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A newsletter from the
California Lutheran Homes and Sunny View
Centers for Spirituality and Aging
Rule #1:  Make Your Scene Partner Look Good
Before the workshop last week on "Meeting Alzheimer's" with the Rev. Dr. Jade Angelica, I didn't know that the rules of improvisational comedy had so much resonance with real life as well as communicating with those with Alzheimer's disease.  So much of our difficulty in communicating with those with Alzheimer's disease is that we know we're right, we want to be in control, and we know that we're being logical and coherent, while they, often, are not.

Jade pointed out that if our goal is to go beyond helping people with Alzheimer's to be safe, clean and comfortable, and move on to enhancing their quality of life, then we need to change how we approach them and how we communicate with them.  And she explained that in improv comedy the goal is always to make your partner look good.  I've been thinking about that a lot.  It's radical to think of those with Alzheimer's as our partners.  It puts them on a level playing field with us.  It means that we're valuing their input in this encounter, and that we might even have something to gain and to learn from it.

And in making them "look good" we go out of our way to understand their perspective (even if it seems skewed) and to join them there.  That's where we begin as we listen with open hearts and respond in ways that will enhance their well being--we don't contradict, negate, or put down.  We find a way to say, "Yes!" (another rule of improv) and add to the interaction.  We keep looking for ways to keep the connection alive, not shutting it down.

This is a profound understanding of communication with people with Alzheimer's disease.  It's also a profound understanding of communication for all our interactions.  How often do we go into conversations with our co-workers, the people we care for, our bosses, or store clerks with the idea that our goal is to make them look good?  How would that change the way we interact with them?  How would it change how we listen?  Would we be willing to accept their perspective as their reality and rather than argue with it, listen for the deeper needs and fears that it might represent?  Can we give up our need to be right long enough to listen and respond with creativity and care?

These are the questions I've been asking myself since Wednesday.  All of what we do in our care for elders is about communicating and connecting.  Our work gives us so many ways not only to care, but to grow as persons, always enlarging our hearts, always seeking to care more genuinely and more helpfully.  May you be blessed in your own caring journey.
For more information about Jade's program visit her Healing Moments website.  And for the in depth story of her spiritual journey with her mom through Alzheimer's read her recently published book, Where Two Worlds Touch.
Here is the blurb I was privileged to write for the book:

Where Two Worlds Touch is one of the finest accounts of the spiritual journey of Alzheimer's, for both the caregiver and care recipient, that I've read. Jade Angelica gives us the gift of an honest, reflective account of journeying through Alzheimer's with her mom. Jade brings to the journey and to the telling of it the fruit of years of theological study and reflection, meditative practice, improvisational theater techniques, spiritual direction, and a pastoral heart. It was a journey fraught with personal, emotional, and spiritual difficulties, but it was in the crucible of Alzheimer's disease where her relationship with her mom was transformed and healed. As she notes in the introduction, this book may not be comforting or helpful for everyone. But for those who want to reframe Alzheimer's to focus on the gifts that remain and who want to be stretched in mind, heart, and spirit--this is the book to read."
Coming on April  9 & 10, Rabbi Dayle Friedman with two 1/2 day workshops.  Come for one or both!
Refilling logo
Morning Workshop

The work of caring for elders as professionals or family members is holy.  It is also challenging, as we find ourselves facing infinite needs with finite time, energy and resources. This workshop will explore the experiences of depletion and replenishment, and develop strategies and resources for fostering resilience so that we can remain whole and inspired as we do this sacred work.    


For more information and to register for only the morning workshop use these links:


Refilling the Cup Anaheim


Refilling the Cup Cupertino  

Afternoon Workshop

In this experiential workshop, we will investigate the healing potential of not just telling, but re-framing stories from our lives. Using Midrash, an ancient Jewish process of inquiry into sacred texts, we will question and re-tell our stories, in order to glean both lessons from the past and directions for the future. In addition, we'll explore how we might use this tool in our work with elders in the fruitful process of life review.

For more information and to register for only the afternoon workshop use these links:


Tapping the Well Anaheim


Tapping the Well Cupertino 

And if you would like to come to both workshops on the same day for a saving on registration and CE Certificates use these links to register:

About our Presenter
Rabbi Dayle A. Friedman, MSW, MAJCS, BCC is founder and director of Friedman Growing Older -- Wisdom + Spirit Beyond Midlife.  She was founder and director of Hiddur:  The Center for Aging and Judaism of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and was the founding director of chaplaincy services at the Philadelphia Geriatric Center.   She is an ordained Rabbi and a board certified Jewish chaplain.  Rabbi Friedman is the editor of Jewish Pastoral Care: A Practical Handbook from Traditional and Contemporary Sources (2nd edition, 2010) and author of Jewish Vision for Aging: A Professional Guide for Fostering Wholeness (2008), and the forthcoming Growing Older: Sustenance for the Journey.
Resources for Ministry and Learning
aging challenge

The Aging Well Bible Study Series   


A Review  

By David Wilder, Pastor for Senior Ministries, St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Portland, Oregon


The Christian Association of Senior Adults (CASA) has just released a series of six adult Bible studies for adults 50 and beyond titled AGING WELL.  The series is prepared by Peter Menconi, pastor, psychologist, and board member of the CASA Network.


To date, little study material has been provided for adults in what Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot of Harvard University calls the "third chapter" of life.  Because people are living longer today and are aging differently than earlier generations, the CASA series is a welcome resource for pastors and congregations looking for insights on how Christians can age well and continue to serve the mission of church as they move through their later years.


curmudgeon cover I reviewed three of the six in the series.  They are the first: "The Aging Challenge," the last:  "Finishing Well," and the fourth:  "Sage or Curmudgeon."  Menconi is aware of the current gerontological views on aging championed by the late Dr. Robert Butler, Dr. Laura Carstensen, and Rev. Richard Gentzler, among others.  The insights of President Jimmy Carter, Billy Graham and Brother Lawrence are shared throughout.   


Each study is comprised of six sessions that are self-contained and accessible to participants.  Each session begins with an introduction which focuses on important issues pertaining to aging, especially as Christians experience and plan for it.  This is followed by group discussion questions, biblical reflection, and take-home application ideas.  Every session of the series holds great potential for very fruitful discussion for those truly wanting to discern God's will in their later years.  


I believe any study of aging in the 21st century that is self-consciously Christian needs to take into account that the Bible never addressed aging as we now experience it.  Thus,  I found some of the biblical passages cited by Menconi of limited usefulness for our situation.  Nevertheless, passages from the Old Testament's wisdom literature and the New Testament can be used to help us to age wisely, stay engaged, and finish well.  Overall, this is a resource that could be very helpful to congregations.


My thanks to David for this review.  You can see all of the books in this series here.  

Parting Thoughts
This is a gratifying time in the life of the two Centers for Aging and Spirituality.  We've had great attendance and interaction at our last events and we now have over 100 likes for our Facebook page! 

We are planning some great things for the rest of 2014 and 2015.  In early 2015 we will have a celebration of the 15 years that the CLH Center for Spirituality and Aging in Southern California has been serving the aging services community.  And in the fall of 2015 the Centers will be hosting the 6th International Conference on Ageing and Spirituality in Los Angeles.  It was last held in 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland. 

And as all of you know there is only more need for our services as the aging of our communities and churches continue.   I am pleased to be able to offer resources and insights in this newsletter and through the events we sponsor.  If you'd like to spread the word, please feel free to forward this newsletter to a colleague (using the forward button below), inviting them to join our tribe.  And if you haven't yet liked our Facebook page, there is always room for more; the link is below in "Staying Connected." Please share our Facebook posts and like them.  That's another way of increasing our tribe!

And if you are attending the Aging in America Conference in San Diego in March, I hope we can connect there.  I will be the room host for the FORSA (Forum on Aging, Religion and Spirituality) special day of programming "Embracing Suffering in the Last Third of Life" on March 13.  Come to attend some great presentations and to connect.

Many, many blessings!

Nancy Gordon, Director
California Lutheran Homes and Sunny View Centers for Spirituality and Aging


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Nancy Gordon, Director
CLH and Sunny View Centers for Spirituality and Aging
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