By KATE FITZSIMMONS |PUBLISHED: August 22, 2018| UPDATED: August 24, 2018, Marin Independent Journal
Aging is not for the faint of heart. Parts need replacing. Things you take for granted change. Life falls away, yet, opens up in unusual ways. So, where do seniors go to talk about these surprises, inevitabilities, delights and griefs? AgeSong Marin is a volunteer organization designed to give seniors the opportunity to share their thoughts, concerns and joys in facilitated groups.
“As we age, we face different challenges,” said Diana Shima, a member of the group that meets every Monday at the San Rafael Community Center. “Mobility is an issue for me which can create a loss of independence. It affects some more than for others. I can’t do the same things with my second grandchild that I did with my first. My children are more protective, so I can’t always talk to them about things. People here are very respectful and kind. And we laugh a lot, too.”
Jan Shaw, another participant, said, “This group is not really a support group, but it is a very supportive group.”
Ann Coffey and her husband, Mac, both retired clinical psychologists, serve as volunteer facilitators, along with 15 other facilitators. In 2005, Ann Coffey, now program director, founded AgeSong Marin with author Elizabeth Bugental, Ph.D., who died in 2009.
“We’ve served more than 650 people and have 10 groups in seven different locations, in Marin,” said Coffey. “Talking can be helpful for mental health and creating connections. Mac and I love facilitating groups, seeing people get out of their own way and grow.”
Mac Coffey adds, “After retirement, I missed the deeper connection I’d felt with people’s lives. Now, I have that connection again. While we aren’t here to fix anybody or change anyone, people do change, and they help each other.”
He turns and looks at Ann, “And, I really enjoy helping out the boss.”
John Robbin’s wife attended an eight-week group. He saw how much she was getting from it and, he said if AgeSong ever started a men’s group, he’d join. AgeSong Marin did, and while only two men showed up it was the beginning for Robbins who admitted, “Now, I look forward to this Monday group. All of our experiences are quite different. There is value in that. This is much different from having a bull session with your buddies.”
AgeSong Marin will offer a new group for couples in Terra Linda Sept. 26, as well as groups for individuals; call 415-234-5040.
Last month, the city of San Rafael received a letter designating it as a member of the World Health Organization’s Global Network for Age-Friendly Cities and Communities. According to the letter, signed by Dr. John Beard, director of the Department of Aging and Life Course, World Health Organization, he indicated, “We ask that every member submits at least one ‘Age-friendly Practice’ per year.”
Since 25 percent of the population in Marin is 60 or older, San Rafael is preparing for the changes this will bring. An Age-Friendly Community adapts to become more accessible and inclusive to older adults as they age.