Week 1: We supply a selection of quotations about aging and old age for week 1. Each participant takes a quotation, considers it, and speaks to it, usually sparking a short discussion. This exercise introduces themes that will be pursued through the program and serves as an ice-breaker.
Week 2- 5: Each week’s readings include one or two poems, as well as fiction, memoir, and journalism. A typical program has included selections as follows:
Poem: Barrie Shepherd: At 77
Essay: Mary Morrison: Let Evening Come, from Reflections on Aging (excerpt)
Novel: Rohinton Mistry: Family Matters (excerpt from chapter 1)
Journal Article: William H. Thomas: What is Old Age For?
Poem: Helen Vanier: Sugaring
NOTE: Themes are broad and will recur through the rest of the program (seeing old age through new eyes/ sensual enjoyment (Mistry) / dependence and independence/ roles of elders in society (Thomas).
Poem: On Seeing Red
Memoir: Wayson Choy: Not Yet (excerpt)
Fiction: Constance Beresford-Howe: The Book of Eve (excerpt)
NOTE: Themes include shifts in abilities and identity; the symbolic role of material goods- people’s “stuff” (Choy); dependence and independence (Klass); use and importance of story (On Seeing Red). Note that the poem “On Seeing Red” was composed collectively, facilitated in a long term care home with participants with dementia.
Poem: Wendell Berry: VII
Fiction: Richard Wagamese: Indian Horse (excerpt- grandmother uses traditional knowledge to bring boy safely through winter bush to town)
NOTE: Themes include loss, love, new identity, and roles and special knowledge of elders (Wagamese).
Fiction: Joan Barfoot: Exit Lines (excerpt)
Graphic Memoir: Roz Chast: Can’t WeTalk About Something More Pleasant (excerpt)
Non Fiction: Atul Gawande: Being Mortal (excerpt)
Note: Themes include forgiveness, end of life issues, difficult intergenerational conversations.
Poem: Lorna Crozier: My Last Erotic Poem
Essay: Maya Angelou: A Song to Sensuality
Poem: Douglas Nepinak: Grandmother
Memoir: Roger Angell: This Old Man
Note: Themes include sensuality, intergenerational roles, and isolation.