We All Age Differently - Photo by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience® We All Age Differently – Photo by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience®

We all age differently, don’t we? The above photo, taken near my home this morning, reveals this truth. Some have carried a lifetime of the weight of the world on their shoulders, while others skip through life with sunshine on their shoulders. My role, in the world of older adults, is to help them discover the sunshine in their last stage of life. And, I am pleased to say it’s truly happening. Each week my “Kareen’s Kettle” gatherings are well attended. Not because caregivers drag them out of bed to be with me, but because they really want to come. I’ve noticed an increasing amount of self-initiated attendance at some of my gatherings because it’s a part of the weekly routine they look forward to. Case in point, just a few days ago, one of my regular attendees, a 95-year-old gentleman who is sharp as a tack, showed up with his physical therapist right behind him. The physical therapist informed me that she had lost him to me. His reply? “I’d rather have this than that.” J

Since my last newsletter, a lot has happened, including a Playback Theatre training at Kansas State University. Playback is a form of improvisational theatre in which stories are derived from audience members and played back by the performers. I took the class as a means to hone my skills in the area of helping people recognize the stories within them. I wrote a song about this a number of years ago.  Note the conversation starters, which I encourage you to use, in my lyrics:

Story to Tell

By Kareen King

Everybody’s got a story to tell

Some keep it secret, some tell it well

Some been to heaven, some been to hell

Everybody’s got a story to tell


Where have your feet taken you?

Have you traveled the world or simply walked through the zoo?

Where have you never set foot, but if you had it to do?

You’ve got a story to tell


What do you treasure, what do you despise?

Have you held any grudges or made up any lies?

What are your deepest fears, and what has made you wise?

You’ve got a story to tell


What are the secrets you hold inside?

When have you hid from the truth, and what have you been denied?

What brings you laughter and when have you cried?

You’ve got a story to tell


What good advice do you recommend?

Who’s meant the most in your life? Who’s stood with you to the end?

Have you met someone famous? Have you had a best friend?

You’ve got a story to tell


When have you lost, and when have you won?

What are the things that you do when you like to have fun?

Have you made someone’s day? Well, when it’s all said and done

You’ve got a story to tell

© Kareen King 2006


Speaking of stories, this past week I led three gatherings in an Experience built around the theme of The Wizard of Oz. This story has so many universal themes from which to draw. Though I could have taken us in a dozen directions, we concentrated on the primary theme of the story, “there’s no place like home.” I asked each participant to complete the sentence, “Home is __________________.” Besides the naming of a number of locations including farms, here’s what came up. Home is:

  • Wherever I’m at
  • Where the heart is
  • Where I was born
  • A safe place
  • When family and I are together
  • Wherever you throw your hat
  • Where the food is
  • All over
  • This is my home now
  • The first door on the left, down the hallway
  • Where you have lots of friends
  • Where I lived in my early life
  • A stone’s throw away from the Blarney stone in Ireland
  • Where my family is
  • Where I was married and had kids
  • America (from someone who grew up in Germany)
  • “I’ve been everywhere,” sang Edna as she danced from her chair.
  • Where the people I love are
  • Where all my dogs are
  • Wherever my stuff is!
  • Heaven

On another note, I’m in the final stages of my book completion. It’s been an amazing and educational process in which I can’t wait to share the end result! My editor and I have changed the title from, Creative Engagement Experiences for Older Adults to, Engage! 28 Creative Enrichment Experiences for Older Adults. We’ve sent out a field test to several individuals who have provided positive feedback, both from the viewpoint of leading an Experience, and from the viewpoint of the participants. The field testers are saying that the instructions are easy to follow and that the participants are engaged and having fun! The book should be out by end of October if all goes as planned.

In the meantime, keep searching for the stories within yourself  and others!

Love, Kareen


What Makes a Facebook Post Go Viral?

by Kareen King on August 11, 2014

Bird Tsunami! - Photo by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience Bird Tsunami! – Photo by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience


To go viral means communication is quickly and widely spread or popularized electronically, especially by person-to-person forwarding. What makes a thing go viral? It’s a mystery. I know one thing is certain, when your intent is to make a thing go viral, it’s unlikely to happen.  What I didn’t expect was that the following anecdote, which I posted on my Facebook Musician page on July 23, would reach 1750 readers in two days.  Then, as quickly as it spread, it stopped.  Six days later only six more views. It was a momentary sensation. So, why this post and not others? Read on and decide for yourself:

I sat down at the dinner table with a new skilled nursing community resident. It was our first meeting. It went like this:
ME: Do you like it here?
HER: No.
ME: Why not?
HER: It’s the last part. But I accept it.
ME: That’s good.
We talked about her life of 97 years. She showed me her manicured fingers.
HER: They’re crooked.
ME: I’ll bet they have a lot of stories to tell.
HER: Oh yes, I made lots of quilts, did lots of knitting, played baseball. So many stories.
HER: It gets so lonely.
ME: Can I give you a hug?
HER: Yes.
I hugged her.
HER: THAT is what gives me something to look forward to.
ME: WHAT is it you’re saying you look forward to?
HER: You.
ME: Why thank you. You just made my day.
I hugged her again.
HER: Keep caring.

So, I did some exploring and found an answer from Darwin. Darwin wrote a book called The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, published in 1872.  Darwin says expression showed the basic humanity and the basic unity of all human beings, that we all share the same emotions and the same expressions.  That’s what links us together. Emotion tells us what matters.

I suppose my conversation with Her touches on human emotions we can all identify with. According to author and psychologist, Robert Plutchkik, there are eight basic emotions: 1) fear, 2) anger, 3) sadness, 4) joy, 5) disgust, 6) trust, 7) anticipation, and 8) surprise. The conversation I experienced with Her encompassed six out of eight of Plutchkik’s basic emotions.

First of all, though I didn’t include it in the narrative, she expressed surprise. I was a stranger who appeared suddenly, sat close to her, and stuck around. She did not expect this. Second, she expressed sadness. She knew that her move into a long-term care setting marked that end of her life. Third, she expressed joy as she recounted the happy activities in her life. Fourth, she expressed trust. She felt safe enough to tell me she was lonely. And she allowed me to hug her. Fifth, she expressed anticipation.  She let me know she wanted me back. And sixth, she expressed fear. Not overt fear, but a subtle fear. “Keep caring” implies fear that I might stop caring. More specifically, that I might not return.

Back to the viral question. What makes a Facebook post go viral? It has everything to do with the commonality of human emotion being impacted. So, what would be better than a Facebook post going viral? A tsunami of real, face-to-face acts of kindness and attention!

So keep caring and spread the word. :)



July 4, 2014

  It was the night of the annual 4th of July celebration. Rows of spectators sat waiting with anticipation on the hilltop as karaoke music wafted through the air. It was a perfect evening; no wind or humidity, clear sky, 70 degrees. Then I realized she was not out with the rest of us. I […]

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We Learn to Live in Love

June 30, 2014

Since my return from The Memory Bridge Retreat, I’ve taken more time to practice the skill of attention with not only the long-term care residents I work with, but also friends, coworkers, and family members. I have felt more present with them, and they with me. I have had more meaningful interactions with everyone I’ve […]

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How I Met My Sunshine: A Memoir on Connecting with an Individual With Dementia

June 28, 2014

  Day One: “Hi. I’m Kareen,” I introduced myself to Lily. She, a 91-year-old lady with dementia, was seated contentedly in an easy chair watching the world go by. I sat beside her and introduced myself. She smiled and took immediate notice of my turquoise beaded necklace. I removed it from my neck and placed […]

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A Creative Way to Remove Aches and Pains From a Nursing Home Resident

May 30, 2014

The other day I facilitated a creative engagement gathering regarding all things the letter “E.” I noticed that Edna, normally spunky and fun, had her head buried in her hands. “What the matter, Edna?” I inquired. “Oh, I got aches and pains,” she replied. In hopes to elevate her spirits and redirect her focus, I […]

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The Soldier Who Faded Away

May 26, 2014

It was a Thursday, late afternoon, May 1st, 2014. A gentleman stood beside a suitcase along the highway, straight and tall, poised and elegant in stature. He appeared as a man in his seventies or eighties, hair white and wavy, not quite shoulder length. He wore a dark navy suit jacket that draped to the […]

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Culture Change Info Makes it to Kansas Country Living Magazine

May 9, 2014

Ladies and Gentleman! I am proud to announce that an article I wrote on Culture Change made it to the May, 2014 issue of Kansas Country Living Magazine as part of honoring National Nursing Home Week which is observed May 11-17. I invite you to take a peek!A Movement To Be Reckoned With by Kareen […]

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What I Found Along the Roadside Just for Betty

April 18, 2014

I sat on the floor beside her bed once again, sharing my photo captures of the week. Betty oohed and aahed, putting in a request before I left. “Could you find something special along the roadside for me?” she asked. “Of course I will, Betty,” I promised. “Please come back. Don’t forget. I love you.” […]

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Die Laughing or Live Trying

April 4, 2014

I asked a group of residents in a skilled nursing community if anyone had died laughing before. “Just once,” the resident “comedian” retorted. Realizing I had tapped into a goldmine of witticisms and one-liners, I declared to the man who was sitting in his wheelchair, “Why, you’re a sit-down comedian!” “No I’m not,” he quipped […]

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