After my husband died, I joined an AgeSong group and subsequently began leading a group with another facilitator.  This group is with women who are at least a decade older than I am. Being so new to widowhood, I almost did not want to be around all these widowed women. It was too depressing at first. However, our concerns, our thoughts and our compassion are the same, although with various nuances.

Being a new widow, alone, aging – - and facing a journey that was so unknown – I had lots of concerns:

What lies ahead?  What are the obstacles yet to reveal themselves?  What about other relationships?  Who will listen?  Who will respect my feelings and share my fears?

I made my choice and stayed with this group because they had the wisdom, understanding and feelings of what it is like to be here at this time of my life.  In fact, for me they are role models of what is to come. The fear lessens when you hear reality and it isn’t that ugly monster in the closet.

Healthy aging in not focused on diet or exercise or clothing or status.  It is what you value, what choices you make for the time you have.  It is your attitude, gratitude, and feeling of purpose.  And so I say – thank you AgeSong.

Ruth Rakosky, age 70

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I am a few days away from being 85 and I live alone. I work in my pottery studio as many hours in the day as I have energy for. My daughter and her family live about 5 miles away and I do have my grandchildren—7 and 9 years old- with me for 4-5 hours a week.

When I joined my first group in January 2008 it was a great addition to my life. It has to do with community, or sharing with people one’s own age that was very stimulating and gave my life a new lift. As well as sharing my own life, concerns, etc, it is wonderful to listen to each person as they share. Each person is different with varying viewpoints in spite of many similarities. The facilitators (also not young!) add their own comments to the themes we discuss, supply printed material for us to consider, and ask questions of the person speaking in subtle and helpful ways. One and a half hours goes by too fast! These meeting are energizing.

I feel a “letdown” during the breaks between series of sessions, even though we sometimes meet in each other’s homes.  It is interesting and pleasant, but it is not the same. The talk tends to be less consequential and less focused.

I am most grateful for this organization and I would recommend that anyone over 65 and living alone try it.

Daphne Ahlenius, age 85

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I am grateful to be a member of the group, AgeSong Marin. The other members are all open and communicative about their lives and their opinions. This, in turn, enables me to assess and reflect on my own experiences and thoughts. The result is continuing growth and exploration of the miracle of existence.

Peggy Salkind,  age 86

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Not being the outgoing type, I hesitated at first, but eventually decided to join an AgeSong Marin group to learn what new information was being shared among the unprecedented number of older active adults in this country. The groups are deliberately kept small and each participant is interviewed prior to acceptance into a particular group. I found that I easily fit in and was able to both contribute and learn from others. In all, it’s a fantastic journey.

Chuck Keast, age 74

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I heard about AgeSong Marin in 2006 at Hospice. My husband had recently passed away, which was a life-changing event. I was wondering–what is my purpose and how am I going to live the rest of my life?

I joined an AgeSong Marin group and was inspired by the way Elizabeth Bugental led the discussions. As a result, friendships were established and many people in my original group are still friends today.

AgeSong Marin was very instrumental in helping me to find out who I am. I’m on a path that brings me happiness, joy, and purpose.

I was a facilitator and answered all of the calls for AgeSong Marin for four years.

Sheila, age 75

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Some might think a group for older people to be depressing, focusing on aches and pains and limitations and such. But in fact, this group involves much more and is not depressing at all. My first group bonded instantly and we focused on healthy aging, both physically and emotionally. I made new friends and discovered common interests, new perspectives, inspiration, and useful suggestions. AgeSong is a place to get support and to give support in difficult times.

In the book AgeSong, I read a chapter on the aloneness of old age. My response was: “If we reflect but do not voice our thoughts, and if we have no one to respond, then who are we? The essence of the AgeSong Marin groups is speakers and listeners, witnesses to expressed feelings and thoughts, reflectors and responders; this dialogue is the life between people, discovering themselves in their time together, and even later as they look back on the experience.”

Eloise Rivera,  age 72

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I have been participating in an AgeSong group here at the Margaret Todd Center since May.  When asked what AgeSong meant to me, I initially replied by saying “AgeSong is the highlight of my week.” So, when asked to talk to this group about AgeSong and briefly describe my experience, I was delighted to do so.

AgeSong consists of small groups of 6-8 people, men AND women. We are seniors, talking about senior issues, led by experienced facilitators over a period of eight weeks.  We meet regularly and the discussion groups are both lively and interesting. It almost seems, at times, that we’ll never run out of issues to talk about. When we began, after briefly introducing ourselves, it seemed as though we were simply good friends, getting together once a week to talk about getting to know our aging selves – mostly about how we’ve changed as we’ve aged. At the beginning we discussed how early experiences influenced the way we felt about our own aging. We discussed how we’ve changed as we aged.

You might think that discussion groups consisting of eight strangers would be awkward, but that certainly wasn’t the case. Discussion flowed easily and comfortably.  There was a feeling of warmth and familiarity among the entire group. People listened to one another thoughtfully and with caring and empathy. Advice was given freely, but only if asked for.

Contents of some of the group discussions consisted of losses, we may have experiences and thinking of things that would change our lives now – giving us more zest and meaning. We talked about our belief systems and the presence of beauty and joy in our lives. In addition we talked about courage and doing what we want to do despite fear and anxiety.  We discussed making changes and expectations for ourselves.

All in all, it’s been a wonderful ride and I’ve loved every minute of it, especially the opportunity of getting to know and make new friends.

Judith France, age 78