Be dignified in the flow of life!

by Heinz Schwirten and Werner Voss

“The youth mania, according to which man is judged with regard to appearance and efficiency, must not be the yardstick for the cohabitation of the  generations, because then man himself is no longer the centre of attention, but is subject to neoliberal, economic rules.”

The image of aging people is often presented distortedly and unrealistically in public. The subject of pensions is connected with the image of frail seniors sitting on the park bench, holding a walking stick with bony hands. Or, the old person depicted is grey haired, walks bent over the walker or is pushed over the sidewalk in a wheelchair, is also slow in his thinking and already a little “scatty”.
This cliché must be opposed decisively, because every human being, even the elderly, always has dignity because he is human and remains so until his death, even if he is frail. The life of all human beings (especially of the elderly) must not be subjected to the economistic logic of practical constraint, i. e. their pure functionality with regard to cost-benefit thinking. The youth mania, according to which man is judged with regard to appearance and efficiency, must not be the yardstick for the cohabitation of the  generations, because then man himself is no longer the centre of attention, but is subject to neoliberal, economic rules.
The polarisation young against old, in the sense of “we must work hard for the old”, is poison for the coexistence in a society. Rather it requires a mutual fertilisation, the young can orientate on the older ones – because these have more life experience. Vice versa, younger people can help older people, for example with regard to the handling of digital work equipment. In this way, new spaces of encounter can be created, which can bring old and young alike out of isolation and loneliness and thus enable people to live together in a way that does justice to their social nature. In this way, counter-worlds to digitisation are created especially for the younger ones, whose worlds are so often superficial. That life in old age can be very worth living gives hope to the young. People also develop their creativity in old age by exchanging ideas with younger people and vice versa.
Much more needs to be said about the chances of aging. Experiential knowledge can be passed on. If we think of voluntary work, it is mainly pensioners who are committed to the common good on the municipal level in the city council. Other examples include sports clubs, reading mentors, food aid, refugee aid, etc.
Thus it is necessary to awaken slumbering potentials, to raise hidden treasures in order to draw undreamt-of resources from them and to develop abilities by conveying appreciation and conversely experiencing appreciation from one’s counterpart.
Social togetherness can be promoted in particular, but not exclusively, by those who are just leaving professional life (third stage of life) and suddenly have a lot of free time at their disposal. By turning to their fellow human beings in the fourth stage of life (old age), they find a meaningful and fulfilling task.
Sports in the community can make a significant contribution to this. Rehab sports for people with dementia provide exemplary evidence of the stabilisation of cognitive, psychosocial and physical abilities (see box). Good mood, joie de vivre and fun are the important factors which, in addition to physical activity, are decisive for well-being on both sides. The participants experience sharing in society, esteem and interpersonal solidarity, which in turn raises their self-esteem. In this atmosphere, a natural antithesis to the decline of values in our society is formed.    •
(Translation Current Concerns)

My experiences as a trainer in rehabilitation sport for people with dementia

wv. For 8 years now I have been gaining experiences with great pleasure in prevention sports with various groups – with ski gymnastics, back training and general fitness.
A few weeks ago I set foot on a new terrain after I successfully acquired my trainer’s licence for rehabilitation sport neurologie at the Behinderten- und Rehasport-Verband  (Disabled and Rehabilitation Sport Association) North Rhine-Westphalia.
Completely inexperienced I approached my new task and after a few stumbling blocks I noticed how I settled in better and better by every practice lesson. I began to realise that even people with greater limitations, sitting in a wheelchair, can be won for movement by turning to them, of course within the bounds of their possibilities. I experienced this with a participant who in the first lesson sat immobile in a wheelchair, staring rigidly, and who now suddenly scurried a smile over her face and began to twist her foot or tear up her arms. I was quite fond of the activity I could elicit from her. Something similar happened to a participant who was otherwise more prone to aggression. With the help of facial expressions and gestures, I gave her a Redondo ball into her hands, which she then, imitating me, kneaded with her fingers or then carried from one hand to the other, smiling. This got my heart going in the full sense of the word!
It is interesting for me to experience how the more fit participants are able to perform fine motor exercises, for example pressing a clothespin with their thumb and then alternating with all their fingers.
I experienced similar things with other exercises, which I wanted to leave out at first, because they require a lot of skill and to my astonishment were mastered by some. My praise was for the success.
Throwing small sacks or beer mats in frisbee-style from a circle of chairs into a bowl set up in the middle was an experience of success for everyone, which of course increased the self-esteem of the athletes considerably.
Each practice lesson starts and ends with a playful ritual and is underlaid with rhymes, which many already join in after a few training sessions. Just wonderful!
A member of the group is always very helpful and hands me the training jacket at the end, helps with the collection of small sports equipment such as beer mats, balloons and bags.
All in all, a very fulfilling activity for me, like balm for the soul.
It is also interesting to experience how broad the spectrum of sport is, from commercial professional high performance sport, ambitious hobby sport, popular sport, prevention sport, health sport to rehabilitation sport for people with disabilities.
For the latter, sport, games, fun, exercises with all their bio-psycho-social positive effects are in the foreground.

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