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Monday, April 30, 2012

Our Selves in the Here and Now

Know Thyself; Finding Self-Acceptance[i]

         The ancient Greeks encouraged us to know ourselves; that is to work toward accurately paying attention to our own actions, motivation and feelings.  Many of those focused on this idea also emphasized the need for positive self-regard, which is seen as a central feature of mental health as well as a characteristic of self-actualization, optimal functioning, and maturity.
         Life span theories also emphasized the importance of acceptance of ourself, including our past lives. Both Erick Erickson’s formulation of Ego Integrity and Carl Jung’s Individuation emphasize the kind of self-acceptance that is notably richer than the standard views of self-esteem.  It is a kind of self-evaluation that is long-term and involves awareness, and acceptance of, both personal strengths and weaknesses.
         Having a purpose in life means having to effectively cope with life travails and suffering.   Gordon Allport one of psychology’s most important theorists held that having a clear comprehension of life’s purpose is central to life satisfaction.
         We can work on this by finding ways to stay in the here and now.  As a specific example, while driving my car I do not turn on the music of the radio.   Especially If something stressful is drawing my mind away, to stay in the here and now I chant and pay attention to my breathing.(deep breath in; deep breath out).  If you are driving with someone you can chant without vocalizing.

[i] C.D. Ryff & B. H. Singer (2008)  Journal of Happiness Studies DOI 10.1007/s10902-006-9019-0

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Self Imposed Ageism

Attempts To Look Younger: A Type 0f Self-imposed Ageism[i]

         I’ll be 73 in October of this year. As I age I can’t help but notice that my body does not have the same strength and “beauty” as in my teens, twenties, thirties and forties. As they say “time marches on.” 
         Now as I look at the back of my hands while typing this blog entry, I see that there are quite a few wrinkle patterns on each hand.  Also, I’m bald and have small amounts of light white hair. When I look in the mirror I see an older person with bags under his eyes and a growing white beard, which I really like. (Somebody told me I look like Santa Claus.)  It is also fun to make a humorous statement the ends “…not by the hairs of my chinny-chin-chin.”  
         I do not believe that posting the following material is a sign of moral superiority. I can say to myself; “What would I do if I met a magician who with a snap of his/her finger could allow me have the same health and strength I had when I was younger. Forget about the wrinkles and bags under my eyes.   If I could just get my body up and running with the health I had when I played football as a university student, I don’t doubt that I would like that no matter how I look.  Below this is material provided by Erdman Palmore that explores the nature of self-imposed ageism.

She got her good looks from her father—he’s a plastic surgeon—Groucho Marx”
         “Attempts to look younger appear to be an obsession among many older people. Billions of dollars are spent on “anti-aging” skin creams and Botox and face-lifts and hair dyes and wigs to try to look younger. These obsessions are clear signs that these people are morbidly afraid of old age and it’s tell-tale stigma, because they think old age is a dreadful thing whose appearance must be denied at all costs.”
         “There is nothing wrong with exercise, good diets, and proper medications to maintain health. But attempts to deny aging by changing one’s natural appearance is a symptom of ageism.”

[i]  This book cited on earlier posts “…can help you grow bolder as you grow older. The preface lists 45 advantages of aging to help you look forward to growing older. The 101 answers are introduced with humorous quotations and answer the most frequent questions about aging.  OLDER CAN BE BOLDER ISBN 9781466249271 by Erdman Palmore

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Emotional Aspects of Retirement
By Elizabeth Holtzman, Counselor
Faculty and Staff Assistance Program[i]
Twice as many Americans were born in 1955 than in 1935.  Millions of people today are entering, passing through, or have completed midlife.  Because of this, there are more American people than ever nearing retirement. Americans are also living longer; therefore, they will have a longer period of retirement. Consequently, the issues of how to retire successfully have never been more pressing as the baby boom generation evolves into the retirement boom generation.
Thoughts of retirement often conjure up concerns about financial planning or images of endless hours of relaxation in the sun. Webster defines retirement as “withdrawal from active engagement in one’s occupation or profession.”  It is in fact much more.  Retirement is an identity shift for many people.  It is a process, not an event.  Retirement, like any transition in a person’s lifecycle, has emotional rewards and emotional hazards.
Preparing for retirement should include more than financial planning.  In our society, work remains a defining feature of our daily lives and our identity.  Work is more than the mental or physical tasks you perform while employed.  Work refers to the idea of being paid and engaged in activities that are productive for yourself and society.  Ending your work life, consequently, may not be an easy task.
There can be a major contrast between the familiar world of work with its hierarchy, tasks, and dependable income and the undefined roles, wide-open goals, and uncertain income of retirement. When you are working, your day is outer-directed.  It is shaped by the requirements of your job, and success is based on how well you perform and are rewarded for your work.  When you retire, your day becomes inner-directed.  You alone must plan your day and week.  Success depends on your ability to find happiness in satisfying personal interests and pursuits, human relationships, and creative mental activities.
A critical step in retirement is adjusting to the changes it brings.  It means not just accepting and adapting to change, but creating a new lifestyle that is productive and emotionally rewarding.
Making the transition from work to retirement involves sharp and abrupt changes in what is expected of you and what you expect of yourself.  Your role as a worker may be over or reduced, but your role as a spouse, partner, parent, or friend doesn’t stop, and neither do other multiple roles you play.  These roles may change, or in some way be affected by your retirement.  People who are unable to let go of the role provided by their work may find it difficult to enjoy their retirement years.
Retirement may create new problems for retirees that are married or in a long-term partnership.  Many relationships have been in existence for 20 or 30 years.  Patterns have developed about who directs the finances and who takes care of family duties, and retirement may disrupt these familiar roles.  Just getting used to being together more regularly may create problems for some couples who do not share common interests.  They may find the time together a strain and miss the privacy they previously enjoyed when their partner was working.
Being single both simplifies and complicates the problems of retirement.  It simplifies them because you have only yourself to look after.  You can make your own choices.  On the other hand, you don’t have a partner to share things with or lean on emotionally or financially.  Most people have a need to nurture and be nurtured.  Being a single retiree may lead to isolation and loneliness.
If you are approaching retirement age, there are a number of things you can do to prepare for an emotionally healthy retirement. 
  • First, begin by talking to someone – spouse, significant other, children, or all of the above about how you feel regarding the impending change in your life.  Look at all the aspects, but particularly the emotional part.
  • Begin now to think about what you are passionate about.  Is it politics, sports, finance, art or music?  Many possibilities are available, but you need to focus on what excites you.
  • Get an emotional checkup.  Many couples consult a marriage therapist before taking the big step.  In a similar perspective, retirees may want to talk to a therapist about their situation and gain insights.
  • Don’t make other big decisions during this transition time.  For example, people who retire and immediately move to another state may wind up suffering two major losses -- the loss of their work-related identity, and the loss of their relationship network.
Achieving a successful retirement is a process that takes planning, time, and experimentation.  Retirees who achieve emotional integration learn to know themselves and what will make the coming years satisfying.  They are confident in their ability to cope, and they can appreciate the possibilities within themselves.  Retirement can then become a passage to new opportunity and self-fulfillment.

[i]  This post is a copy of material I found while surfing the net.  Elizabeth Holtzman has discovered explanations that help me understand my attachments described in the blog  entry right next to this one.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Unconscious Attachement to Work

Experiencing My Work/Role Attachment

         Several days ago, for about 3 hours, I moved around at Kwantlen, helping Elizabeth hang some of her paintings in an art gallery.  We then attended the “Art Show” where Elizabeth and student colleagues had their video art projects displayed.  It was an interesting experience, not the least of which was that it was held in the “theatre" where several years ago I taught one of my psychology courses.  It was all very enjoyable but something else was happening to my Kwantlen connection (attachment).
         This morning, I keyed in my kwantlen email address to find out some information about my upcoming activity as a facilitator  for TALK (Third Age Learning at Kwantlen).  I found that my email address; which I had all the time I taught at Kwantlen and continued to have since last August when I retired, has been taken away from me. 
       I felt like a baby that has had his/her bottle taken away too early.  It’s quite frustrating and is a clear representation of my continued emotional attachment to my former employer. And this is probably similar to what babies experience before they even have language.  As I think further about it, this may be how my cat feels when her dinner plate is taken away to soon. Well, back to humanity. What do I do about it?
         This afternoon (Apr 21st) as I was surfing along in my laptop, I came across a research article[i] that may shine some light on this process. I began to study the article in depth and my following comments are connected to what I found out.  This morning I got up and continued a deep breathing slow reading of the research article.  
         The study investigates “…three variables related to work-role attachment: 1) job involvement; 2) organizational commitment; and 3) career commitment.  I think organizational commitment is a key factor for me.  First there is my growing commitment to TALK-- (Third Age Learning at Kwantlen).  I find myself producing potential workshops and seminars to present in TALK's “courses.”  
          I think that my clinging to my Kwantlen Email address is an even bigger sample of my remaining attachment. I have two other email addresses and Gmail .   Up to the present I have infrequently used them. Now that I have lost the kwantlen email address I will need to use these other addresses.  One of the problems is my Kwantlen address was taken away without any warning and I therefore have lost connection with a number of important people in my life. 
          In the languge of the research article my preference for the kwantlen email is an example of my continued work-role attachment.  The researchers say “…those who identify with and are committed to their profession would view retirement as a loss of important role membership.”  Yesterday, when I first was unable to access my kwantlen email address.  I became VERY frustrated and looking at it now I can see how attached I was (am?)         
Here is the sample of items the authors used to investigate their research:
1.   I am very involved personally in my job.
2.   I consider my job to be central to my existence.
3.   My line of work/career field is an important part of who I am.

 Ask yourself these questions and see if they are useful.
      So finally I shall continue to examine this a process of human development, which has been the focus of my career development (Whoops!!!)  I hope this blog post will be useful to you.

[i] Adams, G.A. et all (2002) International Journal of aging and Human Development,             Vol 54(2) 125-137.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Retirement Diversity

Women and Retirement[i]
         I suppose that most readers of this blog entry know that women tend to follow different career paths than husbands. Some times they wait to work until they have raised their family while others choose to work while their children are growing up. Some women never enter the labour force and quite a few single women remain steadily in the work. It has been reported that “Few studies have looked at how women adjust to retirement or at what retirement means to them.”   Like their work life, women have more diversity in their retirement than men and have large differences with retired men.
         Robert Atchley after much research has developed one of the models of retirement stages and he “…says that different factors shape male and female attitudes to retirement, and different factors lead to life satisfaction for each group.  It is his view that “…women’s retirement is indeed a separate issue compared to men’s.”  As time marches on it appears that women’s patterns of work are becoming more similar to men’s.
         Interestingly, women’s retirement may mean a big drop in income because many women do not have a pension plan. Older women also tend to have different retirement needs than men and need to get more knowledge about pension plans. All this is relevant because there is still a discrepancy between how long men and women are expected to live.  There is a way to deal with it for couples. They can agree to have a lower pension while both are alive and when the husband dies; his wife will continue to get the same amount

[i]  In Novak, M. & Campbell, L. (2001) Aging & Society: A Canadian Perspective             (4th Ed)  Material taken from Chap 10  Retirement and Work, pp 185-186

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Maintaining Moral As We Age
Answer this questionnaire and then see if the results match your self-perception Scoring is straightforward:  Each high-morale response receives a score of “1” and each low-morale response a score of “0,” so that total score ranges from 0-17.  Although factors may be used separately for special purposes, the total score is preferred.

1. Things keep getting worse as I get older.               Yes__ No__
2. I have as much pep as I had last year.                   Yes__  No__
3. How much do you feel lonely?                   Not much__  A lot__
4. Little things bother me more this year.                    Yes__ No__
5. I see enough of my friends and relatives.               Yes__ No__
6. As you get older, you are less useful.                     Yes__ No__
7. I sometimes worry so much that I can’t sleep.        Yes__ No__
8. As I get older, things are (better/worse) than I thought they would            be.                                                                   Better__ Worse__
9. I sometimes feel that life isn’t worth living.               Yes__ No__
10. I am as happy now as I was when I was younger. Yes__ No__
11. I have a lot to be sad about.                                   Yes__ No__
12. I am afraid of a lot of things.                                   Yes__ No___
13. I get mad more than I used to.                               Yes__ No__
14. Life is hard for me much of the time.                      Yes__ No__
15. How satisfied are you with your life today?
                                                               Satisfied __  Not Satisfied_
16. I take things hard.                                                   Yes__ No__
17. I get upset easily.                                                    Yes__ No__

The three factors, which emerge from the morale scale, are described below.

Agitation.   Items 4, 7, 12, 13, 16 and 17 load on Factor 1.  Labeled Agitation, this set of items characterizes the anxiety experienced by the older person.  Lawton suggests, in addition, that “there is a driving, restless, agitated quality to the dysphoric mood . . . (1972, p. 155).”  Clinically neurotic feelings are reflected, and this group of items may serve as a manifest anxiety scale for older people (Lawton, 1975).[ii]

Attitude Toward Own Aging.   Items, which relate to the older person’s attitude toward the aging process they experience comprise Factor 2.  Items 1, 2, 6, 8 and 10 are included in this factor, which captures the individual’s perception of the changes taking place in his or her life, and asks for an evaluation of those changes.

Lonely Dissatisfaction.   Factor 3 represents the older person’s acceptance or dissatisfaction with the amount of social interaction they are presently experiencing.  The items do not hold expectations for a high level of interpersonal contact, but rather seek to ascertain the individual’s reaction to the relationships he or she maintains.  Items 3, 5, 9, 11, 14 and 15 are associated with Factor 3.

If this questionnaire generates concerns for you with any of these factors, it could be a good idea to find help with someone you trust whether it is a professional counselor, a respected friend or a spiritual leader.

[ii] Lawton, M.P. (1975).  The Philadelphia Geriatric Center Morale Scale:  A revision.              Journal of Gerontology, 30, 85-89.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

 Ageism Humor
         Yongjie Yon and I gathered this material in the fall of 2009. A search of my web entries will lead you to the data that we found on a number of issues including humour.  On a broader step, Erdman Palmore has analyzed ageist joke material.[i]   I have produced a number of ageism blog entries and people around the world have examined them.  The following material was analyzed from data regarding Ageist jokes on birthday cards
         At least 73% respondents to our project reported that they had been told a joke that makes fun of old people.   Fewer people (53%) reported being given ageist birthday cards
      i.         When age is being taken into account, the percentage reporting being told jokes became progressively less, as people got older. The significance level by age is high (p <.001).  Like jokes those who are younger receive more ageist cards and the frequency decreases with age.
    ii.         Those who are married are more likely to be told jokes and receive birthday cards that make fun of age.  There are no significant differences. base on gender.
   iii.         Closeness of family members, 50% or less, increases the likelihood of being told an ageist joke, but not receiving an ageist birthday card.
  iv.         Those who attend church are significantly less likely (p.< .05) to be told ageist jokes but there is no difference in receiving ageist birthday cards
    v.         Those who are always satisfied with the government, both provincial and civic governments are both less likely to be told ageist jokes or receive ageist birthday cards.,

Ageist Joke Samples
Hard of Hearing
Three retirees , each with a hearing loss, were taking a walk on a fine April day;
One remarked to the others “Windy ain’t  it?
“No,” the second man replied, “its Thursday
And the third man chimed in, “So am I let’s have a coke.”

New Hearing Aid

An elderly gentleman has had serious hearing problem for a number of years.
He went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitter for a set of   hearing aids that allowed the gentleman to hear 100%
The elderly gentleman went back in a month to the doctor and the doctor said “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.”
To which the gentleman said, “ Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations.  I’ve changed my will three times.

Good & bad news
An old man visits his doctor and after a thought examination the doctor tell him: “I have good news and bad news, what would you like to hear first?
Patient: Well, give me the bad news first.”
Doctor:  You have cancer, I estimate that you have about two years left.”
Patient: OH NO! That’s awful!  In two years my life will be over! What kind of good news could you probably tell me, after this?
Doctor: You also have Alzheimer’s. In about three months you are going to forget everything I told you.

I seldom get comments to my blog entries, but I would am very interested in what you think about this material,

[i]  E.B. Palmore (1990)  Ageism positive and negative. Springer Publishing Company, New York, N.Y. ISBN 0-8261-7000-5

Friday, April 13, 2012

Blogspot changed address

Blogspot has changed my address to .ca in place of .com   It will redirect to the .ca address but may take longer to load.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Retirement Self-Actualization[i]
         Since I retired August 31, 2011 I have been keeping up with activities inside and out of Kwantlen Polytechnic University.  I have joined Third Age Learning At Kwantlen (TALK) and am on their program committee. I remain on the Board of Directors at the LSRS Langley Senior’s Resource Society. I have also strengthened my relationship with Alexandra House; a community program for persons of all ages and last but not least I am continuing to canvas for the Canadian Cancer Society. 
         In a way I am more active now than over the past 6 years when I taught only two courses per term at Kwantlen.  I recently came across an article on the Internet (see at the bottom of this post) and it got me thinking.  According to the authors “…retirement is a life stage full of challenges and that adjustment to these is a pre-requisite for self-actualization which is described as “motivation to realize one's own maximum potential and possibilities.”
         So the first thing I did after deciding to construct this blog entry was to review the theories about retirement.  One of the key theorists in this area is Abraham Maslow who says that self-actualization “…may loosely be described as the full use and exploitation of talents, capacities, potentialities etc.  Further: “People who are self actualizing seem to be fulfilling themselves and to be doing the best they are capable of doing.
         The theory that I find most useful is referred to as Continuity Theory created by Robert Atchley who has identified eight phases in the retirement process.  I will review them here relating them to my own retirement where possible.
1.   Pre-retirement.  My experience with retirement began seven years ago when I fought mandatory retirement.  Fortunately, there were many forces focusing on the issue at the time and I was able to stay at work.  During that time I was labeled as a “special part-time regular” and was permitted to teach only two courses per semester.  After the battle was over I had gotten used to teaching two instead of four courses per term continued doing so.  During that time I was also able to travel to Europe where I presented my ageism research at International Sociological Association Conference held in Spain.
2.    Honeymoon phase in which retirees may feel free to do new things, lasting from a few weeks to several years.  This you can see from my current volunteering activities described above.  One of the challenges my volunteering now is that meetings and activities are called up at different times.  This is compared to teaching schedules that are organized and the beginning of each semester letting academics plan way ahead and know exactly when things are happening.
3.    Retirement Routine This will be interesting as I become more familiar with volunteer activities.  I also like to schedule meetings with two of my sons who live in downtown Vancouver.
  1. Rest and Relaxation.  When retirees go through a period of lowered activity levels.  I find myself thinking of that I may slow down on some activities, including my workshops and seminars’ next year.
  2. Disenchantment.  When the retirement is disrupted by some difficulty, for example the death of a spouse.  I have been thinking a lot about this lately and have created a Grief and Bereavement Seminar that I am beginning to market
  3. Reorientation the act of changing the direction in which something is oriented.  Right now that is too far ahead for me to have much to say about it   Stay with this blog for a couple of years and I’ll probably have more to say.
  4. Routine The only thing I can say about this that I imagine that it will be a life much like my last few years at Kwantlen
  5. TerminationIntellectually I can see that toward the end of this decade as I move into my eighties and nineties.  I think termination may mean the end of everything.  Well as they used to sing in the Highlander television series. “Who wants to live forever?”

[i]  Kerr, P.P. & Schulze, S, (2004). Factors that influence Retirement Self-Actualization, HEALTH SA GESONDHEID Vol. 9, N0. 4

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Retirement Volunteering
         Many people believe that retirement automatically causes reduction of individuals’ contributions to Canada’s social and financial economy. That is not so, for instance, according to the British Columbia Government, in 2004, seniors spent more time volunteering annually than any other age group in the Province – over 44 million hours, with an average of 247 hours per year. As a group ages fewer people tend to volunteer, but those who do volunteer do it for longer periods of time. This type of volunteering will likely increase as the “Boomers” enter retirement.  So where are you at in regards to volunteering?
         To help you explore possible types of volunteering, ask yourself the following questions: [i]
1.   Where am I in my life now? What are my current circumstances and what is up ahead?
2.   What do I care about? How can I make a difference? What kind of volunteer would I be?
3.   What skills or experience do I have to offer or do I want to gain?
         Besides the reduction of income, retirement can mean a loss of employment with a focus on social relationships. Retirement is not just about the money. When considering retirement on one side a person may feel like developing new goals, interests, activities and creating new networks. On the other end, he or she may experience stress, physical deterioration, and depression. 
         I have recently retired from being a Professor of Psychology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University where I worked more than 30 years. I have designed and taught a course about aging for the last 10 years and developed many teaching approaches including workshops and seminars.  Among my volunteer activities I am a board member at a local seniors centre; a volunteer at a community event organization in Crescent Beach and I recently joined Third Age Learning at Kwantlen’s (TALK) program committee. I also canvas for the Canadian Cancer Society.
         One of the most wonderful things that have ever happened to me was when I was invited to report my research findings about Ageism in British Columbia to the International Sociological Association (ISA) at their conference in Barcelona Spain during the fall of 2008.
         I have created a retirement workshop to further help facilitate individuals’ exploration of their psychological and social needs in preparation for and during retirement.  For more information contact me at:


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Connecting Ageism and Retirement[i]

         “Fixed age retirement is often justified because older workers are seen as less desirable than young, being perceived as less efficient and less well educated, with declining physical and mental capacities. However all evidence suggests that older workers are more reliable than younger workers and are just as capable in timed tasks; older workers often have skills lacked by the young.”
         “Retirement is often justified because pensions, both state and occupational, provide income opportunities not available to the young.  This again is an essentially ageist position because pensions rarely match earnings from employment.”
         “The creation of the concept of retirement is linked to four distinct features of a given society:  economic productivity, organizational sophistication, social attitudes and social conditions.”
         During a  “…time of economic depression, there was a widespread discrimination against older workers in the labour market.
Older workers were “… caught in a situation of shrinking job opportunities and decreased demand for their particular skills.   During the great depression “Pensions, both occupational and state financed, were seen as a legitimate way of excluding older workers from the job market…” 
         Further more “There is clear evidence that older people experience discrimination in assessing care and in the quality of care provided, and those differing groups within older age groups.”
         If what we read and hear lately in the news about "economic downturn" is accurate, older persons about to retire or those of us who are already retired better increase awareness of ageist attitudes growing about us.

[i] Material for this blog entry was taken from Christina Victor (2005). The social             Context of Ageing: A Textbook of Gerontology. Routlege Taylour & Francis Group 
ISBN 0-415-22140-4

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Working Definition of Ageism[i]
All the following material was copied directly from page 14 in the book cited below
1.   Ageism is a set of beliefs originating in the biological variation between people and relating to the aging process
2.   It is in the actions of corporate bodies, what is said and done by their representatives, and the resulting that are held by ordinary ageing people, that ageism is made manifest
In consequence of this, it follows that:
a)   Ageism generates and reinforces a fear and denigration of the aging process, and stereotyping presumptions regarding competence and the need for protection.
b)   In particular, ageism legitimates the use of chronological age to mark out classes of people who are systematically denied resources and opportunities that other enjoy, and who suffer the consequences of such denigration, ranging from well-meaning patronage to unambiguous vilification.

[i]   Bytheway B. and Johnson J. (1990). On defining Ageism ,vol 27,  pp 27-39,   Critical Social Policy.  Cited in AGEISM: Rethinking Ageing ,Published by  Open University Press, 1995