Perspectives on the New Year with the seniors and staffers of SOWN
Week after week, we here at SOWN get to take part in some of the best aspects of humanity. SOWN’s participants come together for their groups to share their experiences, process emotions, trade knowledge, and offer encouragement to their peers. This may happen in-person or over the phone, but no matter the platform, something unique happens each time these older adults choose to take an hour out of their lives to connect with each other. A participant may feel overwhelmed and distressed by a trauma trigger, and her peers help soothe and ground her emotions. Another group may have a member who voices a negative experience at the doctor’s office, and the other members offer advice on self-advocacy.
There could be a participant who simply woke up in a bad mood, and her peers are there to listen to her vent. There is no shortage of gentle teasing, jokes about life’s absurdities, and explosions of laughter. If it’s a really special day, the group might join each other in song. Think about any time that you felt truly supported and accepted. It can make you feel invincible. It can make you feel light as air. That is what happens when the older adults in our groups pause everything else in their lives and make time for themselves and each other.
As 2023 arrives, we invited our participants and staff to pause once more for a moment to reflect on the past year and the hopes they have for the next 12 months. Participants and staff expressed a kaleidoscope of emotions. While life remains complicated, some of our community surprised themselves with emotional revelations. Others might not have experienced any relief from stress in 2022, but they remain hopeful that a new year will offer a clean slate. Some participants wanted to pass along joyful messages. We heard loud and clear that a lot of us just want people in the world to feel safe, healthy, and loved.
Here at SOWN, we will keep working with our participants to turn that hope into action week after week.
Healthy Lives Community Group Participants:
JM: 2022 was just another year for me because I see every day as a new adventure, and I survived despite all the tragedies in the world. Survival means to me means “keep on going”.
LT: I will remember 2022 because I became an American citizen this year.
JB: I’m glad the “Boy in the Box” was identified at last. I was 9 years old when the body was found. I was traumatized by it. I’m relieved that the boy will have a proper burial.
CW: I’m glad to have 2022 end! I’ll be glad to start a new year.
Linda Marucci, Southwest Senior Center Social Worker and SOWN group facilitator: I was glad to see the Center open fully again. I am inspired by my older sister, who keeps a positive attitude despite health challenges.
Sarah: In 2022, I caught COVID after being so careful… I am looking forward to getting out more in 2023.
DS: I wish there were not so many specialist doctors. I want a good doctor in 2023!
ER: In 2023, I would like to see the end of shootings. Young people need things to do.
CW: This year has been like a whirlwind. I keep my spirits up by being around young children in my family.
GrandFamily Resource Center Participants
SA: I’ve learned that with patience, God answers prayers. I now recognize the little things, the daily delights, the unexpected bonuses that each day brings.
DWC: My wish for the coming year…good health, safety and prosperity for all. But, my greatest wish is to keep hope alive. The world needs hope and joy, and, of course, peace.
GY: During the pandemic I learned about me, the world, and mankind. As I age, I realize I’m not the same person I was before the pandemic. My faith is getting stronger. I’m more spiritual and I know I have the opportunity to change some things, to get it right. I am questioning my purpose in life, what I need to focus on. I am getting wiser as I age. I know that wisdom is different than knowledge. And you need to age in order to gain wisdom.
MB: As I am getting older, things are getting better. My place in my very large family is changing. My relatives value me more.
DW: These past two years were very difficult, but I learned I could be happy again. I’m okay. It may seem unrealistic, but I hope the hearts of our grandchildren, all children, are at peace.
CW: I learned in the past year that I had to get in touch with reality. My daughter is not here, and I had to wrap my brain around that. But I get up every day, take care of my grandson, and continue living.
DM: I learned that I was stronger than I thought I was. When I brought my infant granddaughter home, I was terrified. But, day by day, things got better. I grew more confident. I also learned to count my blessings, not my bruises.
RRD: When my husband died on December 6th in 2020, there was no funeral because of COVID. I couldn’t do anything. But, now I’m back! Life goes on and we have to go with it. My grandchildren are doing well; they are a help and strength to me. I realize that I AM HAPPY! WOW!
KJ: I learned I couldn’t be a teacher! I only had two grandchildren. How do teachers manage with 30?
EG:I learned that once I fell, I could get back up.
PL: For everyone, I wish for one thing to work out that would help you out.
DJ: May you all be safe, healthy, and blessed in 2023!
FH: I wish you joy all this holiday season with family and friends!
CJ: Please have a safe and fun holiday and a blessed 2023!
CW: Let’s be kind to each other in 2023!
RB Wishing all more laughter and less tears in 2023. May your souls be at peace as you continue on with your life journey with others that you know in love…when challenges come, may you conquer them just as you did the year before.
RG: One of the best parts about being a grandparent is reading together. Just as the spine of a book holds the pages, not just reading, but digesting literacy with her holds our family together. Together we find knowledge page after page, that keeps us living day, after day, after day.
Homebound Teletherapy Group Participants:
Mary A.: 2022 has not been very kind to me. I’ve been in and out of the hospital. But I’m 87 years old. My son is coming up from Virgina soon. He is going to help me use my iPhone!
Debbie H.: Ms. Mary [Mary A.] gives me so much confidence, listening to her. I’m looking forward to being 87! She is unsighted on top of that. I’m thinking of her courage…I joined SOWN because my sister died last year and I wanted counseling. Her death opened up a whole can of worms, 70 years’ worth! When I hear Ms. Mary speak…she energizes me to keep moving on and doing the best I can. Being in the group helps me reflect on my life more.
Right now, for 2023, I’m waiting for my new grandbaby to come! One of my son’s has a birthday coming up, too. It keeps my mind off of the sadness. The year 2023 sounds futuristic to me. We’ve been around since the 1900s! It’s only three weeks away, but it sounds like the Jetsons! COVID made us feel like there’s a time warp. I’ve never felt that before, it’s been a really strange time. I’m looking forward to 2023 and for things to get better.
Denise H: I’m just glad I’m still here! After my accident, and the COVID, shoulder surgery, all of it. I look in the mirror and be glad I can dress myself. That’s a big achievement after shoulder surgery! In 2023, I just want things be better for our children. I have a granddaughter going to college soon, and I want her to be safe. I want us to go to the store and not worry about someone punching your head off or shooting up the place. I don’t want us to feel that way anymore.
Audrey S.: My take-away for 2022 is to be patient with COVID. Store prices are going up. We need to accept it for what it is. In 2023, I hope Congress and the President will get inflation under control.
Peaches: We need patience, and it’s a blessing to be here. Slow down, pray, and work. In 2023 life will be better; with time, everything changes. We are not sure how long we will be here.
Debby Davis, Social Worker: It’s hard to maintain vigilance regarding COVID, such as mask wearing, and it takes a conscious effort. I have appreciation for opportunities to meet in persson. I’ll n er underestimate the emotional cost of the “pandemic” year. My fantasy wish for 2023 is universal acceptance of vaccinations, masks, and boosters.
Lori Latimer, Director of Programs: In 2022, I got to do things I never thought would be possible for me. I qualified for my first international judo tournaments and got to travel to Brazil and Poland to compete. Seeing the world and doing judo with my friends is a true gift. I could cry when I think about how lucky I am.
My wish for 2023 feels impossible most of the time. I don’t want us to feel like we’re fighting against each other to defend our own island. Philadelphia has so many dynamic and generous individuals who are out there doing great work, bringing people together I hope we start to feel like we belong to something good, and spread that compassion far and wide.
John Rosenberg, Administrative Coordinator: In 2022, every day I let my kids tickle me until I giggle uncontrollably. The loss of control in a fit of laughter sets my soul and brain at ease. Until the next day! Running is better than not running. If I want to take care of those who I love to the best of my ability, I have to take care of myself first. I will never forget taking my son to Disneyland and having him meet Jack Skellington. In 2023 I wish for knowledge, wisdom and understanding of myself and each other.
Mayu Stehly, Operations and Communications Coordinator: In 2022, we settled into a new normal and could resume pre-pandemic activities while still maintaining some precautions. As we saw increasingly contagious variants of Covid-19, it became nearly impossible to avoid it. Many of us caught it for the first time over the summer. Thankfully, it was less severe than the original coronavirus strain, and we recovered.
In 2023, I hope we can collectively heal from trauma and rebuild. As a society, I hope we can prioritize and better address the mental health needs of communities devastated by the pandemic, especially minority communities. For myself, I hope to continue growing and living with purpose. I hope to better support those around me and to seek out joy in hard times.
Marypat Tracy, Executive Director: After pandemic concerns of 2020 and 2021, my take away from 2022 is don’t take anything for granted. Not friends, not family, not going in grocery stores or work places, not our wellbeing. So I treasure every chance to see friends or family, to go into office or stores, and my health.
My hope for 2023 is that each of us take care of our wellbeing by getting vaxed and boosted. This way we protect ourselves, our loved ones and our neighbors and friends.
Happy New Year, everyone! Best wishes for a safe and healthy 2023 to all our Local readers!
ABOUT SOWN The Supportive Older Womens Network serves grandparent-headed families, caregivers for loved ones, and vulnerable older adults in the Greater Philadelphia region. A grassroots news partner with WHYY/N.I.C.E.
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This column was written by Lori Latimer, SOWN’s Director of Programs. Read last month’s column here.
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