By Beth Arsenault
This article was written in the Fall 2016 Edition of Collaboration for Healthy Aging and Care. SeniorAction, formerly Adagio-seniors connects all who are interested in the Aging process with the intention of broadening our cultural understanding of the multiple facets of Aging. SeniorAction is dedicated to presenting Aging as a period of endless possibilities.
I had the opportunity to chat with Jeanne Brideau to learn more about SeniorAction/Adagio-Seniors . Please read our exchange below.
What is your role with SeniorAction/Adagio-Seniors?
I am the initiator of this social project which aims to celebrate the privilege of Aging. Seniors are the salt of the earth, the guardians of our country’s values and traditions. Seniors are the bounty of harvest, the dispensers of wisdom and experience. We, the SeniorAction/Adagio-seniors Team, wish to highlight the wisdom and beauty of the elders we know and admire.
How did the idea of SeniorAction/Adagio-Seniors transpire?
It came about after accompanying my parents on their aging journey. I was struck by how they aged differently. My mother suffered from a mild form of dementia, but severe enough that she had to leave the family home and be cared for in a residence. My father, on the other hand, lived a very active life and was driving his car preceding the month of his death at the great age of 95.
You recently returned from visiting your daughter in Australia and had the opportunity to interview elders while traveling in Vietnam.
Yes, and it’s one of the many special moments in my life. I traveled solo the length of the country from Ho Chi Minh City to the Sapa mountain range that borders with China. The Vietnamese are a friendly people who seize every opportunity to practice their English language skills. It was in the nation’s capital of Hanoi where I met Nguyen Le Hoai An and Dao Thuy Linh, two high school students wanting to practice their English, and who made it possible to chat with seniors. All three of us were blown away by our chance interviews along Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
Were there any particular seniors whose stories stood out or touched you?
One was 84 year old photographer Quang Phung who has been taking photos since 1972 and witnessed and captured many things through the camera and the lens of experience – war and famine, but also the richness of the lives of those who survived. He has been capturing these moments so future generations know and understand from whence they came.
I was especially touched by an elderly grandmother who was responsible for the upbringing of her grandchildren. There are very little government social supports in Vietnam, so as the end of the month draws near she can be found selling chocolate bars and bottled water under a tree. Those who frequent the lake know her well and purchase items so she can feed her family. Community social supports are alive and well in Vietnam.
What did their stories convey about the culture of aging in Vietnam?
In their lifetime, Vietnamese seniors have experienced wars, famine and the reconstruction of their country. They are grateful for the little they have, they strive to keep fit, and many still work. In our privileged, peaceful country we could perhaps connect more frequently with feelings of gratitude as well as pride in our aging bodies. It seems to me that seniors in Vietnam are proud – of their country, their families, and of lives lived. Are Canadians proud of their long life, proud of their role in building the country we know, proud of their grey hair and wrinkled hands? These are the types of questions I ask and one reason for initiating Adagio-seniors.
So it sounds like you are a lot of the big questions in hopes to shift the cultural paradigm around aging.
The paradigm is changing. It’s so obvious. In the last five years alone, we have seen seniors portrayed in a positive light, whether it’s on TV, in movies or the papers. But we, as seniors, cannot be spectators and expect the shift to come from outside. Why are we waiting for government or NGOs to bring about change? We, as New Brunswick Seniors, need to put aside our humble nature and be active participants in this important dialogue.
I am much like a grain of sand, many grains of sand become a beach. The change we are seeking needs to come from all of us – young and old.
For more information on SeniorAction and their programming, please contact Jeanne Brideau,