Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sue's Corner- Peer Mentoring

I can’t remember where I read this, but I’ve seen a quote that goes something like this: “Aging is a team sport. I can’t win this game without you.”

Who said it? I can’t remember. But it got me thinking....And it wasn’t long before my thoughts turned to (what else?) the Red Hat Society. Years ago, the then-head of the Gerontology Center at California State University, Fullerton (right here in town) told me that what we, in the RHS were doing, was something she referred to as “peer mentoring.”

Dr. Pauline Abbott’s career-long study of older people has taught her that the generation known as Baby Boomers is refusing to emulate their parents’ way of getting older. They insist that they are going to do it their own way - even though they aren’t exactly sure what that is going to mean. Pauline, of an age with most of us in the Fabulous Founders Chapter, cheered us on in our trail-blazing. In fact, not long after I met her she became an active Member of our Chapter, an instance of an observer becoming an enthusiastic participant.

So what is peer mentoring? Pauline told us that the best way to describe it is to picture all of us Hatters gathering together, putting our heads (topped by red hats) together, and saying “So guys, how do we do this?” Of course the RHS “group” soon consisted of many thousands of other women, many of whom seemed to be anxious to provide input of their own. Initially we seemed to agree mostly on how we did not want to do it. We didn’t necessarily agree with the catch phrase “fifty is the new forty;” we weren’t into major denial of any kind. And we decidedly were not about providing entertainment or amusement for the public. (This endeavor was just for us.) We just were not interested in being viewed as typical older women. As we like to say, we are not dead and we are not done. We refuse to view ourselves as “old ladies,” but rather as vibrant, interested (and interesting) women who happened to be reaching “a certain age.” And we are slowly but surely ensuring that those around us adopt the updated view of us that we have of ourselves.

As time has gone on, we have, just by watching each other, begun to form a fairly clear picture of what kind of woman joins the Red Hat Society. If we had to describe a typical Hatter, we would say she is fun, interested in expanding her circle of friends, open to new experiences, enthusiastic about developing her talents, and probably has a wicked sense of humor. She refuses to take herself too seriously and makes her best effort to enjoy life at every stage. Of course she has a serious side as well, and each individual must face unique challenges and trials. And that’s another big reason we need each other. With all of our adopted sisters, we need not ever go through anything alone.

Although we have an enormous amount in common, each of us still has her own row to hoe, so to speak. Each of us needs the others, to serve as examples, encouragers and supporters. We all need each other, our Chapterettes and, by natural extension, the Red Hat Society as a whole. As the quotation says, “Aging is a team sport...”

I don’t know about you, but I sure can’t do it alone (nor do I want to)! Can you?

In friendship,

Sue Ellen, Exalted Queen Mother

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