Last week, we took a trip to New Milford senior Center to meet with one of its members, Joy Collins, and hear about her class “A Journey Towards Agelessness.” Joy was kind enough to not only share the inspiration behind her class, but also the stories behind her own journey of self-discovery and finding happiness in her life.
How did you find New Milford, CT?
I originally came to New Milford back in 1972. My husband at the time worked for Kimberly-Clark and he was transferred to New Milford. We were living in Newport Beach, California before coming to Connecticut and it was a big sales job trying to convince my children to move across the country. However, when we finally got here, my children just loved the town. We lived by the lake in New Milford and my children loved spending time in the water as well as all of the summertime activities that happened in town. They met a lot of people and made some great friends.
I stayed in New Milford until they were grown. When my children started to get married and have families of their own, I decided to move again. I ended up living in North Carolina and I worked for a local YMCA.
Why did you decide to come back to New Milford?
When I turned 76 (I am now 83 years young!) and finally decided to retire, I began to think about moving and where I wanted to live. I have actually lived in a lot of places. Kimberly-Clark moved us around a lot and every 2 to 3 years we were packing up and going to a different town or city. I have lived in Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina, and New York. But, when I was considering where I wanted to spend my years after retirement, I just thought about New Milford.
New Milford has everything that I want and it has much to offer for senior citizens. It has culture, outdoors, a nice town green as well as the beauty that comes with the change of seasons. I also love to walk and I am able to walk from my house right into town. I like not having to use a car or worry about traffic. Everything that I need is very accessible and within walking distance from my house. It’s just very convenient. Plus, I really like when I get the chance to just walk around town and bump into friends.
How did you get involved with the Senior Center?
I actually was not even thinking about the Senior Center when I moved back to CT. One day, I just decided to check it out and see what sort of programs were there and what sort of benefits I could get. The Center was just amazing and so very helpful. They showed me all of the benefits that I was qualified for and helped me to enroll in them. After that first encounter with the Senior Center, I became interested in a spirituality group that they offered. I started regularly going to that.
When did you get the idea to start your class “A Journey to Agelessness?”
The spirituality group that I was attending stopped after the woman who led it left. I really enjoyed the going to this group and I asked Carolyn Haglund, the Director of Senior Services at New Milford Senior Center, when it was going to start up again. Carolyn flipped the table on me and asked me to come up with a solution. She said, “you tell me.” She asked what I wanted to do and what I could bring to the table. Well, I thought about my journey and the self-discovery that I had been doing over the past few years. It wasn’t my original intention to start a class, but I did have a lot to share and a lot to say about growing older.
I put together a proposal for Carolyn of a class called “A Journey to Agelessness.” In this class, we would talk about ourselves and our past lives. We would excavate who we were and find out who we are now. We would talk about how we wanted to live our lives and how we wanted to grow older.
Can you tell us more about your “journey?”
In my soul-searching after becoming a senior citizen and not working anymore, I sort of felt a loss. I was doing the things that I normally did, like volunteering and getting involved in the community, but something wasn’t clicking. So, I started an excavation of myself. I asked myself what is it that I want to do and want do I want out of life. I realized that I wanted to live. I wanted to live healthy. I wanted to live with energy, beauty, passion, joy, and child-like wonder. Growing older can be a challenge, but you have to make things happen for yourself. We only have 1440 minutes in a day and you can use them any way you want. You miss so much when you just sit back and let life happen. You have to go out and engage. You must follow your interests and ignite your passions.
This journey or quest, as I like to call it, was the inspiration behind my class. When Carolyn asked me what I could do, I immediately thought about sharing my journey. I thought that I could share what I have been learning about, what I have been reading about, and what I have finding out about myself. I figured that other people must be feeling the same way and it would be nice if we could share our journeys with one another.
“Always act as if…as if I am happy, as if I am healthy, as if I am at peace, joyful, and strong.”
What sort of topics or themes do you talk about in your class?
We have been meeting for little over a year now and we have discussed a wide range of topics. For instance, in January we created vision boards with pictures, sayings, and other images that represented the visions or goals we have for ourselves in the year ahead. Also, we did a class on memory, which focused on the importance of having memories and how touching base with them or recalling them can bring you a lot of joy. Then, we had a whole class on music. No matter the age, music holds a lot of meaning for us. So, I had a lady coming in to teach us how to drum and we made a drumming circle.
We also had a class about our homes and how were we live has everything we love in it as well as reflects our personalities. After that class, we talked about the commandments in our lives. I posed the question to the class that day of how you want to live your life and what rules or commandments do you want to follow. Then, I had the class (myself included) write out these commandments. It was a hard exercise, but it was very rewarding. Moreover, we had classes on having grace in your life as well as on fashion and how you present yourself to the world.
Those sound like deep, but very meaningful topics. Can you tell us what your next class will be about?
My class for May is called “ A Touch of Wit and Whimsy,” but that is all I can tell you about it. I like to keep my classes a surprise!
But, for April, my class was all about kindness. We have been discussing being kind to ourselves and, now that our hearts are full of love and kindness for ourselves, it is time to start giving that love away. It is time we be kind to other people. We signified this transference of kindness and love by taking part in the Kindness Rocks Project. We painted rocks and put messages of hope, love, inspiration, and positivity on them. My hope is that we will be able to place them throughout the Center.
What do you hope people are getting out of your class?
I want people to excavate the passions, dreams, and joys in their lives. I want them to realize that life is still there for them to enjoy, but they have to make the effort to acknowledge it. This does take courage and energy, but you have to do it. Also, I hope the people who attend my class come to the same realizations that I have experienced on my journey. I have realized that not only do I want to live and live with passion, but that I have standards and ethics of my own. I have a set of core values that I follow and try to live my life by.
All of these realizations have made me feel like a pretty special person. And I really want others to feel the same way. I want others to feel like they are special and capable of doing some amazing things.
When you are not teaching your class, what do you like to do?
I just love the theater and I like to go to all of the little theaters in the area. On Thursday nights, the dress rehearsals for the performances are free for seniors, so I like to take advantage of that as much as possible. Also, I like to attend the concerts on the green, walk around town, and go to the town’s farmers market when the weather turns warm.
What advice do you have for other senior citizens?
One of the most importance lessons that I have learned is that happiness comes from within. We can’t rely on others or expect other people or things to make us happy. We must take control of our own happiness.
Also, I want other senior citizens to know that we are truly blessed with this time in our lives and this part of our journeys. “Elderhood”, as I like to call it, is the beginning of another life. We have been through childhood, adulthood, and now we have entered “elderhood”. It is really a blank canvas. We can do what we want to do and be who we want to be. We can ignite the passions we had before. The dreams that we had in childhood and in adulthood should not stop. We must continue to live our lives and take advantage of all the opportunities that are put before us.
For more information on Joy’s “A Journey Towards Agelessness Class,” check out the New Milford Senior Center’s newsletter. If you want to find a similar class in your area, take a look at the Age Well CT Events Calendar.