CARE fosters spiritual, mental, financial, physical health

By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

Le Moyne College asked senior citizens: What do you want? The survey didn’t have a metric for poignancy, but it was there.

The college quizzed its alumni and retirees on issues including “What has been your biggest challenge to the transition to retirement?” and “What areas of spiritual health would you recommend we explore?”

A respondent over age 70 wrote: “Having enough finances to be comfortable. Constantly worrying about paying bills. … Conduct retreat for better understanding of faith.”

The survey stems from Le Moyne‘s Center for Aging Resources and Enrichment (CARE), launched earlier this year in order to “inspire seniors to live their best lives.”

CARE analyzed 265 forms turned in by respondents. Some items were left blank, but the average age came out to 69.8 and the age range was 51 to 95.

According to the survey letter, the privately funded center will help the aging population and its caregivers, “providing resources and outlets to foster spiritual, financial, physical, and mental health. [CARE] will help seniors find purpose and reinforce their sense of self, regardless of their income level, geography, or background.”

A dozen priests will give workshops related to spirituality; all are invited to CARE programs, not just the Le Moyne community. The priests include Msgr. J. Robert Yeazel and Father John F. Rose.

The CARE kickoff is Oct. 4, Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul, will speak at 6 p.m. at the Le Moyne chapel with a book signing to follow.

CARE’s spiritual commentators will address, among other topics, the No. 1 concern of respondents who were asked about spiritual-health areas that are missing in retirement: “Letting go of regrets.”

“We’re going to be able to help people get through all that and speak with people,” said Kathryn M. Tovar, CARE director and 2005 Le Moyne alumna.

“How does someone become at peace with some things that may have happened, some loneliness issues, regrets,” said CARE co-founder and 1971 Le Moyne alumnus Michael D. Madden. He said the program will take senior citizens away from a feeling of isolation and allow them to feel more at peace with their stage in life.

Other top-ranking interests of seniors, according to the survey, include good health; “keeping myself occupied”; “being with spouse/family/friends”; taking courses and attending seminars; and spirituality courses and retreats. Seniors also expressed interest in part-time work, adequate financial security, and volunteer work.

There were some surprises for survey analyst Dr. Roger Hiemstra, adjunct professor and consultant. As a retiree from fulltime work, he wrote, he has “never lacked for things to do.” But finding things to do was at the top or very near the top for the two older age groups and overall, he said. “I was also surprised that pain, accepting limitation, and health issues came out as high as it did for the two older groups,” he wrote.

“Each person is very different,” said CARE co-founder Lynn McMartin, retired associate vice president for human resources at Le Moyne. “Some want to sit and rock on the back porch. Others want to get involved. Others want to do activities … go to class.”

She said CARE, which also was pushed along in the early stages by Dr. Norb Henry, now an emeritus professor, will be asking entities such as parishes and nursing homes if they want speakers to come. For example, Le Moyne has been sending speakers to Brookdale Manlius, an assisted-living community, for years.

CARE won’t sit down with a senior citizen concerned about finances and say, yes, you can retire or no, you cannot. But, as a clearinghouse, the program will direct seniors to someone who has the answers.

CARE partners include Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, which helps people in need regardless of their religion, race, ethnicity, or nationality; Oasis Lifelong Adventure, a non-profit educational organization; Syracuse Jewish Family Service at Menorah Park, which also has educational programming; and the Onondaga County Office for Aging, which says it assists seniors and caregivers by providing the services and benefits that older adults need to live independently.

Helping CARE serve the older population will be students from Le Moyne’s physician assistant, graduate nursing, and occupational therapy programs. “If you live alone,” co-founder Madden said, “and you’re worried about falling in your house, our occupational-therapy people can look at the layout of your house and help you address issues that might be dangerous. … Our nursing students, our psychology majors can interview people to try and understand where their fears are.” Other helpers might include Le Moyne retirees who want to share their own expertise with the senior population.

The CARE survey was uplifting as well as enlightening. The respondent who said she is worried about paying her bills was also asked, “In your quest for spirituality, what areas of spiritual health (for example, living a life of gratitude, letting go of regrets, what about me and God) are missing in your retirement?”

“None,” she said.

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