Through art, sex and more, seniors just want to express themselves.As a registered social worker at two local long-term care homes, Candace Hind knows sexual desire — and a desire to maintain all of life’s freedoms — doesn’t stop the moment older adults receive their first pension cheques.There’s a general feeling that older people are invisible“Why should your heart not go pitter patter just because you need some kind of care as you go on?” said Hind, who also teaches at the University of Windsor, where she’s a PhD student. In her experience, stereotypes that seniors lack desires limit their behaviour unnaturally.“Sometimes we confuse long-term care as being the end of your identity,” Hind said. “What it really is, is you need help to be the entire spectrum of you, which includes sexuality and many things.”Hind was one of about 30 presenters at a full-day conference celebrating all aspects of aging in downtown Windsor Thursday. Academics from eight disciplines and professionals in the community collaborated to share their research about growing old. More than 100 people participated in the conversation at the university’s School of Social Work, with talks about spirituality, physical activity, long-term care safety, sexual orientation, and more. The focus of each discussion was aging well.“I think it’s wonderful that there’s a space being created where we can come together to talk about dignity, rights, humanity, and being our full selves, including our sexual selves, until the end of life,” Hind said. “Sexuality and sexual expression is an inherent part of everyone’s identity. It doesn’t stop.”
Anastasia Bake, left, teaches Alaeve Dennie Williams some art techniques at an aging conference on Thursday, April 25, 2019 at the University of Windsor School of Social Work.
Dan Janisse /
Thecla Damianakis, the conference’s lead organizer, said in her experience the numerous disciplines studying older adults locally hadn’t joined forces for about a decade. It was time to share the common interest.“There were a lot of individual faculty who were already doing research in the area of aging, each with their own active research agendas,” she said. A dozen people from the University of Windsor, Damianakis included, have formed the Interdisciplinary Ageing Research Group, which presented Thursday’s conference.The goal of the conference was to discuss how to “respect the diverse ways we age, remove barriers to aging well” and “support older adults to maximize their full potential in later years,” Damianakis said.Present in the audience at Hind’s presentation on intimacy and sexual expression was Mike Cardinal, owner of Cardinal Place retirement home in Windsor. He spoke up about the importance of individuals being recognized as adults, and maintaining their freedoms after they move in. Each person there has a private room.“People are living, and they’re going to be fully alive,” Cardinal said. As long as they consent and are safe, they can do what they want to with “no judgment allowed on our part,” he said.In the next classroom over from Hind’s presentation, attendees got their hands dirty expressing themselves through mixed media art.“It’s cognitively stimulating and respectful,” said Anastasia Bake, who facilitated the art lesson. She helped clients through art therapy during her past career as a social worker, and now teaches at both St. Clair College and the University of Windsor.“The difference between art therapy and expressive art is that there’s no assessment, there’s no judgment, there’s no defining why people do what they do. They decide why they’re doing it.”
Nicole Markotic is shown at tan aging conference on Thursday, April 25, 2019 at the University of Windsor School of Social Work.
Dan Janisse /
Paint, pipe cleaners, crayons and glue lined a table in the middle of the room, with 10 budding artists sharing workstations around it. Grey-haired or not, they each chose an aging-related written prompt and began to create. Gentle instrumental music played in the background.Henry Johnson, age 83, secured colourful yarn to his otherwise blank page. He sends hand-coloured postcards to friends and family when they’re sick, he said, but Thursday’s activity gave him the opportunity to go outside the lines.“I find it very therapeutic,” said Johnson. “It gives you a chance to think about other things while you’re doing it.”Sitting to his left, 77-year-old Bette-Jane Whittaker slowly brushed purple watercolours over her white paper. She does various forms of art at home, she said, like playing the piano and harp and doing crafts with year 10-year-old grandson. She also has a garden full of hyacinths, daffodils and tulips.“It makes me feel very happy inside,” Whittaker said. She glued a few fake flowers to the corner of her piece. “My heart is really warm right now. Everything feels really wonderful.”Related
Being present at the aging conference made Whittaker feel respected as a senior, she said. If more older adults attended similar events, they would “value themselves in a different way.”“There’s a general feeling that older people are invisible,” she said. “I think if more people knew about the information and the activities we’re doing here then they would be prouder of themselves.”firstname.lastname@example.org/wstarcampbell