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Wisdom from a Widower – Blog Posts By Ken

Blog 8: “We are living Longer”… Well most of us! 

Before I deal with this, let me recommend today’s Facebook account of the old man, a lady, the “cop”, and the cafe manager. “Empathy!”

Yes, apparently our average life span continues to increase and “lifestyle” patterns and habits change accordingly. Great news? Well yes, but obviously also challenging !

Too many general questions to deal with in one article, but let me quote an extract from “The Changing Mind”, following a 75 year American study on health and happiness, begun in 1938, tracking 268 male Harvard students and 456 controls from Boston. (One of the study members was President John F. Kennedy.) The current leader of the study summarized the findings this way:

“The clearest message we get from this 75 year study is this: good relationships keep us happy and healthier, period…social connections are really good for us…loneliness kills. People who are more socially connected to family, friends and community, are happier, healthier and they live longer. And loneliness turns out to be toxic…High conflict marriages without affection are very bad for our health–worse than getting divorced. Asked what he learned after 30 years of studying the cohort, George Vaillant, who directed the study for three decades, was clear:”That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

“At age eighty-five, one man in the study described the pleasure of his 30 years long second marriage as, ” really just being together. Share each other’s lives and our children’s lives. Snuggle on cold nights.” Amen to that one! Last quote today: “People who divorce are not, as a group, malcontents who can’t work things out. Marriages fail for a variety of reasons, and often the simplest explanation is the most accurate. The couple were mismatched and didn’t realise it until later.” 

Last for today. A walk in the park yesterday where a clear sign says, “Groups of no more than TWO!”. Well, that DID NOT HAPPEN! A tiny minority followed the DIRECTIVE and I saw only two masks (not compulsory, but hey!), mine and another. LET’S COOPERATE AND BEAT this thing!


Blog 7: Laughing, learning and loving

“Never Stop Laughing, Never Stop Learning, Never Stop Loving!” 

Stay connected whether you’re young, middle aged or older!

I just finished a “Zoom” session with my Art Group Friends thanks to my granddaughter skills. There we were, an art group  “connecting” 100+ kilometres from home!

I joined this group of ten regulars and an “Art Therapist” after losing Merle. I had been active with my former group (still great friends!) for quite a few years. Many were accomplished artists. I wasn’t, but have improved over time. The second group is different but just as rewarding… A new group of fellow “artists” of various levels, staying “connected”.  For some years I have had fun sessions with my stepson and his sister and they continue to draw and/or paint with or without me. 

I had the option of an earlier lift back to Sydney this week but decided to stay for three more days in the country, on my daughter’s farm. Dodging Covid 19? Partly, but most of all, enjoying family time and country air! Lucky me once again. 

We all appreciate the value of a good exercise. Check out mine yesterday: Five thousand plus “steps” according to iPhone “health data”, country air, mixed terrain, stunning views, golden winter wattle, two alpacas staring me down, two kangaroos testing our fence line, bird life from tiny wrens to kookaburras, four horses and the family cat!

Apparently, any “creative “pursuits (sport, cooking, art, music, volunteering, gardening,…whatever!) are really good for our mental and physical wellbeing… all of our life!

By the way, we are living longer.


Blog 6: Ageing well

 A joke from “The Changing Mind” about senior moments: 

Two senior couples dining out together.
The guys are chatting. Bob says,”Hey Fred, you must try a fab restaurant we found recently.”
 “Yeah what’s its name?” 
“Ah. What’s a flower that is very popular and has thorns?”
“A Rose?” 
“Yep. That’s it,” says Bob. “Hey Rose what’s the name of that fab restaurant?’ 

Another quote from The Changing  Mind, “Growing old may be the only event in life that may be both desired and feared.” 

We all have our own version of this. Mine is as follows: I have travelled a very busy, challenging, rewarding, frustrating, sad, joyful road, laced with successes, failures and hopefully enough “resilience” to learn and “move on!” (Most of the time). Now I suppose I desire “to relax (but not be complacent!) and enjoy the last furlong”.

I suppose we fear it because among other challenges like “what’s next if anything?”

Our days are numbered, our health and vigour are threatened, we lose partners and family perhaps and so on! Thankfully, Levitin says, older people are less likely to dwell on negative thoughts! Phew! We have more time alone but less time ahead of us! Our long term memory tends to stay with us more than our use of short term memory: “Why did I enter this room? Where did I put my glasses?”.

For what it’s worth, by a “balance ” of good luck and good management, I am doing reasonably well. Also. t risk of repetition, I have the “luxuries of loving, fabulous family and friends and “relos”. Merle and I even managed to enjoy our “blended” family (with a hiccup or two).

Final thought, for this edition. I just read an article in “The Good Weekend “about a 37 year old, Hugh Evans, young “Aussie Of the year” a few years ago about his incredible campaign to end world poverty! How inspiring! I think I’ll go back to Merle’s and my weekly help at “The Loaves and Fishes!”, a “free”restaurant” for needy people run by the Reverend Bill Cruise.


Blog 5: Curiosity

Ah, curiosity. The desire to find out more and know things.

“When people retire, they tend to turn in on themselves”, says Daniel Levitin. 

My personal experience reflects that, but thankfully not too much. It certainly can lead to depression and increased “loneliness.”

The more I write this blog, the more I pause to “find out about things”. For example, solving the tricky problem of loneliness and how to continue my life along its shortening path without wasting time.

Even the simple daily experience of waking and getting started! Like most of us, I have a simple regular starting routine.
“Tea, Toast and Tablets!”

I continue my regular contact and relationships with friends and family, helping others, maintaining “good health”, running my own household, gardening, painting, and dealing with the current covid-19 crisis. Essentially, continuing my life as best I can, without wasting time.

I have no particular “bucket List”. It has largely been catered for. I would like to “understand spirituality” more, but have no desire to “find God”. 

I really have no excuse to feel lonely. I enjoy the blessings of family, friends, even a nice new “relationship” and financial comfort. 

Financial comfort? I enjoy this blessing because..

1. As a teacher, compulsory superannuation was automatically deducted from my salary from  my first day of “permanency!”. Female teachers began their career in a similar fashion, but many lost permanency when they stopped to have children. They were “offered” the option to reapply if they returned to full time employment. This system no longer exists.
2. I “invested” in my own home A.S.A.P., sold it when teaching in Papua New Guinea, but swiftly bought again on my return and have never paid rent. Why? My fabulous working class parents never owned their own home, but they “taught me” the importance of financial security. 
3. In “retirement” and remarried, we were short of funds, so for four years we operated a cleaning franchise and I learned to trade stocks and futures.

We finally “retired” when Merle inherited her family home… I am so pleased that she was able to enjoy some years of retirement, overseas holidays and becoming a grandmother.  I seem to have digressed from the topic, but I intend to continue “to find out more and know things!”


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