The Wisdom of Connie.

January 8, 2023

The Wisdom of Connie.

May 29, 2023

At 7 a.m. yesterday, I received my first text of the day. Getting early-morning communication isn’t that unusual in my business, but I don’t usually get texts from 100-year-olds. This one was from Connie, a client of mine now turned good friend.

I met Connie at the memoir-writing class I teach at a local adult school, an adjunct of my MemoirsPlus writing business. Honestly, I think I have the best job in the world—gleaning the wisdom of elders as I help a stream of folks aged 80 to 100 publish the stories of their lives in handsome hardcover books.

Connie attended the writing class for several years until I finally convinced her (at age 95) that she should collect her writings in Volume One of her memoirs. While I often help my clients write up their stories, Connie did all the writing herself, with me doing a final edit and placing her family photographs. The end result is one of my favorite books yet, full of Connie’s unique writing and interesting life and family.

After reflecting on what I learned from Chip: that the ingredients to be a successful elder include community, wellness, and purpose—I realized with Connie I have met the living exemplar of this ethos.

Her community starts with her amazing family, comprised of four children, ten grandchildren, and twelve great-grandchildren (the oldest of which is age 18). She also enjoys a wonderful community at her independent living facility that provides meals, laundry, housekeeping, and activities like playing bridge with friends (Connie’s favorite).

At age 100, Connie remains remarkably healthy and proactive. She has a walker, but only for a little security, she tells me. Recently, she hired an aide to come in two hours every morning to make sure she doesn’t fall in the shower. Her vision and hearing has never been that great, she says, so she wears hearing aids and glasses. That fixes those two problems.

She’s also a life-long learner. Since she retired from her long job in her family’s import/export business, she has learned to paint, make jewelry (she has created over 100 necklaces that are worthy of sale in a fine boutique), and makes a point of keeping up with world events. She jokes that her biggest challenge in life, at age 100, is remembering her internet passwords!

That’s because one of the main differences between Connie and the other elders I’ve helped write memoirs is the way she has embraced technology. Her tech-savviness gives her a tremendous edge in keeping her community intact. She texts and initiates Facetime chats regularly with members of her ever-growing family and younger friends. She can look anything up on Google, and amazes her friends in her facility with her ability to communicate, research, and shop online. I watched as Connie recently joined a MEA-New York Chapter “Generations Over Dinner” Zoom call. She was the first one on the call and needed no assistance with Zoom. For Connie, Zoom is a great new tool that helps her stay connected and engaged, and she made a point of learning it. It’s easy if you truly embrace the new.

For me, this is a glimpse of how aging could look for many of us Boomers. We already have a lot of tech know-how by dint of being born after WWII. But imagine the tech changes Connie has seen in her 100+ years! That same degree of change is headed our way (ready for virtual reality grocery shopping?) If we make the kind of effort to embrace and learn new technology that Connie has, I have seen how our elder years can be a beautiful time to explore the creativity and beauty in connection, wellness, and meaning.

Nancy Kessler, founder of Memoirs Plus (memoirsplus.com) is an MEA alumni (Baja February 2020, Corazon and online). A former museum curator, Nancy started collecting seniors’ stories at a very young age when she frequently visited her 90-year-old neighbor Mrs. Blanchet to enjoy her life stories.

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