Connections of all kinds are made at each and every 70Candles! Gathering; some are completely unexpected. Women arrive at these groups, curious about what might lie ahead and eager to share their thoughts. They leave animated, inspired, thoughtful, and often, hopeful.
Here are some unexpected chance encounters that warmed our hearts and added sparkle to some recent gatherings.
• Before the conversation had even begun, a woman at a recreation center group said, "Just a minute, you didn't have much in your book about finances, and I'm having a difficult time figuring out how, when, and how much to pass on to my children, one of whom is handicapped." She didn't know where to go for advice, and whom she could trust.
From the other side of the room, a hand went up. "That's exactly the kind of consulting my husband does," another woman said.
Contact information was exchanged at the end of the meeting, the burdened woman's relief was palpable, and a new friend was made.
• At a lively senior center gathering several women, who hadn't known each other previously, discovered that they were all recent widows. They lived in the same town, and they all participated in some of the center's activities. They were experiencing many of the same adjustment issues, and they were delighted to have found each other.
By the end of the gathering, they had decided to meet again to get to know each other better. A new lifeline was established.
• A small group assembled in a comfortable, newly renovated town library. Among the women there was someone who was just venturing out after weeks of staying home, feeling very sad about a sudden loss of a job that had both satisfied and defined her for many years. She seemed to be grieving for the absence of the person she had been as social director at a busy independent living center. Several other crises in her life had occurred at about the same time.
The group rallied to her support. By the time the conversation ended, she had gained a spirited companion who promised to escort her to the new senior center in that town and introduce her to the directors there. There were people she could meet, activities galore to choose from, and surely there were opportunities there for her well-honed skills. She smiled for the first time in a long time.
• One woman at another senior center related, with humor and some surprise twists, some very interesting stories about her life. She said she loved to write and had written many more stories, but didn't think of herself as a writer.
With encouragement, she began to think of ways she could more seriously pursue her love of writing and become the writer she'd always wanted to be.
• At a book club gathering in a lovely living room, there were many complaints and agreement about the lack of affordable senior housing in this particular suburban community. One woman, who frequented the town council meetings, was able to convince several others that, indeed, their voices would be heard if they came out in force to bring this topic to the attention of the local governing body. Grass roots politics, indeed.
• Some groups have decided they would like to continue meeting in the future. It seems there's nowhere else to have these kinds of meaningful conversations, about matters important to women this age.
• One woman brought her senior center director in at session end to photograph the microphone and small amplifier that comes in so handy at these groups. It seems the center didn't have one, and it had become apparent that many older people have trouble hearing in group settings and across distances.
They ordered up their own.
• Referrals proliferate. One woman tells the next, who tells her friends in another group that they need to hear this...and so the network of 70Candles! Gatherings continues to expand locally.
There is also a Page called 70Candles! Gatherings, accessed on the right of the top border of the 70candles.com blog site. There, women far and wide have been reaching out and signing up.
Currently, there are 22 volunteer leaders across the country and beyond, stretching from Maui, Hawaii to Nova Scotia, Canada, willing to run groups in their locations. A Leader's Guide that will be available on Amazon.com, is in the works to offer some tips.
To see if there's a group forming in your area, check our blog at 70candles.com. We welcome you to join the conversation!
*Serendipity - luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for (Merriam Dictionary)
Book group discussion questions are now included in the book, 70Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade, by Jane Giddan and Ellen Cole, available from Taos Institute Publications, and in the Kindle and Nook downloads at Amazon.com.