Learning to ride a bike. Getting a driver's license. Graduating from high school. Getting married. Welcoming children into the world.
Each significant event is met with heaping quantities of literature and advice. But as people age and hit their "golden years," they are often left out in the cold, according to psychotherapist and author Dorothea Hover-Kramer.
"The elderly is a forgotten generation," Hover-Kramer said sadly. "We have an awful lot of emphasis on youth, early life issues, career and family, but there isn't much emphasis on the second half of life."
Such speculation was confirmed when Hover-Kramer was searching for artwork to accompany her recently published book, "Second Chance at Your Dream: Engaging Your Body's Energy Resources for Optimal Aging, Creativity and Health," through iStockphoto and couldn't find a single picture of a healthy older person in their 60s or 70s enjoying life. "That brought to mind how real the undervaluing of aging is in our society," she said.
"Second Chance at Your Dream" addresses key issues for seniors and people approaching their senior years, including lifestyles changes, such as retiring; the opportunity to mentor others, such as grandchildren; health issues; loss; and facing mortality.
"I hope people read the book and get excited about who they are and the gifts they have to give," Hover-Kramer said. "Just because you are over 65 or 70 years old doesn't mean you don't have something to give."
Over lunch, Hover-Kramer shared a story about "Sarah" who was 75 years old and living with family members. Sarah suffered from arthritis that crippled her hands. Because she was feeling sorry for herself, Sarah had a tendency to complain a lot to her loved ones, Hover-Kramer said, which was driving her family members crazy.
"I told her, 'Sarah, you need to get a life,'" Hover-Kramer recalled. Because Sarah wanted to "help somebody," Hover-Kramer reminded her that a lot of animals in the world need help as well as people. Sarah's face lit up at the idea and she soon started volunteering at an animal shelter several days a week.
"Pretty soon, her family couldn't find her because she was too busy with the animals and her new friends," Hover-Kramer said. "Her family wanted to hear her stories then because she wasn't always complaining."
Hover-Kramer also shared the story of a friend who retired to a city near the beach and soon became bored with her new life. When she saw fertilizer runoff near the water one day, the woman took it upon herself to start asking questions and investigating the situation, Hover-Kramer said. While attending a city council meeting, the woman heard about an empty chair and ran for a city council position. When her term was up, she ran for mayor and won.
"She said her life is crazier than she ever imagined it would be but she loves it," Hover-Kramer said. "I'm very proud of her for honoring herself. She was bored with what her retirement community was doing and started looking for something that had meaning to her."
With a background as a clinical nurse specialist and more than 30 years as a psychologist, Hover-Kramer encourages people of all ages to use self-help methods to boost their energy level and confidence, in turn bettering their communities.
"If we as seniors realize that we have a lot to offer, we can make a huge impact," she said. "We need to feel alive, vital and rejuvenated. Instead of 'retiring,' we need to re-invent ourselves."
According to aarp.org, only 13 percent of the U.S. population was 50 or over in 1900. By 2000, the percentage doubled to more than 27 percent. By 2020, more than 35 percent of the country's population will be 50 years or older.
While Hover-Kramer feels that older persons are undervalued in America, she said that isn't necessarily the case in Sequim, which she describes as a very active senior community. In fact, she moved to the peninsula last September after visiting the area from southwest Oregon and being impressed by the wide variety of "arts, music and all the things I love."
Available in Sequim and
Port Angeles bookstores
"Second Chance at Your Dream: Engaging Your Body's Energy Resources for Optimal Aging, Creativity and Health," by Sequim resident Dorothea Hover-Kramer, is available for sale at Pacific Mist Books in Sequim, Odyssey Bookshop and Port Book and News in Port Angeles. Hover-Kramer is the author of five other books including "Healing Touch: A Guidebook for Practitioners," "Creative Energies: Integrative Energy Psychotherapy for Self-Expression and Healing," and "Creating Right Relationships: A Practical Guide to Ethics in Energy Therapies." For more information about the author, go online to http://secondchancedream.com/.
The Sequim Gazette is located at 147 W. Washington Street in Sequim.
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