Full of Years (FOY) was recently invited to interview blog writer, author and grateful old guy BOB SITZE for a behind-the-scenes look at his work. The interview took place at the sprawling FULL OF YEARS campus in suburban Chicago.
FOY: Thanks for this chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at your work here at the sprawling FULL OF YEARS campus in suburban Chicago.
BOB: The pleasure is all mind.
FOY: Well said…. So, Bob, tell me a little bit about how you got started blog-writing for older adults.
BOB: I found myself getting older. Knowing more old people, spending time visiting them. Caring about aging parents and in-laws.
FOY: Most of us go through the same experiences, I’m sure. What was different about yours?
BOB: I’m inclined toward writing already, so it seemed like a natural fit—opportunity meshing with assets.
FOY: I’m not sure what you mean by opportunity. Do you—
BOB: —Maybe not as much “opportunity” as “the right time”. Look around, FOY, it’s pretty obvious. More of us seniors than ever. Spiritual excitement front and center. A lot of us still wanting to make a difference. The entire country paying attention to us. A perfect time to send good words out into the air.
FOY: That’s your mission? Good words into the air?
BOB: Hmmm. Never thought of it in those terms, but yeah, maybe so….
FOY: Do you have another way to describe your mission? You have one, right?
BOB: Sure. That’s why this sprawling campus. (Laughs) My mission for these words is probably to be of service for one segment of the older adult population. To offer a benefit that I hope they can take advantage of.
FOY: Which is….?
BOB: Another approach to spirituality with a different kind of Christian piety at its core.
FOY: I’m not sure I understand what you mean.
BOB: I’m not completely sure, either. But I have the sense that there’s a growing cohort of older adults—and those heading toward their later years—who don’t quite fit into the usual ways of expressing their faith. People who think about being godly but don’t use the same words as their church. People who wrestle with spiritual concepts. People whose questions may not have ready answers available from religious leaders. Maybe even people who are a little impious.
FOY: They don’t sound all that religious to me.
BOB: Maybe not in the usual ways, but they’re thinking a whole lot about spiritual matters that pop up all over their lives—things their churches might miss.
FOY: Some examples?
BOB: How about these: What does it mean to experience body shame when your body is old? Or what do you do with all the stories about your fascinating life-experiences? Matters like planning your memorial service now; dealing with the loss of your independence; being poor; keeping your sense of humor; dealing with inattention, paternalism or disregard. Most of all, thinking of life as full, rich, satisfying, productive. Not in spite of being old, but BECAUSE you are old!
FOY: You’ve thought a lot about this, right?
BOB: I’m fortunate to have lots of self-talk time. Quiet moments alone.
FOY: Let me switch gears here…. Who do you think of as your audience?
BOB: Thinking about an audience is where this whole thing started. I realized that I knew folks with the kind of non-traditional spirituality I just told you about. People creeping up on being old—some of them worried about it. The wonderful caregivers who make our well-being possible. Another audience that came to mind: Church leaders trying to rethink their senior ministries. I wanted to give them some short, easily used tools for group sharing, devotions, bulletin inserts, newsletter columns. That sort of thing….
FOY: What do you think you’re offering these folks? Maybe something they aren’t getting anywhere else…?
BOB: (Laughs) I’m not the first guy to think of this, so there are lots of places to find support or energy for this time in life. But what I think I’m offering is a different point of view about spirituality at this time in life. I start with life-experiences and move toward spiritual fundamentals–rather than in the other direction. Maybe I can insert a little bit of irreverence into the usual spiritual rhetoric. For sure I can be honest about some older adult matters that don’t often see the insides of a devotion book—some of them not even proper in polite company!
FOY: So you’ve constructed this word-edifice of blogs—you’re about three months into this, right?—and it’s growing bigger. Anything on the horizon that our readers might want to know about?
BOB: Yes, all kinds of possibilities: I’m thinking about a continuing set of blogs that might help caregivers, a couple of weeks’ worth, maybe. How to start or strengthen congregational ministries involving older adults. More video blogs that—
FOY: —I wanted to ask you about the videos. Why that approach?
BOB: (Laughs) Well, it’s not because I come across all that good on camera. And certainly not because I’m a filmmaker. I thought it might be good to put a face—an old face, obviously—on these words. So people could see that I have some skin in this game called “getting older.” That I’m not a perfect specimen, that I’m passionate about this matter. Maybe so they could look me in the eye and see themselves? The verdict is still out on the videos, but I’ll keep at this idea.
FOY: Anything else coming down the line?
BOB: I want to keep sharpening my pen—or is it typing fingers these days?—so that I’m offering readers something incisive and insistent. Maybe covering a wider range of topics. Being a little more (or a little less) personal. Paying attention to what spirituality means out there in the world beyond church walls. Inviting feedback.
FOY: We’re coming to the end of our time here. Anything else you want readers to know?
BOB: There’s always more, FOY! Let’s see…. I hope readers check out the ARCHIVES and CATEGORIES sections—lots of still-fresh blogs stored there. The SEARCH feature is fun to play with. The COMMENTS section gives a chance for some feedback. I’d love to have people subscribe—so I get a better idea of who’s reading this stuff.
And the thanks…. All the people who helped me bring a good idea into something tangible: Kris at Orangeflux, Alberto at CorpImages, friends who keep getting out the word, the folks who serve as invisible muses, my spouse and reviewer Chris. And of course, all the readers. Without readers, I’d be working at a sprawling FULL OF YEARS campus in suburban Chicago, just talking to myself!
FOY: Like now?
BOB: That’s right, Bob. Like now….
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