Living long can bring unexpected joy when one is willing to try something new.
Most people do not associate aging in a positive light, and most do not consider it the time to master new skills. But four octogenarians and two septuagenarians at Vi at Aventura are defying perceptions.
They have not only survived, but thrived into old age by embracing new passions.
Barbara Cromarty, 88, is called “The Midnight Poet.” She started writing while the other residents were asleep, and it became a nightly ritual.
Now, she has four self-published books and over 200 poems in her anthology. She said she derives inspiration from her friends and daily life at the Vi.
“Poetry keeps my mind sharp and has made me look at my surroundings with a different perspective,” Cromarty said. “This has been an unexpected source of joy for me.”
Susan Shovers, 81, and Sherry Schaeffer, 75, always dreamt of being in front of the camera. Now, they are the news correspondents for their senior living community and host a weekly talk show, ‘A La Vie at the Vi,’ that airs on the in-house TV station.
At the start of each episode the pair say, “All the news and views that you can use.”
Schaeffer said their journey has been exciting. “To think what started as a fun way to connect with fellow residents has now become one of the greatest highlights of my retirement.”
The women have become well-respected National Mature Media Award-winning community correspondents, and have interviewed South Florida mainstays including Aventura’s Chief of Police Michael Bentolila and Sun-Sentinel’s Jewish Journal Editor Al Goch. Click HERE to watch.
Another resident, Rachel Neuman, 86, picked up ballroom dancing after becoming a widow. Dancing was never on her radar she said, but when grief struck the power of dance became her hidden blessing.
Six years ago, just after the passing of her husband of 40 years, Neuman was emotionally depleted. At her daughter’s suggestion, she found a local studio and enrolled in a series of lessons with professional dancer and instructor Stefan Ilies.
“Dancing offers tremendous health and physical benefits from improved memory, flexibility and balance to reduced stress levels and risk of dementia,” said Maia Mediavilla, Vi at Aventura Director of Lifestyle.
During the pandemic, Vi resident Hank Solomon, 83, decided to try painting for the first time. He now uses his canvas to show gratitude and connect with fellow residents.
Like so many others who were quarantined, Solomon leveraged the pandemic-induced lockdown to find a new hobby. He sought out opportunities at the senior living community for inspiration. He was given a painting kit including a canvas pad, palette of paint and a set of brushes.
Having never lifted a paint brush before, Solomon didn’t think much of it and buried it away in his drawer. Days went by, then weeks, until he finally decided to give it a try.
Inspiration struck and before he knew it, Solomon was excited to paint the things he saw, places he went and pictures he took. His canvas grew to be “a reflection of his life’s experiences and travels.”
Solomon said he never would have imagined learning to paint in his 80s, and now he can’t imagine life without it. He participated in Visual Expressions, Vi at Aventura’s Resident Art Exhibition & Contest.
Maritza McCaskill, 75, also participated in the contest. She has emerged as a talented watercolor artist and said learning new techniques keeps her mind sharp and imagination stimulated.
Now, she visits the art studio, bringing along her music and supplies, and allows her creativity to shine. On Dec. 2, she won the Judges’ Choice Award at the Visual Expressions exhibition in celebration of Miami’s Art Basel.
Book may help with holiday stress
In “The Mystery of Self: A Look into the Infinite Creative Nature of Mind” author Kevin Scott delves into common themes in today’s world like capitalism and materialism. Scott, who lives in Hollywood, said he believes these are some of the root causes of depression, sadness and mental fatigue.
“Depression is an effect of continued attention on what is unwanted. Naturally, if you mainly reflect on what is not desired you will never be happy until that thought process ceases. Anyone who lives essentially joyfully, will generally place attention on things preferred as a daily habit,” Scott said.
His new book combines various social sciences with spirituality in an attempt to raise the consciousness of the reader. Scott uses historical philosophers, book excerpts, and real-life occurrences to show that “one’s wholeness is derived from oneself and the mind.”
“This book will assist the reader in realizing that the very stress they experience results directly from the continuous way they think and perceive reality to be,” Scott said. “A simple change of focus will reveal the everyday miraculous nature of existence.”
Beach Ball supports water safety
The YMCA of South Florida’s Beach Ball 2022 raised more than $630,000 for water safety education and drowning prevention programs. Nearly 400 guests attended the event hosted by Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
Funds go toward the YMCA’s Aquatic Financial Assistance Program, which provides swim lessons and water safety instruction to at-risk children in Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Child drownings in Florida are up by 44 percent, the most since 2009.
“It was incredibly inspiring to see so many in our community come out and support us after a two-year hiatus because of the pandemic,” said YMCA of South Florida President and CEO Sheryl A. Woods. “I think everyone in the room was touched by the stories they heard. Awareness brings action and that’s what we are here for at the Y.”
Rhonda and Dusty Milner, and Milner, Inc. were recognized with this year’s Life Saver Award for their longtime support of the YMCA. Since their son died after drowning in their pool from Shallow Water Blackout, the Milners have worked steadily to bring awareness to the dangers of breath-holding.
Shallow Water Blackout is an underwater faint due to lack of oxygen to the brain brought on by holding one’s breath for long periods of time. Without immediate rescue, the swimmer quickly drowns. The Milners founded Shallow Water Blackout Prevention in an effort to prevent more senseless deaths. Visit www.ymcasouthflorida.org
Write to ChristinaMMayo@gmail.com with news for this column.