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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Leisure and Retirement Activities [i ii ]

      On Monday afternoon, June 13, I picked up my phone and was notified by the Psychology Department secretary that one of our regular faculty members is ill and would not be able to teach her Intro Psych course on Tuesday afternoon. I was asked if I would like to substitute and teach the session for her.  After a moments thought I agreed. It’s not so much that I miss classes taught in the summer; rather it gives me a chance to discuss some ideas about consciousness and body rhythms with students in their first psychology class.  For me it was a leisure activity that also confirms that while I don’t normally teach in the summer, I am still an employee at Kwantlen until the end of August.
            I wish to discuss this activity in the context of the two research articles related to leisure activity listed at the bottom of the blog entry that will be posted on Wednesday after I have taught the class.
            First, I will make a few comments about the two articles. To set the stage Jopp and Heertzog state, “Preferences for and execution of specific activities are important features of everyday life.” This would explain, in part, my choice to take advantage of this teaching opportunity. I have already stated in previous blog entries, my goal of taking workshops in to the community as a form of continued teaching. I enjoy designing and presenting workshops.
            On tuesday I spent the entire morning preparing for the lecture.  As the hour approached I shaved, and put on my best clothes with white shirt and tie. It was like I was going to a “performance.” Interestingly the class was in the same classroom where I have been teaching my aging class. The broad lecture topic  came from the textbook about body rhythms and mental states.
             While there were interesting sub topics like drug use and dreams, I decided to focus on sleep rhythms and consequences for students who spend “all nighters” cramming for their exams the next day. It is found that this impacts on performance and alertness. The class went easily for the first hour and a half. Then we took a 10-minute break.  About half the class returned for the last hour. At the end there was some were clapping.
            I walked down the hall feeling good but with no interest in returning to regular work.   The amount of time I spent preparing for the class was about the same amount of time it takes me to finish some of the more complex drawings I am doing as an explicit leisure activity.
            In their article  Dorfman and Kolarik assert,  “For many professors, the distinction between ‘work’ and ‘leisure’ is often blurred” (I think that’s what happened yesterday.)  Further more, “it is important to keep in mind that leisure activity is self-defined and it is the actors themselves who determine what the meaning of leisure is for them.”
            The researchers indicated that among retired professors “…volunteer activities were the most frequently reported.”  Ok on that one; I am a volunteer board member at the local seniors’ recreation centre.  Retired professors reported participation in exercise and sports activities. For instance a 70-year-old retired male music professor said “I wanted to get my body in shape. I started taking a weight lifting class and started doing yoga… And I’m walking more than I had time to do before.”
            It is cited that “Although a large majority of retired professors engaged in activities that are traditionally associated with leisure, nearly as many continued professional activities in retirement including research or other creative work…Professional work thus remained a central interest…”  I consider my retirement blog as a professional activity.
            Ok, so much for retired professors. Let’s turn our attention to the Jopp and Hertzog’ article. They used and extended version of the Victoria Longitudinal Study Activity Questionnaire.  Some examples of items cited are: Exercise (jogging, biking & swimming); Craft (household repairs, woodwork/carpentry), (word games, cross-word puzzles, card games); TV (game shows, documentary, & news); Social Private (go out with friends, attend parties), Social Public (public talks, club meetings, Religious (attend church, meditation), Travel (out of town, and abroad), Experience, (business related), Development (needle work, write letters) and Technology (course in university, go to library, creative writing)
            As you can see, we have a lot of options. Do you have interests in proceeding with some or all of the activities listed above?

[i] Jopp, D.S. & Hertzog, C. (2010). Assessing Adult Leisure Activities: An extension of a self-report    activity questionnaire, Psychological Assessment, 22, (1), 108-120
[ii] Dorfman, L.T. & Kolarik D.C. (2005). Leisure and retired professor occupation matters, Educational Gerontology 31 (5), 343-361

Monday, June 13, 2011

Images And The Mask of Old Age

            Early images of aging reflected in the model ”Ages of Man” are represented as the stages of human existence on the Earth traced back to Greek mythology during the 6th Century BC. In those times the end period of human beings was seen as “… one final stage of physical decrepitude, symbolized by a stick or a crutch, as well as a close proximity to death usually portrayed as a skeleton and a tomb.”[i]  This was followed by Medieval Europe’s notion of life as a cycle going between pleasures of youth to the “woes of old age.”  The Ideal of those days was that a person could live to be 70 yrs old although almost all people didn’t. Considering mankind’s growing longevity, at 72 yrs I am happy to be active and energetic, even if it’s not quite the same as when I played football during the years of my post secondary education. Along with others I am inclined to say, “I don’t feel old.”[ii]  “
         As we become chronologically older, we discover that a subjective grasp of the meaning of old age is equally elusive.  Although our bodies may display signs of passing years the subjective self is not experienced as correspondingly old, and in a society where the dominant images of old age are negative, this tension between the inner personal and the outer social identity may cause us considerable distress.”[iii]
         I’ll share a simple example. When I look in a mirror and use my fingers to tighten the bags under my eyes, to me, I look a lot younger and I have thought about asking my doctor if it’s possible and healthy to empty the bags. It’s like they are a “mask” which brings us to last topic; the “mask” of old age. “The image of the mask of old age implies that the physical changes which accompany the life of 70 (plus) years are superficial or surface changes that conceal from the casual observer or untrained eye essentially unchanging qualities beneath.”[iv]
           Perhaps my thoughts are strongly influenced by the Western societies’ strong consumer culture, which emphasizes the activity of youth. For example, motion pictures focus on the beauty and strengths of youth and, even though there is a growing body of research regarding positive aging they rarely portray seniors.
         In research and some popular culture we do seem to be making some progress in regards to the inner self and wisdom. I guess I would rather continue to develop insight and wisdom rather than pay a couple of thousand dollars to have my bagged eyes “fixed.

[i]  Handbook of Communication and Aging Research  John F. Nussbaum &             Justine Coupland (Eds)  ISBN 0-8058-4070-2

[ii]   page 14
[iii]  page 19
[iv]  page 20

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ageist Treatment and Self Esteem

      Not long ago, it was reported by researchers who used a longitudinal study which began over 30 years ago, that persons in midlife who have positive attitudes toward aging live an average of seven and a half years longer than those who are negative about their aging selves.   And gender, age, socioeconomic status, loneliness and functional health were not major factors. 
    Some people are relatively complacent about the “elderly” dying at seventy or seventy-five. They appear to assume that lives beyond retirement, unlike earlier life, are all the same and boring. Considering that there appears to be an ongoing fear and prejudice about the effects of an aging population reflected in “apocalyptic demography” or “age blaming”, I thought it would be important to take a deeper look at some ageist notions about the consequences of aging.[1]
    Much of the literature about aging focuses on the assumption that it means inevitable decline.  Specifically that; “…old age, not age, renders man ugly and useless.  This is specifically expressed in the connotation of the term “elderly.”
    In my ageism research, conducted several years ago in British Columbia, out of over 800 senior citizens, 34% reported that they had been told that they were “to old” to do something.  Forty percent reported that a doctor or nurse, without investigating, assumed their ailments were caused by age.
    It’s hard to maintain a positive sense of oneself if we are exposed to ageist comments from friends, family, medical specialists and the government especially if we ourselves believe negative stereotypes.      Below is an age sensitivity questionnaire. Read it and then reflect on your level of sensitivity.  Would it help to stop and take a deep breath before we slip into anxiety about treatment by other people?

  1. Imagine you are updating your resume and you go to a resume consultant. The consultant recommends that you remove some items from your resume.  How concerned and anxious would you be?
  2. Imagine you are looking for an address and stop to ask someone directions. The person talks to you very slowly and in a high pitched tone. Would you expect that the person is talking to you like this because of your age?
  3. Imagine that you are shopping with a family member and have some questions about a particular item. How concerned would you be that the answers might be directed toward the family member?
  4. Imagine you are taking a course offered by a local college how concerned are you that you might be more likely to be evaluated as less qualified than other members in the class because of your age?
  5. Imagine you are at work trying to accomplish a difficult task. One of your co-workers sees you and asks if you are sure you can handle the task alone.  How concerned would you be?
  6. Imagine you are at an ATM machine, doing your banking. You notice that a woman behind you keeps glancing at you. How concerned or anxious would you be?
  7. Imagine that you are asked to help people sign in at a conference.  After an hour your supervisor tells you that they would rather have someone else greet people.
  8. Imagine that you have just completed a job interview over the telephone.  You are in good spirits because the interviewer seemed enthusiastic about your application. Several days later you complete a second interview in person. The interviewer informs you that they will let you know about their decision soon. How concerned or anxious would you be that you might not be hired because of your age?
  9. Imagine that you are applying for a volunteer position at your local theater. The theater prides itself on its fun and vibrant atmosphere.  How concerned would you be that you might not be chosen because of your age?

[1] Much of this material was adapted from: Ageism: Rethinking Ageing by Dr. Bill Bytheway
ii. Sonia K. Kang & Alison J. Chasteen. The Development and Validation of The Age Based Rejection Sensitivity Questionaire, The Jerontoligist, 49 (3), 303-316,

Sunday, June 5, 2011


      While all the domains discussed by Dr. Roiter, are important, he sees the personal domain is the most critical for life satisfaction and our very survival. If we are solid about our personal identity and have explored our behaviour and inner selves we are more likely to adapt to changing circumstances whether they are family related, about our friends and neighbors, or world crisis.
         I will discuss some of the material in this chapter subtitled: The “power of self-awareness”, “self-awareness and the changing world” and “increase your luck.”  
         He begins the power of awareness section by traveling back to the 8th Century before Christ.  That was a beginning of self-consciousness but it has taken several thousand years for us to find that “It appears that our ‘mind’ is what differentiates us from a rock or dog and even each other”[i]  Dr. Roiter takes the next step by asserting that his view of our mind is defined by our personality and our character (Note: He uses the Big Five personality model, that I have mentioned in a previous blog entry.)
         He asserts that the more we know our own minds the better control we have over our thoughts and emotions; what works for us. He then creates a model entitled the “Path from Self-Awareness to Personal Power.” 
Ø    Awareness of personality and character (Self)
Ø    A clearer understanding of what is happening brings both personal perspective and emotions to awareness; creating information
Ø    Better decisions based on more comprehensive information, not just feelings
Ø    Better accomplishments fed by better decisions, and then
Ø    Greater control over your world as accomplishments build success= following this pattern leads to More Power[ii]

         Now to “self-awareness and changing the world.”   As New Adults (his suggested name for older persons) we are confronted with a new set of changes in our world “Health issues, financial realities, and loss of close friends and family. These changes can be quite disruptive.  With self-awareness we can “bend and adapt to be flexible”
         Still he asserts, many people find this dramatic change disorienting.
They may feel adrift with no job to structure their days or provide income, extra health insurance, or opportunities for socializing. They may also fear aging as a progressive loss of control and growth of dependency. How to manage these legitimate (but often exaggerated) fears definitely affects the quality of your life.” [iii]
         At the end of this section he states that many people in rough situations try to depend on “good luck.” This leads to my last topic from this blog entry.
         He begins with a quote from Sir Francis Bacon, (who was born in 1561),  “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.”  Roiter then asserts “What appears to be luck is really a person’s ability to notice an opportunity that others do not. So the first part of luck is opportunity. In addition, the person who identifies the opportunity is  prepared to capitalize on it.”[iv]
         I think we’ll end hear.  What do you think?

[i]   Beyond Work p. 165
[ii]  Page 167
[iii]  Page 168
[iv]  Page 170

Thursday, June 2, 2011


         I have discussed the importance of social networks in many of my previous blog entries. Dr. Roiter has an excellent chapter on this topic that includes the importance of our social domains. He states “…people who recognize us transform us from a face in the crowd of billions into a unique known person.  That is the magic of friends and family.”
            He then goes on to discuss the importance of social support on health and longevity. Following that he explains the nature of social networks,  “ Social networks take three broad forms…family (including marriage), friendships, and the team. The stronger these positive relationships the greater the personal benefits.” Among other things he talks about the responsibility of friendships and the benefit of friends
            Moving closer to the topic I wish to discuss further is “Moving Beyond Work.” in which he states “I know that many of us do not find this post work approach to friendship easy.”  Then he discusses the topic I wish to expand upon “The Internet Social Network.”
            He raises an interesting point.  “Many people wonder how Internet social networking will play out. Will it tear the fabric of society by having people holed up in front of their glowing computer screens, hardly ever interacting face to face?  Will this lack of contact reduce the caring and empathy that grow with direct contact? It may.”
            This is something I have thought a lot about. For example, on this blogspot this entry will be my 100th.  I have no “friends” and while very few people have ever bothered to reply to my comments. I guess the thing that is satisfying to me is number of places around the world where people have read my blog. To name just a few, they go everywhere from Canada and the USA to Iran, Australia, India and South Africa. It would be nice to hear people’s opinions but just the fact that my blog is being visited is joyful.
            On Facebook, where people can actually sign up as friends I have none; although my brothers sometimes contact me and I can go to their Facebook sites. So what does “friends” mean?
            One of my favorite fiction authors is Terry Brooks. In one of his books[i] he gives, from my point of view one of the best descriptions of friendship. 

“Friendship is a thing sensed inwardly as much a thing pledged openly.  One feels friendship and becomes bound by it.  It was this that drew Whisper to me and gained me his loyalty. I loved him and he loved me, and each of us sensed that in the other. I have sensed that with you as well.  We are to be friends, all of us, and if we are to be friends, then we must share both good and bad in our friendship. Your needs become mine.”
            Dr. Roiter goes on to say “Email has replaced a good deal of phone contact while increasing the overall amount of contacts. This is true for my relationship with my brothers in the states. But I knew them and loved them before the Internet. And he also discusses “chat rooms, personal websites, and now blogs.’ And then there is eharmony, which goes beyond Chat rooms toward deeper interpersonal relationships.
            So It comes down to this, What Is “friendship’ that is it different from “acquaintance?” 

[i]  Brooks, Terry (1985) The Wishsong Sharana , Ballentine Books