“Every time an old person dies, a library burns to the ground.”

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”– Rudyard Kipling

The Power to Transform

Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, and challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Our storytelling ability, a uniquely human trait, has been with us as long as we’ve been able to speak and listen. Not only do people love to tell stories, people love to hear stories!

Listen to this tiny story of Betty Meeks, who lives at Peachtree Village in Roswell New Mexico.  What a wonderful tiny story from Mrs. Meeks’ library of her lifetime! (read the transcription below the story)


Betty Meeks, storyteller

Rusty, Dusty, and the shoe

I named the story “Rusty, Dusty, and the shoe.”

Betty Meeks Tiny Stories-page-001[1]I taught first grade and one day, while the children were out playing during the lunch hour I was in my room grading papers. One of my little girls came in crying and I asked her what was wrong. She said, “Rusty and Dusty got my shoe and threw it over the fence!’

So I went out with her and I went over into the vacant lot and got her shoe, brought it back and gave it to her. I was not saying a word to the boys. They had seen me come out, so they knew that I knew what had happened.

So I let them play, and when the bell rang to come in and resume classes I brought my children in, got the rest of the class seated, and assigned them some spelling words to work on. Then I took the two little boys, which were identical twins down to the Principal’s office. They stood before the Principal’s desk, and I stood beside them and told the Principal what had happened. Then I stepped behind them because I wanted him to have their full attention.

So he said, “Did you really do that to Julie?” One little twin said, “Oh we didn’t, we didn’t,” and the other one popped in and he said, “Oh yes we did!” I was so shocked and amused that I had to clamp my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing out loud.

Well, the Principal went ahead and reprimanded the children, and I think he gave them a swat. Then he said, “You boys go back to your room and sit down and get to work, I want to talk to your teacher.” And so they left, and the Principal said, “Mrs. Meeks, in the future, when you bring children down, please do not stand behind them and laugh. Couldn’t you tell how hard it was for me to keep a straight face?” I said, “Yes, I saw it.” Well, we both had a good laugh and I went back to my class.


“Every time an old person dies, a library burns to the ground.”  African Proverb

The Elders are truly ‘human libraries’  with stories ripe for harvesting! I just got back from a community in Illinois and was captivated by the tiny stories I heard.

We have a unique opportunity to harvest the wisdom, the humor, and memories we hear every day. We are in relationship with elders who have journeyed almost a full century on this planet. Through their stories, we connect with one another while giving our resident storytellers the opportunity to reconnect with what was once taken for granted. We give them the opportunity to share their memories for generations to come. And, the tiny stories can be preserved forever in digital media and libraries.

Through the simple process of capturing these adventures, challenges, and wisdom acquired on their life journey –  we create a profoundly enriching experience for both the storyteller and the recorder.


To hear more tiny stories from Elder Storytellers around the United states go to the Tiny Stories Page, and get ready to smile, and be filled with the legacies of elderhood preserved here.

If you are interested in preserving your own tiny stories, or the stories of someone you love, please contact me, and I will be happy to help you save your library of tiny stories too!


About the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

What are old people for?

“What are old people for?”

In 2004, a physician named Dr. Bill Thomas asked that question in a best selling book “What are old people for? How Elders will save the world”   Dr. Thomas and his merry band of age disrupters were recently in the Pacific Northwest promoting their Disrupt Aging event.  The stop in Eugene, Oregon was their 110th show.

I am convinced!  Elders will save the world!

It was a  first-of-its-kind event! This immersive and transformational non-fiction theater wove film, music and first-person stories with groundbreaking research. We were challenged to re-frame aging. Dr. Bill asks “What if?” What if everything we knew about aging was wrong?

We invited 88-year-old Mary, who lives at Shorewood Senior Living in Florence Oregon to come to the event that began with a lunch with Dr. Thomas sponsored by AARP. The lunch group was small, giving us quality time with Dr. Thomas asking questions and sharing our passion for being part of a movement to disrupt aging in America.  Mary had learned about Dr. Thomas a few years ago when her husband read about how forward thinking Dr. Thomas was as a world renowned Geriatrician. She was thrilled to meet him in person, as her husband had passed away just 8 months ago at the age of 92.  As Dr. Thomas put his arms around Mary she told him,  “My husband is here looking down on us right now.”  Mary and her husband had embraced a vibrant elderhood together.

We asked Mary to share her experience with us.  She was thrilled to spend this time with Dr. Thomas, and he was honored that she blessed him with her presence!

Mary and Dr T

Mary meets Dr. Thomas.

“When I  was asked if I would be interested in attending a program called Changing Aging by Dr. Bill Thomas in Eugene, Oregon on May 5th, I had heard about the doctor and his specialty in geriatrics. Dr. Thomas was on his “Changing Aging” tour across America.

My first thought was to turn down the offer to attend because it would require sitting in a car for almost an hour to reach Eugene, Oregon and being an elderly woman in my 88th year, the thought of my stiffening body getting out of a car after an hour was not particularly appealing for the start of a long day in town.

My curiosity overcame my thoughts of wondering if I could tolerate the long day ahead knowing that we wouldn’t get back to Florence until almost ten at night.

I am happy to say that the day was a wonderful experience reinforcing what thoughts I had about my aging process. Thinking about all the clichés one could think of, Dr. Thomas fulfilled all of them—“ hit the nail on the head” and others.

He did it with lovely entertainment—stories and wonderful music along with fabulous electronics, the latter, no doubt, standard equipment of this era to the younger generation. As I got into the car to return home, I realized that I wasn’t as tired as I expected to be, I hadn’t thought much about my frailties. I had done something different this day. I had started to do what Dr. Thomas’ program was all about. I was disrupting aging!”

Dr. Thomas is taking his tour to the East Coast in June.  Check out his schedule.

It is truly an amazing social experiment and we were honored to be a part of it!  See the short video below.


jean-garbodenAbout the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

6 reasons to break a sweat in 2017 – Your Brain will love it!

Last night as we celebrated the beginning of 2017, how many of us made a New Year’s resolution to begin walking, running, and exercising more?

Break a sweat?   Do I have to?  Will my brain really love it?

Running and exercising hasn’t always been an activity enjoyed by the American population. 60  years ago, getting exercise and sweating was not talked about as a health benefit.  People did not have the sedentary lifestyles and jobs we have today, and being outside and moving was part of everyday life.

In the late 1960’s  publications taught and argued for the benefits of jogging as a health benefit. Then in the 1970’s the nation rapidly grew interested in participating in the sport as amateurs.  National athletic celebrities such as Steve Prefontaine and Joan Benoit stimulated interest in the sport. The union of Bill Bowerman and University of Oregon track and field with the creation of Nike marketed the activity. Running became mainstream and fun, and a popular and healthy exercise.   With that phenomena, studies have been done over the years on the benefits of aerobic exercise, such as running.

In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.

This information indicates to me that you and I can actually take action to boost our own  brain health and perhaps be part of reducing the number of cases of dementia in the world.

 Researchers say one new case of dementia is detected every four seconds globally. They estimate that by the year 2050, more than 115 million people will have dementia worldwide.

So, Why should we exercise?  Below are 6 reasons, that I am committed to at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily.  I plan to take my brain health and longevity of life seriously. I do this not only for myself but for my children and grandchildren.  We can make choices for ourselves now that can benefit our families and future generations.

1. Exercise is great for your brain.

Exercise is linked to quicker learning,  less depression, and better memory. Studies also suggest that exercise is, as of now, the best way to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, a major fear for many Americans. Scientists don’t know exactly why exercise changes the structure and function of the brain. It’s an area of active research; in fact, next year, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will launch a six-year, $170 million study with a group of about 3,000 sedentary people.

2. Exercise can make you age slower.

Exercise has been shown to lengthen lifespan!  A study by the American Academy of Neurology suggests that moderate-intensity exercise may slow the aging process by 10 years!   Exercise appears to slow aging at the cellular level.

3. Exercise can make your skin look better.

Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the skin, delivering oxygen and nutrients that improve skin health and even help wounds heal faster. The skin also serves as a release point for heat.  When you exercise, your muscles generate a lot of heat. The heat in the muscle transfers to the blood, which shuttles it to the skin.  (P.S. If you find that your flushed face is accompanied by fatigue, dizziness, sweating more than usual, or nausea, then it could be a sign of heat exhaustion, so if you experience these symptoms, stop exercising immediately, and drink plenty of water.)

4. Exercise can make you happier.

Countless studies show that many types of exercise, such as yoga, walking, dancing, or cycling, make people feel better and can even relieve symptoms of depression. Exercise triggers the release of chemicals in the brain—serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, dopamine—that dull pain, lighten your mood and relieve stress, and give you a sense of joy and well-being – making you a happier person.

5. Your fat cells will shrink.

Yes!   They shrink!  After consistent aerobic exercise training, the body gets better at burning fat, which requires a lot of oxygen to convert it into energy. One of the benefits of exercise training is that our cardiovascular system gets stronger and better at delivering oxygen, so we are able to metabolize more fat as an energy source. As a result, your fat cells—which produce the substances responsible for chronic low-grade inflammation—shrink, and so does inflammation.

6. Amazing things can happen in just a few minutes.

It is amazing that it doesn’t take much movement to get the benefits.  In a study by the Mayo Clinic,  it is recommended that as a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

Reducing sitting time is important, too. The more hours you sit each day, the higher your risk of metabolic problems, even if you achieve the recommended amount of daily physical activity. Short on long chunks of time? Even brief bursts of activity offer benefits. For instance, if you can’t fit in one 30-minute walk, try three 10-minute walks instead. What’s most important is making regular physical activity part of your lifestyle.

So, break a sweat in 2017!  And as you are getting your 30 minutes of exercise in each day, use that time to reflect on emotional and spiritual wellness too. “There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.” ~ Buddha  

Charles, a 96-year-old man living in the UK says,  “Anybody who tells me they are too old to exercise, I say to them –  make an appointment at the crematorium.”  Watch his commentary on old age. Charles says, “Old age is something to look forward to.  It is important to stay fit in old age.

“In my judgment, physical fitness is basic to all forms of excellence and to a strong, confident nation.” Robert Kennedy


11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada