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.
Spirituality in Aging series open to all
A newly established series of talks is part of the outreach efforts of Le Moyne’s CARE initiative. The “Spirituality in Aging” series, presented at Loretto’s Nottingham residence in Jamesville, will tackle spiritual topics of interest to those who are aging.
The topics were gleaned from a survey of retirement-age and older Le Moyne community members, explained Msgr. J. Robert Yeazel, who helped to coordinate the series. Among respondents’ top concerns, he shared, were letting go of regrets, help in meeting death and life after death, and how to live a life of gratitude and joy. With those and other topics in mind, Msgr. Yeazel approached several local experts to offer some insights and advice (see schedule of upcoming talks at right).
Msgr. Yeazel himself will offer a presentation on letting go of regrets — a topic he has presented before and seen received with much emotion by those in attendance. In his reading and research, Msgr. Yeazel has found that many hurts and regrets seem to be universal, he said, as are the effects of holding on to them. “Hanging on to regrets is exhausting; it’s also dangerous. It keeps your whole psyche and your whole physical being wrapped up and very tight,” he said. In addition to taking steps to remain physically and mentally healthy as we age, “when it comes to spirituality, sometimes, and the emotional part, we need to look at maybe what’s holding us back,” he added.
Spirituality changes with age, Msgr. Yeazel said. “As we age, become more wise, we’re not all hooked into the things that are wrong with us,” he said. That can lead to a new wisdom about God, he noted: “We come to a new understanding that God is very understanding.”
“Spirituality in Aging” talks
• September 26: “Getting Ready — Life Planning — Death and Dying,” presented by Sister Kathleen Osbelt, OSF, of Francis House
• October 3: “Redemptive Suffering,” presented by Father Jason Hage, pastor of St. Mary’s in Hamilton and St. Joan of Arc in Morrisville and priest chaplain to Colgate University
• November 8: “Hurts, Regrets, and Moving On,” presented by Msgr. J. Robert Yeazel, retired priest of the Diocese of Syracuse
• November 29: “Living a Life of Gratitude,” presented by Father Michael Carmola, retired priest of the Diocese of Syracuse
All presentations will be held in the second floor conference room of the Nottingham, 1301 Nottingham Rd., Jamesville, at 7 p.m. Talks are free and open to the public.