Why this octogenarian is engaged

1942 photo of Genevieve (age 7) leading "Molly", the pony with two evacuees on her

At a Lucidity Network meeting, a member asked me directly why I am still so energetically engaged at age 83. I did give some reasons, but recognised that the answers are complex and that other people are surprised or puzzled at the level of my engagement. I decided that for my own and others’ sakes I should reflect on my motivators.

In Japan, in the 1970’s, I realised that I should record my personal observations about health and other experiences and that could be valuable to other people in the future. My accumulative and updating journal ‘Resources: sources and resources for occupational health’ in the 1980’s was indeed a practical attempt to make my professional observations available widely.

When I was elected as a councillor, in the London Borough of Hounslow, I decided that rather than health and education “which I know about”, I would do planning. Open House London offered excellent training as did TfL (Transport for London). Their training and ‘councillor‘ status gave me the confidence to contribute in other professional groups where I was often the only ‘political elected’ person or representative of local government.

Resulting from my research for Resources and beyond, I have followed threads on health, environment, third sector (for example NCVO), and others. I have done biblical translations and Bible-related content, and created a dictionary, that is to be available as open source, and is suitable for teachers and students of English as a second or additional language. I’ve followed KTN and Innovate UK from the early days. Since becoming a councillor, I have also engaged with local government and national government information sources.

After a long period of illness, pneumonia and sequelae in 2009-10 I started to engage or re-engage within something like a five-mile radius. I had moved to Hillingdon after selling my maisonette on the day that I had been elected as a councillor in Hounslow, so had not built strong local roots. The social worker at the hospital suggested that I join the U3A, an Age UK social group and activities at the local Leisure centre. I did those things.

To facilitate my rehabilitation, my church leader wanted me to re-order the church library and voluntarily work in the office each week, which I did. Supervision, feedback and related engagement were invisible. When the church’s new office and community room were being refurbished last year – that stopped. In spite of enquiries, the library is still in boxes, and there has been no discussion about possible resumption.

After being with the Age UK social group for over a year I moved to being a volunteer in an ‘Aging well’ group where I was able to express my creativity. I joined the U3A Science, Geology and Digital photography groups but gradually discontinued after about three years. Physical distance and the exclusive social climate discouraged me. After about three years I gradually desisted from both in favour of walking, especially in a short-lived walking group, that went outside my normal range.

As I regained confidence I cruised, to enjoy a Christian history theme, around the British Isles and eighteen months later cruised, with the same captain, to biblical sites in the Mediterranean. Both cruises were very personally affirming with great personal engagement.

I did attend some professional meetings, as earlier, and have continued that engagement that is growing again now. I started to attend some London Borough of Hillingdon meetings. However, still being a newcomer to the borough made engagement difficult.

I hosted a highly qualified nurse from Papua New Guinea for the six-month duration of her one day a week course in tropical medicine. We exchanged experiences and knowledge. We walked miles together and she was amazed as my ‘dead’ vine and other trees gradually displayed their full glory in the especially long spring. I saw our beautiful natural environment through new eyes.

While attending an older people’s consultation group at the Civic Centre I signed up to BORG (Brunel Older People’s Reference Group). That engagement has been very personally rewarding. BORG invited us to an event to discuss a research project (and they fed us). A few weeks later we get a letter describing the research project and participant requirements. If eligible, we were encouraged to sign up. When the study was finished we got an invitation to the report day. Several universities or other groups may get involved (and they feed us!). As the most proactive BORG member, I now attend lots of other events at the University and am gradually being rewarded by growing engagement and recognition.

I participated in a Brunel research study on loneliness in the elderly. I noted that digital photography was increasing the quality, intensity and interest of my observations, especially of the natural and built environment. That allowed engagement with the environment but not proper engagement with people, which was becoming more difficult.

I lost my closest female friend, my adopted brother’s wife, in 2009, and after five or so years in various care homes, my older sister and my former room-mate, in early 2018. So, the people who really knew me have gone.

When the Age UK ‘Aging well’ group closed I moved to a group of mainly Punjabi speaking women. where I join in the exercises, move lots of chairs, and usually play Rummikub ‘open handed’ with one to three group members.

There are sometimes two or more weeks in the summer and at Christmas when engagement stops. Yes, one does get invited out on Christmas Day. I usually carve the turkeys at St John’s, West Ealing for the ‘soup kitchen’ Christmas dinner but then go to a home for the rest of the day. I also call available people together for a muddy walk between Christmas and the New year, ploughman’s lunch and board games afterwards.

At some point, I realised that when I went to a meeting ‘in town’ (London), I built in exercise including cardio exercise by walking up the escalators and stairs. I also realised that organisers were glad to welcome and engage with attendees. Also, that at London meetings one often met with and could engage with leaders, especially, the professors at the BCS Women and related meetings. I use my Freedom pass and started to look for more frequent events ‘in town’.

Knowing that one will have one or more meaningful engagement in which one can offer some useful contribution brings me deep pleasure.

Thank you, Lucy and Lucidity Network, for enabling such purposeful engagement even between the physical meetings!

Genevieve is the oldest (and one of the most engaged!) members of Lucidity Network, if you need a hand reawakening your mojo come join our free Facebook community dedicated to clearer thinking for better results. You’ll also be privy to upcoming events and find out when the network is open to new members.

Genevieve M Hibbs former: nurse (general and occupational health), midwife, Christian missionary, lecturer, elected councillor, mayor and a member of the Lucidity Network.