Identity and getting older

By J. Keuskamp – Josina van Schaik, Netherlands

On the following pages you will find some interviews with older people from different countries in Europe and in Israel.

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Karen Hansen (69), Denmark

The identity of being a dedicated teacher left strong traces in my way of dealing with others. It printed me for life, it’s not lost. I’ve plenty of identities, such as mother and grandmother, wife, voluntary refugee language teacher, inner beauty enjoyer, healer, facilitator, researcher, upholder, feminine, photographer, avid reader, writing communicator, translator, elder, Template Network participant, God’s person - I could go on. Increasingly identities are formed against a need for self-respect, being useful, a strong wish to facilitate what’s good and of value, a wish to ‘help God’, the determination to not get fixed, but to keep growing and trying.

On my way to old age the long view is important. It urges me to look into myself to see if I’m ready for what is next, letting go of no longer needed parts, polishing parts I want to keep, opening soul and mind to what wants to join me now at this stage of less doing and more being. Every age is a gift of God; old age also has a function, and calls for appreciation. It’s important to not waste those later years, and consciously value the fact of your life. To me it’s a great success if, by the end of a day, I can tell myself I lived in harmony with my values. At present I work on compassion and patience, qualities I want to grow stronger. I’m able to listen to the voice in the core of myself, the closer I get to my natural identity. This process, I know, will continue till the day I die.

These are my thoughts bout being part of a network
Many older people suffer from loneliness. When we are young, we have families, friends, often a partner and kids. Throughout our working years we have our colleagues to talk to and turn things over with. When we retire, this possibility is no longer there. Then there are friends and family, which is all-important, but their time is limited, so it gives a lot of meaning to join other networks with people you share interests with. This is easier to do in our day and age now than it was before, because of e-mail and computer technology, and my advice to older people is to learn to use these instruments, so you can escape loneliness and enrich your lives through this means of contact. Of course nothing can ever replace or compete with eye-to-eye contact, but if you are not so mobile, this is a very good option.

Personally I am part of several networks, one of which is an international network of people of an age ranging from 59 to 81. We exchange thoughts and stories about our lives and loves, about things happening in the world, about the meaning of life, and about old age and we research how to get old in a satisfying and fulfilling way. There is great value in this exchange. And no one should ever believe that people stop thinking, stop loving and stop wondering about life, or stop following new pathways, because they grow older. Quite the opposite!

Mary Nordkvelle (60), UK

I was born in Scotland and my parents provided me with all the good qualities that are necessary for a human to be surrounded by, like honour and patience and care, and that gave stability throughout my life. At this time in my life I feel a great love and value for my own existence and what caused me to be. I feel comfortable and fitting within my skin. I know myself quite well, what I won’t do. There is a confidence I didn’t have when I was younger, when I felt lonely, like a lone voice crying out about the state of the world, with a shining me inside unable to express itself. Now my identity is a safety-net for special essences that gathered around me throughout my life because of my ways and inclinations.

I’ve always felt deeply about freedom, justice and humanity and started writing to people in prison and then visiting some of them. I feel this is a sacred trust between us and it makes me appreciate so much more all the little things that we take so much for granted like a smile, a walk in the rain, the sun shining through the trees, colour and so much more.

My identity is the vehicle by which the lives in me are able to find expression, in relation to the world, the universe and all in it; the many aspects and facets of interconnection that ebb and flow. I try to be open to what is needed what my inner lives and loves are guiding me to do. I love to express those lives through poetry and writing and the exchanges between one human and another that to me represent the many facets of God. I believe that we continue that death is not the end but the next phase in our journey and what we build  and grow in this life carries on to further evolution and this makes a difference in my life in the way of settlement.

Ria Magen (71); Rina Rozenberg (74); Cecil Miron(72); Riky Rutten (61), Israel

We find that in the thoughts and emotions of people sits a holding pattern that wants to hide age and wants to act out something that belongs to younger ages. For us this is not honourable and it’s simply not true to oneself. In other words: it is self-deception and sometimes foolishness. We find that there is a lot of joy in standing in the true identity of oneself, especially in older age, with more space and less pressure. We research how to get old in the right way through understanding the psychologies involved, through tackling the undercurrents of unfinished business, and how to solve them, for example, to work on forgiveness, through the study of qualities, and through combining research and doing, through finding all the time examples from our own lives, through visiting old people and experiencing what their needs are and what they can give us, through meditating on having 3 lives in one (the female - the woman - the lady) and their impact on old age, through volunteering what we love to do in contributing to the community life.

We live in Ma’ale Zvia, a community village in Galilee in Israel that tries to implement the philosophy of the Template Network in various ways. There are many research groups and one group is aiming to establish a template for older people in the sense of: ‘How to get old in the right way and in the right circumstances?’ We research this through understanding psychologies involved, tackling the undercurrents of unfinished business, and how to solve them by a process of forgiveness, through the study of qualities and actually combine research and doing, through visiting old people and experience what their needs are and what they can give, through meditating on having 3 lives in one and their impact on old age, and contributing to the community life. We’re an alive and dynamic group, asking ourselves often ‘who and what are you, what do you aim your identity at?’ The way of the world today is mainly in denial of getting old, it wants to hide age and perform something belonging to younger ages.

Yet... old age is natural, where you prepare for the next phase with a different location in space and time. It collects experience, translates and sums up with a less dominant ego and makes space for personal religious life. It is giving out and shedding the fruits and making useful the experience and that are ingredients of our new identities. Family roles become different and we believe that grown-up children should know and learn about this.

There is opportunity to find your natural inclinations and talents to do with ‘finding you’ in what you are. It’s a slowing down time, where you need to learn to go with the flow and to not overstretch. It’s to Be with the things, sorting things out and leaving behind, keeping one’s dignity, and at the same time insist on staying busy and not giving in. Care and attention become the ‘angels in the house’. You can help to maintain the angels of care and attention in other houses, or i.e. visit ill people if you’re fit. It is a time of quiet service. We believe and feel that death is meant to be a blessing and is to be welcomed when we are ready for the metamorphosis that going from one state to another is - with no need for fear, for this change is natural. Evolution is a principle of universal life: everything changes and evolves. In old age there are longer views and calming effects, with more forgiveness, with less allergies and irritations. And there’s always the choice to feed the next stage with richer spiritual food. Feelings in our internal world now can blossom.

The future needs each of us and we can brush up our individual print and ask: what else is there to give? It’s a time of receiving yourself as you are and being settled with the identity that you have become, a purifying time with a longing to become an instrument of love itself yes! - on the way, using our positive powers to support the young, but only if it’s done in free choice. There is no compulsion; it is different for each life. New we can make every day till the last one, with value for details for life and for the upholding of our spirit of youth and newness. An anti-familiarity pill is a good pill to take with all other pills! Even in all the losses of the body and old identities something else is growing and that is the finer electromagnetic energy life in us. A little personal development is nevertheless development, which was not there before and this can always go on, because there is always more to perceive about oneself and one’s future.

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