Follow That Dream!

Leah Health Guide
  • I’ve done it!  I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone and done something I have longed to do.  I taught my first class to senior citizens using a program I am developing, called “Strengthening Your Mind”! 


                “It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are alive.         There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger

                 for them.”

                                                                ~ George Eliot

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    Teaching is beautiful and good, and I have missed it since I retired three years ago.  With the coming of mini strokes and, eventually, vascular dementia, teaching, as I knew it, was over…as was substituting and consulting, which is what I had planned to do in retirement.  But my longing to go back has never left me; I hunger to teach.  And, now, I think I have found how to have it all…


     I am developing a program entitled “Strengthening Your Mind” which includes three sets of lessons with five or more classes in each.  The first set of lessons strives to develop your five senses further in order to strengthen your mind and memory.  This is loosely based on Kristin Einberger’s Strengthen Your Mind, Volume 1.  (The book title is VERY similar to my program name…kind of confusing, at times…)  She has given me permission to use whatever I need.  Using some of her material and ideas, I have added many other activities which I developed to the program.   (Note:  Ms. Einberger has come out with a second volume and Sharpen Your Senses cards which I highly recommend for use with  loved ones in the early stages of Alzheimers or dementia. They are also excellent resources for those fifty years old or older who want to exercise their mind.) 


    Back to my class:  I was nervous about teaching adults.  After all, I used to tease that grownups are all just big children. So, I figured my first class with adults would be interesting.  There were 12 in the class, none younger than 60; the oldest I knew about was 86 and hard of hearing (and with no hearing aids).   This lady had a hard time hearing in this, my first class.  Ironically, the class was on sound and our hearing!  This class of 12 was an eclectic group.  Most were quite open with responses.  The one male in the class was the most outgoing (which I found to be the same when I taught in the  public elementary school classroom, too.).  There were three women who evidently came together, sat together, talked softly together, and fed off one another at times.  When it was time to listen to sound effects or songs, I had two elder ladies who really had difficulty hearing many tones.  When it came time for the class to read a paper and respond, the one gentleman called out, “I can’t see this…I left my glasses at home!”  After realizing that he was being truthful, I read as much of his paper as I could for him while the others worked…just like I would have had to do in an elementary school classroom…  And so, when it was all over and I had time to think about how it had gone, I realized that teaching adults wasn’t a great deal different than children!  Some can’t hear; some can’t see; some can’t write; some can’t sit still; some are more private than others.  How neat is that?!


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    I tried not to show my nervousness.  I attempted not to show my frustration when I couldn’t get the Windows Media Player to do what I wanted when I wanted it…I injected humor whenever possible.  I admitted to the group that I was presenting this class as much for me as for them, explaining about my vascular dementia.  When asked if I would remember the class participants fifteen minutes after class, I laughingly said, “Probably not.”  It wasn’t a minute later, when I called the gentleman in class Frank, instead of Fred.  The group laughed.  Fred piped up, “And I even have a name tag on which you wrote!” I quipped back, “Well, now you know my secret!  Not only do I have no short term memory, I can’t see either!”   The group howled in laughter!


    All in all, I believe the class on hearing and memory went well.  The lady in charge of programs at the senior center said she had gotten lots of good feedback.  That made me very happy.  I have four more senses to go, one class each month.  I can hardly wait!  In the meantime, there is still work to do to finish my other two parts.  By December, I want to have a presentation put together for the lady in charge…then, Part Two of “Strengthening Your Mind” will come alive!


    George Eliot was right when he said we must hunger for the things that are good and beautiful.  But, I don’t think he went quite far enough for it is not enough to just hunger, or desire, something.  You must take that next step and go for it.  Try no matter how hard it may seem or how many obstacles you fear may loom ahead.  You’ll NEVER get what you long for unless you take that next step!

Published On: September 26, 2008