December 2015

Spirit logo

A newsletter from the
California Lutheran Homes and Sunny View
Centers for Spirituality and Aging

Year End Review

What a momentous year this has been for the Centers for Spirituality and Aging.   As this year draws to a close I am remembering:
  • Our seminars in Anaheim and Cupertino with the three authors of Vital Connections in Long-Term Care: Spiritual Resources for Staff and Residents - Julie Barton, Marita Grudzen, and Ron Zielske. These one-day workshops marked the 25th anniversary of the Sunny View Center for Spirituality and Aging by three of its founders.  From their wisdom and experience they emphasized the spirituality of relational connections in the aging process, and provided practical ways of strengthening connections in the settings where caregiving for the aging occurs.   
  • In June we hosted a "Colloquium on Older Adult Ministry" with presentations from Donald Koepke, the founder of the CLH Center, sharing ongoing older adult ministries from four congregations that learned from Don as their ministries began, and Nancy Gordon, present CLH center director, on "Visions for Older Adult Ministry."
  • Then in October we hosted the "6th International Conference on Ageing and Spirituality."  We had guests from England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and of course, the United States.  It was a rich 3-1/2 days, both in terms of the quality of the speakers and the workshops, but also in the opportunity to form relationships with others who care for older adults with an eye toward fostering the spirit as we age.  If you weren't able to come, I invite you to visit the Conference website for some reports and reflections on the Conference.  
  • We're looking forward to the final event of the CLH Center's anniversary year, "Beyond Care:  Exploring the Glorious Adventure of the Spirit" with Wendy Lustbader in February.  This event spilled over into 2016 (there was only so much we could do in 2015!), and you can learn more about it below.
After the richness of this year, I approach 2016 more convinced than ever of the value of gathering together to learn about ways of enhancing and supporting the spiritual journey of aging.  Part of that journey is the challenge for each one of us, in the words of Henri Nouwen, "to make friends with our aging selves." This is not easily done in the age-denying, youth glorifying culture in which we live and we need support from one another to embark on that journey.  

Thank you for being a part of the Centers' community and may this season be filled with warmth, love and happy anticipation of what is to come.  
Beyond Care: Exploring the Glorious Adventure of the Spirit with Wendy Lustbader 
Tuesday, February 2, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

One of the themes that emerged during the course of the International Conference was the importance of knowing and understanding our life story as a way of finding meaning and as a way we might choose to re-write our story. There are many techniques and ways to encourage older adults in some sort of reminiscing and recording of their life story. But it seems to me that we can lead and encourage such experiences most effectively if we have done some work around our own story. In this day-long workshop with Wendy Lustbader, we have an opportunity to do that.  
In the first part of the workshop, she leads us in exploring our own lives, making real for us the many ways the soul enlarges when we move through explorations that may have seemed daunting previously.  She uses as an example Carter Catlett Williams' quest as an elder to excavate a grief from childhood, using excerpts from recorded interviews and from portions of  Williams' book, Glorious Adventure.

Through this we experience for ourselves how grief and vulnerability can become doorways to spiritual wellbeing. Wendy shows us that as we experience the healing and transformation that comes from participating in this journey, we are able to invite others to embark on the "Glorious Adventure" with open hearts and a readiness for discovery.

Wendy Lustbader, our distinguished presenter of this workshop, was one of the very first speakers that the CLH Center for Spirituality and Aging brought to Southern California.  It is a joy to welcome her back for this 15th Anniversary Celebration.  Wendy is a much sought plenary speaker and workshop presenter.  She is the author of many papers and books, including Counting on Kindness:  The Dilemmas of Dependency (1991), What's Worth Knowing (2001) and Life Gets Better: The Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Older (2011).

ASA Generations Journal:  Ageism in America

The Fall 2015 issue of the American Society on Aging Generations Journal explores the topic: "Ageism in America:  Reframing the Issues and Impacts." While normally available only to subscribers, this issue is available for all to read on-line thanks to the Archstone Foundation.  I believe that those of us in the spirituality and aging movement need to be recognizing and confronting our own ageism and the ageism in the wider culture.  This publication gives us a context to think about the unique perspectives we can bring to this conversation and how we can influence the cultural change that is needed.

Using Movies to Discuss Aging

Rob Johnston and Cathy Barsotti, presenters at the International Conference's opening event, "Reel Aging," invited us to look at aging through the medium of film, showing clips from three different films:  Up, Still Mine, and I'll See You in My Dreams.  Cathy and Rob also spoke to their experience of watching and discussing a film with older adults, which led them to suggest seeing film not only as entertainment, but as a way to engage in a deeper conversation about the aging experience.  Their list of suggested films about aging can be found here.

A Book for Caregivers

A new book by Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN, and Marie Marley, Ph.D, F inding Joy in Alzheimer's: New Hope for Caregivers, might be a great gift for persons you know who struggle to find meaning in their caregiving journey.  Potts, whose primary experience with Alzheimer's was with his father's journey with the disease, and Marley, whose experience was with a long-time friend, come together to share perspectives, tips and insights for those caring for a person with Alzheimer's.  They counter the prevailing cultural view that everything about the disease is hopeless and that the person is lost in the disease.  They both, in their own way, found that accepting the reality of the disease while at the same time finding new and meaningful ways to connect, brought much joy to their lives.  

The book is in three sections.  The first one describes a process of coming to terms with the disease which they title, "Making Peace with Alzheimer's." The second section gives some practical tips for anyone who wants to learn more about communicating with and connecting with persons with Alzheimer's.  In the third section titled, "Stories About Our Personal Joyous Relationships and Visits," they give a fuller picture of the significant relationships that started their journey with this disease and then tell stories that embody meaning and hope. 

While not the most polished book I've read, the short accessible chapters could be immensely helpful to laypersons who find themselves thrust into the role of being an Alzheimer's caregiver.  It is also valuable as another step in the larger cultural re-framing of this disease.
I became a grandmother this year and it has changed my life in ways I didn't anticipate.  (I visit my daughter and son-in-law a lot more than I used to!) But what joy!  

As this year draws to a close, I hope that you will find meaning and joy in your transitions! And if you are able, please join us in Anaheim on February 2, for "Beyond Care:  The Glorious Adventure of the Spirit." 
Many blessings!

Nancy Gordon, Director
California Lutheran Homes and Sunny View Centers for Spirituality and Aging