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Those who have the memories

Consider the elderly people you know. How well do you know them or the events that have brought them through their lives? What are their stories? Their successes, failures, joys and difficulties? What caused them to become the persons they are? Why does it matter?

The first thing that comes to my mind is something Appalachian writer, Rebecca Gayle Howell noted during a panel discussion at the Hindman Writers Workshop in Kentucky, “Those who have the memories need to write them down so they aren’t lost.”

As World War II came to a close General – and later President – Eisenhower ordered photographs be taken of the horrors inflicted on the German people by Hitler and the Nazis because the day would come when people would say those atrocities never happened.

We need to know the stories of the older generations of our families. The challenges they have endured, the character building that resulted from life experiences, their enlightenment with knowledge that made them wiser, stronger, more resilient. And those stories can give us support, encouragement and inspiration as we move forward in our own lives amid the trials we face.

Tuesday morning one of my daughters advised, “Better get gas today.” She said South Carolina was out of gasoline and people are panicking. My first response in the group text message: We’ve been down this road before. Search for the gas crisis of the 1970s. Bottom line: This too shall pass.

May is Older American’s Month. The theme is Communities of Strength.It’s about being connected and engaged with others. It’s about resilience and strength. It’s about nurturing self, building on our strengths and thriving, even as we age.

My daughter got a deal on a digital piano. I have alwayswanted to learn to play the piano. I bought a digital piano, too, found an online series of piano lessons and I’m learning to play! I tired of some minor health issues and began yoga with a phone app. Yes, it has helped me to improve my joint pain. I peruse perennials that I can add to the courtyard I have been creating to replace the shade of the mighty oak that came down during the microburst several years ago. I want this to be a place of beauty that family, friends and neighbors can find some peace and contentment.

Being more of an introvert can hold one back from connecting with others, but humans were designed to be sociable. It contributes to our well-being. You may have been bullied at some time in your life, but there are a lot of good people around who appreciate you for who you are and what you have to offer as we work together to strengthen our community.

As we celebrate Older Americans Month we are urged to:

• Find joy in small things.

• Share our stories.

• Look to the big picture.

• Give to others.

Some suggested activities include:

• Intergenerational pen (or keyboard) pals. (My family calls this happy mail, and connects us through notes and cards and surprise care packages. Personally, I like to send notes about the positive things I see in my children and grandchildren. I like to tell them stories from my memories, about family they never met, about life experiences and the characters who have populated my life. I want them all to know that they are loved unconditionally, accepted and appreciated.) Theses activities reduce isolation and help all of us to increase our resilience. And the notes and letters are family history that can be kept for the younger generations when our generation is passed on.

• Distanced, outdoors events have been deemed safe with masking and distancing, and nothing beats getting together with the people we enjoy most face-to-face to laugh and talk – to catch up on all the things we have missed over the past 14 months or so.

• Reach out to neighbors. Kind words, a small gift left at their door, helping elderly or disabled neighbors with their outdoor chores, delivering a home-cooked meal are some of the activities that have been recommended by the Administration for Community Living (www.acl.gov.) It doesn’t have to cost anything. It can be as simple as an act of human kindness … a genuine smile, a few minutes of time to chat on the front porch step, over the fence, across the yard. Just a smile and saying hello, how are you, can make the biggest difference for a person.

Happy Older Americans Month. Here is to good health, well-being, and achieving our greatest potentials.

Family Recovery Center helps families to find ways to navigate through these challenging times. For more information about the agency’s treatment and education programs, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468, or email, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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