Seniors bare souls as part of “Mindful Things” program
by Krystin St. George
Published Wednesday, July 8, 2009
HAVERHILL – There was laughter, tears, nervousness and exhilaration at Alumni Hall recently, as a group of seniors from the Horse Meadow Senior Center in Haverhill bared their hearts, souls, joking natures and serious thoughts during the Mindful Things program on a warm afternoon.
The seniors spent five weeks putting their thoughts down on paper through the guidance of Life Coach Leah Carey, of Franconia. Carey then transformed their words into dialogue scripts that the seniors read aloud to an audience of family and friends.
These seniors shared life experiences, their sense of humor and moments that touched their soul, as the purpose of Mindful Things was to explore memory through science and art.
“It was a real opening for me, it was energizing and I want to keep going,” said participant Roger Warren after the hour-plus long program. Many of the participants admitted to being nervous speaking in front of a group, but the anxiety quickly subsided and they really enjoyed what they were doing.
Warren, like the six others on stage, shared stories of how aging affects him and what it means to him, as well as moments that changed his life. One of those moments was from his youth, when he left UNH due to poor grades. Warren said he enlisted in the military, spending two years in Japan. It was that two years that changed part of his life, he said, as it opened his eyes to the aesthetic beauty of Japan and he said he became “enamored with the culture, food and architecture.” That led him back to UNH three years later, where he took five classes in art history.
A few of the participants remembered their grandparents vividly and growing up on a farm. Charlotte Chase said the farm “provided fundamental lessons,” and grandpa always served the food at mealtime. The kids always ate everything on their plate, as grandpa required, as there was a sense of pride for him and the family in growing all of the food they ate.
There were stories of how the death of a friend or family member touched them, memories back to the age of two, and how one’s granddaughter reminded him of his age from her innocent questions.
Janice Neubauer touched everyone with her candid thoughts on how she wishes her family really knew her. She said she hid her “authentic” self and affection was not really shown, as she built layer on layer upon herself. “I’d like to break the verbal autism,” she said, adding that she wanted to tell her kids how proud she is of them and “how very much I love them.”
Neubauer said she had been writing features for the Bridge Weekly newspaper, was covering Mindful Things and got talked into going to the five sessions.
She said Carey was “wonderful” about not forcing any individual to discuss something too personal, but once others shared their most intimate details, Neubauer said everybody ended up sharing everything.
She added that she did not know these people to begin with and now considers them friends.
“A lot of people have a lot of good history,” she said, adding that sharing everything was therapeutic.
Neubauer, Warren, and fellow participant Jacques Finlay said the group is going to continue writing on its own, meeting once a week and helping each other with writing and getting memories down.
“They were wonderful, there is so much life in this group,” Carey said after the performance. The Mindful Things program was originally started by Keisha Luce at the Littleton Senior Center a couple of years ago, and Carey said with the success of the Alumni Hall performance, plus performances with different groups in Lebanon and Ply mouth, she and Luce hope to expand the program and keep it going.
Finlay said the program was great for him, as it got him out of his shell, as he had only written for himself in the past.
“Everyone should be given this opportunity and take it,” said Warren.
Other participants included Barbara Warren, Ann Joy, Phyllis Ellis, Barbara Adams, Kirt Adams, and Eben Crawford.