk painting. And so for two days every week, she spent an afternoon socializing with newfound friends, being creative and purposeful. She even spoke Italian—her mother tongue—with some of the ladies and actually enjoyed herself.

Ovet time, I noticed the conversations between us changing. My mother-in-law was definitely happier. And the transformation was a real-life testament to the research—to what happens when we live life on-purpose or with purpose.

The research shows that wellness is hugely tied to connection and purpose, and both of these shifted in her by attending the programs. Being with a group of like-minded people, she felt connected—seen, heard, and validated as a human being. She began to live, once again, with intention.

For the past few months we’ve spoken a great deal about her knitting, and this past month she completed her first scarf for her one and only grand-daughter—and it’s truly beautiful! She is so proud of it and has every reason to be!

What is most intriguing to me, however, is my mother-in-law’s commitment to finish at least seven more scarves for her loved ones. She now gets up every day with a task at hand. Consciously, she knows there is something she both wants and needs to complete, and subconsciously, she feels driven to do it! Thankfully, she seems much more content these days.

The current story around ageing, which many of us are conditioned to believe in today’s society, is that elderly people don’t have a great deal left to offer. Given this predominant belief system, many seniors are put into old age homes and are left feeling lonely and useless—no longer needed by society—taking up space.

In no way am I excluding myself from this conditioning, nor am I suggesting that all of us completely subscribe to this story. I’m merely speaking to what I consider to be an unspoken truth that we do not value the elderly enough! I strongly feel they deserve more.

Take this sad reality, for example: I called three old-age homes in my area on two different occasions over the summer and left six messages, requesting to volunteer and share my poetry. I did not receive a single return call from any of them.

Giving back to the people who loved and nurtured us is an important part of life, as is volunteering of our time to complete strangers.

The elderly mind is filled with a lifetime of experience and endless wisdom, and we do not tap into that potential enough. Personally, I wish I had weekly visits with a Tuesday’s with Morrie to walk me through the journey of my life.

Elderly people may not be as current and aware or enthusiastic about life, but beneath the surface, they still have so much to offer. They are worthy of our time, love, and respect. Get curious, and you may be amazed by what you may find.

This past summer, my eldest son did just that. He worked with Smile Theatre to bring music into the bedrooms of the aged, some who were too unwell to leave their room. He called it an “extraordinary experience” as his group of singers was able to rekindle the long-lost spark within so many people, if only for just a few minutes.

I am so grateful that my mother-in-law has found her new raison d’etre. My wish for everyone is that they continue to find their own unique way to live life on-purpose. Clarity of purpose can sustain you—giving you a new lease on life.

I, too, am clearly ageing, being that I am in my late forties. As I age, my intention is to believe and spread a very different story about the ageing process and the elderly, one that speaks to greater wisdom and purposeful living.

I see no other way to age gracefully.

Terri Klein

This blog is dedicated to my dear Na-mama. I am so proud of how she has accepted her new chapter in life with courage, dignity, and grace, and for finding her way to a new purpose. I can’t wait to take and share that photo of all of us wearing our knitted scarves, with her front and center!


1 Comment

  1. Beautifully and sensitively written Terri. We can change the norms one step at atone as your family is proving. Blessings.


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