It’s not every day you’d find me in a bistro with four ladies all over the age of 80.
But this wasn’t an "everyday" kind of day.
This past month, I had the unique opportunity to host a short video highlighting a retirement home, “The Dunfield.” It’s a home for seniors, but it’s probably not at all like what you’re imagining.
Most retirement homes have activities of some sort, but this place goes above and beyond. WAY beyond. Stuff like dog-sledding, improv workshops, hot-air ballooning, and even belly dancing classes… I’d never seen 80 year olds shake that way before. Everything looked like so much fun that by the end of my visit, I was thinking I might like to move in! (Go ahead and insert your own joke about Joel being interested in 80 year olds shaking their hips…)
As part of the filming, I got to interact with the residents. So there I was, sitting in the bistro, listening to live piano music and sipping wine with four octogenarians as they told me stories of their lives! It’s not where I would typically find myself on Friday night.
Even so, I realized I had a choice: I could nod, smile, and “just get through it”, or I could try to appreciate the opportunity and really listen to them. I opted for the latter and made the most of it.
One of the women, Greta, had grown up in Denmark. Soon after marrying, having a child, and moving into her first house, her husband suggested moving to Canada for a year for an adventure. It took 10 days on the boat, and they ended up staying (perhaps the prospect of another 10 days on a boat with a baby was enough to discourage the return trip?). I thought it was pretty neat that she decided to take a risk as she did – moving away from comfort and into the unknown. Apparently, it made all the difference for her.
Everyone with whom I spoke had a unique story – some really amazing stories from the past came out. Mimi, the eldest resident, taught piano until she was 89. (Now she’s 104!)
But their stories weren’t ALL about life in the past. They loved life in the present too! “Let me tell you, life starts at 80,” one of the ladies offered, winking at me. “Life starts at 88!” Another one quipped, happy to one-up her friend. We all laughed, but she meant it. It was wonderful to see everyone really appreciating each day!
Hearing their stories made me realize just how much life these ladies had experienced. Our society probably doesn’t appreciate elders as much as we should. In fact, in North America, the culture seems to put “old people” away, out of sight and out of mind. In a way, it seems like some senior’s homes are where old people go to die.
But not this place. People come here to LIVE.
I went to The Dunfield to narrate a video, but I felt like my experience was a lot bigger than that. I felt like I gained a lot of appreciation for people’s stories, for the way we treat our society’s elderly, and for life.
I have to say, I really got a lot out of the whole experience. Choosing to make the most of it had been a good decision.
What will you make the most of this month?
March 10, 2011
"To me, old age is always fifteen years older than I am."
(On his 85th birthday, as quoted in The Observer [London] (21 August 1955)
The quote is often mistakenly attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
Formerly called "The Beanstalk", the new article series "Excited to be Here!" is an account of Joel's unique travels and wacky adventures: Life is pretty exciting when you're paying attention.
Joel Hilchey is the Founder of The Beanstalk Project. An educator and entertainer, Joel inspires character by juggling, storytelling, and playing with mousetraps. Joel specializes in opening keynotes for conferences and offsite retreats, engaging people to think differently so they learn more, have more fun, and get the most out of an experience.
To book Joel, contact him by phone at 1-877-487-5635 or check him out online at www.joelhilchey.com!
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Riddle of the Month:
A third leg for some, and for others just style, Mr. Peanut uses me with a top hat and smile.
Hamilton Beanstalk Project "Un-Conference" was a HUGE Success!
From February 24-26, 70 students and more than 15 mentors gathered to start community projects and learn leadership skills at McMaster University. I'm biased, of course, but I think it was pretty amazing. Participants thought so too: The average feedback score was 5.44/5 - It blew the scale away! 100% said they would highly recommend it to others!
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