LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Retirement, Seasons of Life, SOCIAL JUSTICE, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

CAN TECHNOLOGY PROVIDE THE REAL NEEDS OF OLDER PEOPLE?

woman sitting on a leather couch using a laptop
Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR OLDER PEOPLE

Elderly person using and iPad
to illustrate his capacity
Elderly man with iPad photo DvdTang

It is International Older People’s Day, and I wanted to highlight a few of the difficulties that older people and their families must contend with. This past year has seen the death of several older members of my family. This has been especially hard for our far-flung family, who have been scattered over the face of the globe. I know we are not the only family who has had to deal with this, as thousands of other immigrants will testify.

BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY

Elderly man with cup of tea with his community
Elderly man with cup of tea in his community. Photo dvdTang

Modern technology has been excellent in enabling families to remain connected, especially in times of trial. I have attended funeral services in South Africa, United Kingdom, and New Zealand while still here in the USA. Although this was such a boon, I still could not visit, hug, touch or say my own farewells. Distance, time, cost, and COVID protocols prevented that.

ELDER INCAPACITY DISADVANTAGES

Elderly woman reading her Bible, Can technology give spiritual direction?
Elderly woman reading her Bible. photo DvdTang

Yet there was also something else, my family member’s lack of capacity through dementia to engage with technology or even know who I was. Many older persons are frail and incapacitated in different ways. I was not able to attend my own mother’s funeral a few years back.  I had not been able to have a meaningful conversation with her for several years due to her lack of capacity to see, hear, or engage with even a phone call. When I said goodbye as I left the country, I knew it would be the last time I saw her and made my farewell as meaningful as possible.

INHUMANE IMMIGRATION POLICIES

Elderly lady enjoying an afternoon of arts and crafts
Arts and Crafts afternoon in Community. Photo DvdTang

This is the price our African Diaspora generation had had to pay when we were scattered after politics destroyed our home country and we no longer felt safe or could survive there. It is also the story I have heard from many other immigrants from other countries who have had to flee. They have had to leave the elderly behind, as their new countries make it nigh on impossible to bring an older person with them. They then have to survive in their new country and send funds back home to care for their elderly. Good care that can be bought to provide for our elderly cannot replace the loving family that left them behind.  These are some of the tough choices that must be made for survival in a disrupted world.

ACCESSIBILITY AND SAFETY IN THE DIGITIZED WORLD

Elderly lady taking a biscuit break in community
Enjoying a tea break during the Craft afternoon. photo DvdTang

How great if technology was affordable and easy to use and sufficient safety measures put in place to help the elderly remain connected to their families, even if they are elsewhere, but this just does not help at all when a person’s capacity has diminished. Families have to work so hard and such long hours to take care of themselves, there is often little time or energy left over to contact and chat with their elderly, leaving the void that scammers are aware of. Older people are also targets of scammers, knowing their vulnerability and loneliness. Older people can still contribute to the economy if they can continue working at a pace more suited to their capacity. Here is where the digital world can make a positive difference if older people can learn to thrive with their digital skills, communicate, and access help when required.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND IMMIGRATION POLICIES

happy elderly women sitting at table with coffee in a retirement home
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

What is the solution? Not more technology, but better immigration policies that allow families to stay together. Affordable housing with sufficient space for three generations to live together. Housing for life, built with adaptions that can assist in keeping both the elderly and the children safe during the parents’ workday. The cost of housing is so high that both people must work, even second jobs, leaving very little time for taking care of their elderly, which should have been a priority. Policies that are detrimental to family life, insufficient vacation time off, low wages. Lack of recognition for educational and professional status received in another country, expensive healthcare, just to name a few.

CAN TECHNOLOGY PROVIDE THE BASIC HUMAN NEEDS?

people in airport, families can travel and immigrate togethertogether
Photo by Connor Danylenko on Pexels.com

Can technology provide the basic needs of all people? Will society thrive, and the elderly have their needs met by technology? Their primary need for care, safety, and security will be met by belonging to their families and neighborhoods. Technology can assist in that but not replace the personal touch and care that is needed to thrive. Technology does not have a value system; it is merely a tool. Until we value people, provide the care, they require and keep family units together by allowing the elderly to emigrate with their children. No technology will replace the family and neighborhood system of ‘loving your neighbor as yourself.’ For society and families to thrive, adequate and affordable housing with a balanced work/lifestyle and connected community is required.

SPIRITUAL LAWS

Old lady praying, technology cannot provide the spiritual connection people need
Old lady praying. Photo DvdTang

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2) To see what real community and specialized care for the elderly can look like visit Pilgrim Friend Society #UNIDOP2021

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel

TWO FRESH PERSPECTIVES FROM THE DESERT AS AN AGENCY OF CHANGE

Desert in Utah
Desert in Utah

A trip across the wide-open spaces and deserts of Utah and Arizona and the mountains and nature of Colorado helped to clear the patterns and cobwebs of old thoughts of the past year. Sometimes all we need to move forward is a fresh perspective. This family trip, after a year of being shut-in with little opportunity to travel, was what was needed to give fresh ideas and impetus to my planning for next year’s work and creative efforts. Watch this space as the plans evolve!

Desert scene, Utah
Desert Scene, Utah

CHANGE TAKES TIME

As I looked out at the vast open plains with only dry scrubby bushes here and there, I wondered what it must have been like for the Israelites to wander through the wilderness for forty years, not reaching their Promised Land. What would their perspective on God’s promise have looked like? Day after day, they trekked their families and herds hoping to find water to sustain their flocks and themselves. They sat wearily by their campfires at night using up the last of the manna for that day. Tomorrow morning they would be up again early to collect the manna. Same old routine year in and year out. This last year has certainly taught me about the mundaneness of the same old routines, when you get stuck in your head.

EVENTS MOVE US FORWARD

At times like this it is good to be reminded that God is still at work. In Isaiah 43 , He says “See I am doing a new thing.” Like geological processes are slow, sometimes we just need to know that God is still working even though we can’t see it.  He said, “I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” Providing water requires an ‘event’, be it a rainstorm or snow in the winter, the impetus of the volume and the flow create the stream and makes a way.  The manna collected daily with the dew in the morning was sufficient to sustain life for the Israelites, but not enough to thrive. We need ‘events’ to give us new perspectives to help move us forward. We get stuck in our old ways, living in ‘auto’ mode, not really having to challenge, or thinking or ways of doing things. An ‘event’ like COVID had the desired effect of waking us all up to having to do things differently.

DO NOT DWELL ON THE PAST

The passage in Isaiah 43, tells us to ‘forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” That is really what must happen for us to move forward and create new ways of doing things, responding to challenges, and relating to God and one another. How easy it is to fall back into old patterns, if we don’t cultivate new patterns and sustain them. What was God’s plan for the Israelites? He rescued them from oppression in Egypt to go to the Promised Land where they were to become His chosen people who could proclaim His praises and become a kingdom of priests, ushering in God’s Kingdom on earth. What would our perspective on God’s Kingdom on earth look like?

WE ALL CONTRIBUTE TO CHANGE OVER TIME

Did that happen? Not right then, but it still forged the way forward to when Christ would come to complete God’s redemption plan for all the people and nations of the world. Remember the geological processes – it takes a very long time. As I looked up at the steep rockfaces of the buttes and the weathered surfaces of the rocks where wind and rain had cut through the softer layers. How long had they been standing there? Perhaps we could look at life from the perspective of God’s agents of change. Our lives are like the wind and rain, each one slowly working out the plans God has for our lives, doing the tasks He had planned for us long ago, so that over time we each contribute to wearing down the old ways of thinking and culture. Eventually, God’s kingdom will come on earth.


“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight [a]in the desert A highway for our God.4 Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3


OUR RESPONSE TO CATACLYSMIC EVENTS

As the last quarter of this year approaches, lets us ask God for a fresh perspective on living out our mundane days. Refresh our vision for the approaching year to see new ways of looking, doing and being, that are part of His redemptive work of making all things new. “Now it springs up: do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” It is God at work we are merely some of the agencies He uses besides the elements and cataclysmic events. It is our responses to those cataclysmic events that will be used by God to wear down the old and create the new.

The timelessness of the rock face
The timeless, fortress-like, face of the rock

Leaving the mountains and desert behind, I returned to the city with fresh vision and hope for the future. As the Psalmist said in Psalm 121 “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” My perspective had changed. We are not alone in this struggle through life with its complexities and problems. The God of the mountains is still our God who is asking for our co-operation as agencies of change in this time frame we have been born into.

Grief, LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Retirement, Seasons of Life, SOCIAL JUSTICE, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

FIVE WAYS TO FIND EMOTIONAL PEACE AFTER TRAUMA

faceless barefoot female traveler on embankment against sea
Inner healing pathway
Photo by jasmin chew on Pexels.com

Recognize the Symptoms

When we experience a sore throat or fever, we are reasonably sure we are getting a cold or the flu and take measures to help ourselves get over it. But quite often, we don’t feel quite right within ourselves. Perhaps we feel anxious or uneasy at certain times or with certain people, or our stomach knots up at certain places. We have low-grade depression and just find life hard at times. These can all be symptoms of PTSD or systemic abuse. Part of healing is recognizing that something is just not quite right. Having established that you could be living a much happier and healthier life than you currently are, is the first step in getting help. Your commitment to yourself to get help or find new coping strategies and strategies for overcoming disabling thoughts and behavior are the motivation you need. Let us look at a few ways in which we can recognize unhealthy symptoms.

woman sitting on wooden planks
Depression, Inner Healing Pathway
Photo by Keenan Constance on Pexels.com

Mental: Stinking Thinking?

So much takes place in our thinking brain. What are our obsessive thoughts? Do our thoughts and our beliefs align? What are our thoughts about ourselves? Do we beat ourselves up all the time?  What are our thoughts about others, families, friends, teachers, etc.? If these are on a constant negative spectrum and churn and return both waking or sleeping. We are constantly thinking about rights and wrongs and get confused with what we were taught and how our reality matches up. Do you have thoughts of self-harm? Make an inventory of your thoughts over several days or a week, write them down without judging them, they just are, and you are now aware of how much time you spend with them.

bunch of white oval medication tablets and white medication capsules
Physical, chronic illness
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Physical: Chronic Illnesses?

Physical symptoms are easier to experience but not necessarily to diagnose as sometimes they may have started out as psychosomatic but have taken on reality in your body. Be aware that stress and trauma are retained in the body’s cells as a memory imprint. Do you get stomach aches in certain situations? Did that end up as IBS or chronic inflammation of the bowl? There are many forms that this can take, backaches, migraines, arthritis, etc. After having a thorough physical at your doctor to rule out any disease or illness. Learn to read your body signs when you are feeling stressed or your muscles tighten. Does your heart race, do you get hot, does your stomach contract? When does this happen? Make an inventory over a month, scan your body each day, what symptoms you feel and when.

a man angry in a workplace
Emotional , incontrollable outbursts
Photo by Yan Krukov on Pexels.com

Emotional: Uncontrollable Outbursts?

We may often feel angry or upset over something that should not really affect us to the degree it does. When do we feel triggered? Are there words that people use that make us feel bad? Or perhaps we will see or smell something that brings back bad feelings. Do we feel guilty over nothing or uncomfortable when certain subjects are talked about? Do you struggle with addictions to make you feel better? Or perhaps places we walk past or through that make us feel uneasy. Take an inventory of these places or incidents and any feelings or thoughts you have about them.

ancient arch architecture art
Empty Church arches, dead
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Spiritual: Disillusioned with God?

Do you have a belief system in some Higher Power? Do you believe there is help from someone greater who will guide you by their wisdom? Have you lost your faith? Does the thought of religion turn you off, or do you long for connection with God? Have you been hurt or disillusioned by church and religion or don’t believe that God loves you? Where do you seek spiritual solace? Journal your feelings around spirit, faith, church, God.

smiling woman stroking welsh corgi pembroke
Finding happiness with a pet
Photo by Blue Bird on Pexels.com

Having taken an honest inventory of your dis-ease, you will now have a lot of information to help you identify the symptoms of perhaps a traumatic experience that has affected you most of your life. You will also have places to start looking for healing. We are wonderfully complex creatures made in God’s image, created for a purpose. We are His masterpieces, yet sometimes the mud that sticks to us is hard to remove, marring that image and holding us back from our full potential. According to your situation (we are all different), look for professional help in the area you felt the most in need, a psychologist, medical professional, or spiritual director. Once you have turned the key in the door that unlocks the secrets to your anxiety, unease, and mental health, you will have begun the journey to healing yourself. This may take several years, so have patience with yourself and those who would help you. For those who feel they can help themselves, there are many excellent books and resources available. There are also support groups to help you both on and off-line. Find one that you can gel with and be comfortable sharing your journey. A few resources are mentioned in my previous blog.

LANDSCAPES OF LIFE, Retirement, Seasons of Life, SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL WOUNDING, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

Five Things To Do in an Art Gallery to Problem Solve

Here is my list of Five Things to do when visiting an Art Gallery to help you solve problems. Art bypasses the cognitive brain and your rational thinking and works in the liminal space between the subconscious, where you are much more likely to access solutions from deep within and your soul and heart center.

Have you ever experienced when something seemed to be going well and then suddenly, out of the blue, it all went pear-shaped? I am sure that this has happened to many of us at one time or another. Whenever I have been through emotional struggles with relationships or problems at work, I want to know what my part in the situation was or if it had nothing to do with me at all. Although I am sure, there is always a part that we play in the relationship or work situation in the first place. My first port of call is not the Psychologist but the Art Gallery.

CHOOSE WHICH TYPE OF ART GALLERY

We are all wired differently, so choose the Gallery you feel most likely will help you today. This may not be the Gallery you choose on another day with a different set of problems. If you are not sure which Gallery, just select any, but have an open mind about what you may see and learn. I have been to the National Portrait Gallery and seen artwork portraying different famous or infamous people’s lives and have found solutions just by reading the story of the exhibition and their life. They, too, had problems and found solutions.

ASK FOR DIVINE HELP TO SOLVE YOUR PROBLEM

Sit quietly for a few moments and pray. Open your heart space to be turned into whatever God may turn your attention to. This is done by sitting quietly with centered breathing. It can be a silent prayer or just a silent listening heart, but make sure it is opened to be ‘tuned in.’

WAIT FOR ART TO ‘SPEAK TO YOU’

Walk around the Gallery slowly, looking at each painting or sculpture, not in detail yet. If there is an exhibition, read the notes on the artist, see if there is anything that strikes you. If not, walk on. Keep walking until a painting or description ‘speaks to you.’ Once you are standing in front of this painting, whatever it is, stop. Don’t give up on the unexpected. Some of the best solutions I have found were in the Tate Modern. I entered an exhibition hall that was made up of installations from a builder’s rubbish skip. I was about to walk out muttering,’ What a load of rubbish.’ I was stopped in my tracks at the door. A still small voice inside said, ‘go back in there until you have found the solution.’ I was given such incredible insight into my problems at that time through the discarded builders’ rubble! Don’t discount how God can break through to you in the most obscure of places.

STICK WITH IT

Stand or sit in front of this painting and just look at it with an open heart for ten to twenty minutes, asking what am I seeing? What is this trying to tell me? Is there wisdom is it sharing? How am I feeling? What emotions arise when I look at this? How does this painting address my problem? Parts of us have been suppressed deep in our souls, is there anything bubbling up that is an insight?

PROBLEM SOLVE ON PAPER

TAKE A NOTEBOOK AND JOURNAL OR SKETCH WHAT YOU ARE EXPERIENCING. Start writing or sketching what is coming up for you. Sometimes the thoughts are so fleeing they need to be captured at once. Describe your feelings and what drew your attention. Are there any ideas that you are getting? Can you join the dots between two different thoughts or ideas? Once you have captured everything that has come up for you, go to the cafeteria or a quiet place and meditate on your sketches or writing, and you will be surprised at how you will be most likely to have solved your problem or found a new perspective to look at it through.

If you can get out to an Art Gallery, take a browse through online artists, or visit my Amazing Gaze Gallery to find some inspiration.

Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions

THE AUTUMN OF OUR LIVES

The trail

It is not too difficult to find safe places to exercise and enjoy walking near the city, so we headed off to Fort Du Pont Park for a Sunday afternoon walk. The park is a wooded area in Washington DC on the site of an old Civil War fort designed as a defense for a Confederate attack on Washington. It is hard to believe that it is already Thanksgiving time and the end of November, after eight months of living with COVID lockdowns and travel restrictions.

It was a beautiful crisp afternoon, a little bit on the cool side, but excellent for walking. The leaves had mostly fallen, and the forest was open so you could see the naked tree trunks standing amidst the thick carpet of golden and brown leaves that lay at their feet. The smell of slightly damp leaves reached our nostrils as we tramped through the thick piles of leaves along the trail. It became difficult to see the trail as we headed into the middle of the forest after we had left the initial paved pathway. The two men went on ahead of me as I carefully picked my way along the trail not knowing if I would trip on a tree root or fall into a hole hidden under the leaves. If it wasn’t for the men ahead who stopped to point out difficult places along the path I may well have wandered off the trail or fallen over a root or rock. They were patient in waiting for me to catch up as I slowly picked my way along the pathway.

As I walked along, I realized how much more vulnerable I had become with age. In my youth I would probably have skipped along the pathway catching handfuls of leaves and let them flutter down, or as a middle-aged person walked briskly along the path, not concerned about falling. Now I needed to be careful not to stumble or trip over the things that I did not see as my eyesight has deteriorated. A fall could result in broken bones. My knees are unstable, and they do not have the same strength to lift me on the steep places, making a slip or fall more likely. I needed to stop more often to take a breather. Fortunately, someone had marked the trail ahead and I saw there were red splashes on some of the trees. I kept my eyes on the trees along the way, checking where the markers were for the pathway.

As I walked along, I began to get new insights into the seasons of the life that we live in. The seasons roll around with annual regularity, in the same order every year. I would consider that I am in the autumn of my life right now even though I may not like to acknowledge it. My body tells me my strength and stamina are not as strong as it was to navigate the steep places. I need help from time to time to give me a hand up or down. Many things could trip me up at this stage, I become more vulnerable to diseases. Mold and fungi are nature’s way of dealing with a fallen and diseased tree, breaking it down until it once more becomes a part of the earth from whence it grew. A warning to me not to fall before my time! I need to have someone ahead of me on the pathway to guide and watch out for me, someone who can check that I am still on the right path and not heading off into the woods and get lost.

The trail and marked tree

We continued our walk, it was invigorating, with fresh air to fill our lungs as we breathed out the stale city air. We took our time (or should I say I did!) pointing out fascinating fungi on tree stumps. Nature was at work, slowly but meticulously the fungi doing their job, preparing the earth to receive new life in the spring when tree shoots will arise from the leaf mold and broken-down trees.

We were surprised by a couple of deer not far off the pathway, there was no cover to hide them so we were able to look at each other, and after they decided we were not a threat, they continued to walk on. A bit further on a couple of elk made their appearance. They were more skittish and moved off quickly, this was the closest we’ve ever been to deer on this pathway. They may have been there before, but we had not seen them because of the leaves, now they were also a lot more vulnerable, with no leaves or cover to hide from hunters. They must live on their wits and speed to getaway.

We need to recognize when we are in the autumn of our lives. This is one of the hard transitions into the second half of life, admitting we need help and that we can’t do everything we used to be able to do. We do become much more vulnerable, not only physically, but financially, health-wise, emotionally, and spiritually. We become prey for those who will take advantage of us, the scammers who want to rob us financially, or emotionally. We become targets for every type of salesperson selling the elixirs of youth aka medications, supplements, and gadgets.

We need to recognize when we are in the autumn of our lives. This is one of the hard transitions into the second half of life, admitting we need help and that we can’t do everything we used to be able to do.

Loneliness makes us more vulnerable to these types of scams because we are no longer out in the workplace, and family and friends may be at work or live far away. A thought-provoking study in the UK found that although there was technology to help filter scammers from the elderly’s telephones, they often switched them off because at least there was someone to talk to, to break the loneliness of the day. COVID certainly has not helped in keeping community, it has isolated people even more as they no longer can enjoy going out to meet with friends or the odd shopping.

Just as we breathed in the fresh country air and exhaled the city air, we need to breathe in the life-giving Spirit. I have found it particularly hard not to be able to attend church and meet up with my community. Their encouragement and the interaction of sharing lives and worshipping together had always lifted my spirit. I have had to find other means to achieve this with an online church and small groups, this helps. Otherwise, I must be satisfied with solitude, meditation, and prayer, but this was the way of the hermits and contemplatives, and they had a rich relationship with God. One of my favorite contemplative authors is Thomas Merton, I read one of his prayers today that resonated with me, so I will share it with you.

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Facing the second half of life, knowing you are more vulnerable, you can trust the One who will never leave you to face your perils alone. You also still have much to give, to help nourish the generations below, the wisdom of experience and compassion for those who are struggling in their life’s circumstances.

Surprise! You may think you have nothing to offer but you still have time to bloom. Yes, there are winter flowering plants! In the northern hemisphere, the hellebores and snowdrops still cheer in the middle of winter snow, and the lovely aloes in the southern hemisphere when all is dry and drab sing forth their joy with orange and red spikes of cheer.