How Flat Stanley Helped Fulfill an Elder’s Dream

by Kareen King on October 31, 2014

A Dream Fulfilled – Photo by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience® A Dream Fulfilled – Photo by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience®

The above photo tells the story of how some dreams must be achieved posthumously. It shows my daughter Joanna holding the photo of a couple in front of the Nymphenburg Palace in Munich, Germany.  Awhile ago I had a conversation with a 95-year-old gentleman who, because of his wife’s untimely death, was never able to fulfill the dream they shared to visit Europe. He showed me pictures of him and his wife, including one with a cake that had an image of Europe outlined in the icing. On the back he wrote, “We never got to go to Europe.”

Suddenly I thought of Flat Stanley, a children’s book about a boy who is flattened in his sleep, giving him the advantage of visiting his friends by being mailed in an envelope. This concept has been applied in public school classrooms, including my daughter Joanna’s experience. While in elementary school, she drew a picture of herself, and then gave it to her grandparents who took it to Czechoslovakia with them. They then took photographs of her picture in various places on their trip and gave her the photographs to share with her classmates.

I asked the gentleman how he would feel if I took the photograph of him and his wife with me while visiting my daughter who lives in Munich, Germany. He was delighted with the idea. So, on October 15th, my husband and I took his photo with us on a series of European adventures including a stay in the 5-Star Steigenberger Grandhotel in Brussels, Belgium, a visit to the Museum of Comic Books in Brussels, a walk along the grounds of the Nymphenburg Palace in Munich, and a visit to the Memorium Nuremberg Trials Museum with its former Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg, to name a few.

I have yet to share the photos with him, as I am on yet another trip to Yosemite National Park where I just presented a Creative Engagement Practicum titled Creating a Golden Experience for Older Adults for the North American Drama Therapy Association. I shared what I’ve learned about creative engagement, and will took a very receptive group of participants on a vicarious journey like the weekly adventures I facilitate for various older adults gatherings.

Speaking of creative engagement, my book Engage! 28 Creative Enrichment Experiences for Older Adults, is nearly complete!  The process is much like birthing a baby. Though you know that delivery is imminent, the journey is often laborious, pun intended.  I sometimes feel the book “kicking,” such as when I receive glimpses of the front and back covers or receive feedback from the field-testers. Most recently, I received a galley, a preliminary proof of the book, to take with me to the conference. Though the process has been labor-intensive, it has also been an incredible learning experience filled with an abundance of peak moments, both for me, and for the older adults I serve. I can’t wait to announce the “delivery!”

In closing, I’d like to share with you the link to a video of a portion of my “Finding Emilou” presentation I shared at the Memory Bridge Retreat this past June.




What Makes People Tick?

by Kareen King on September 30, 2014

Flint Hills Nature Trail Collage – Photo by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience® Flint Hills Nature Trail Collage – Photo by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience®


“What makes people tick?”

This question was posed by a 96-year-old Assisted Living resident awhile back. It was in response to me asking a gathering of residents what topic they’d like addressed for one of our creative enrichment Experiences during Assisted Living Week. After a long pause, Helen broke the silence with her usual curiosity and fervor. “What makes us tick?” she stated with a grin and eyes aglow.

For the next week, I busied myself finding answers to her question. I then fashioned an Experience that enlivened everyone in the gathering and, most of all, pleased Helen. Part of my research included an inquiry I posted to my Facebook friends as well as answers from anyone who agreed to grant me a quick interview. I compiled the results, shared them with the gathering, and gave a copy to Helen. It goes as follows:


A new adventure

Salt of the earth people

Something to look forward to that I enjoy, something to keep myself busy, visits from family I haven’t seen in awhile

Since “un-ticking” is not a viable option, I try to make the most of every new day!

Surrounding myself with happy things – family, sunshine, ocean, peace

Sunrise in the morn! A hug, a pee-my-pants laugh, my girls’ laughter, my husband’s kiss, any ride on my horse, and God’s great grace

Thriving, not just surviving, discovering that someone said something sincerely and not just as a platitude, reading really good fiction, helping someone problem solve, drinking really good coffee

If making small quilts and giving them away if what you call “tick,” then that’s it for me.

Feeling needed, a hug and a kiss from my husband, my girls’ smiles and laughter, being in the beauty of God’s creation be it the mountains, the ocean or going down a Kansas country road, happy times spent with family and friends, my puppy dogs, and knowing God’s grace

Story! Listening to others with empathy and having the opportunity for my story is empowerment 101!

Hot baths


Music makes me tick. My Daddy told me I came out of the womb whistling a tune. It’s a passion and everyone needs a passion to keep them moving forward. Music provides me with rhythm and flow. Our whole body moves to an individual beat. Listen to the clack clack of shoes on tile floors! There’s even rhythm to our breathing. Music makes me tick!!!

Genuine, spontaneous connection with others in the moment

The fury of nature

The love we share, and the love we receive

Doing something that leaves me with the feeling that I made the world just a little bit better

People! Singing, hugs, smiles, doodling, feeling like I’ve made a difference, driving with my windows down and the music blasting. Dancing. Fixing things and solving problems

Stimulating conversation and KSU football and basketball

Taking a walk with a friend

Listening to another’s story. Everyone has a great story to tell. I love being on the receiving end!

Learning, reading, teaching, good conversation, and sex

Every day life, just surviving

Adventure, exploring new places, my girl

Sunshine, Mexican food – I’ll exercise four days a week just so I can have it.

Sunflowers. A day to sew in my sewing room upstairs with the windows open, listening to the birds singing & the leaves rustling. A bubble bath. Family. Good friends & a glass of wine. A good book & a cup of hot tea. Life is good.

A fun job where I feel useful and productive. Family, friends and grandchildren that keep you up to date and make you feel young and a part of their changing life. Unconditional spousal love. A garden where you can grow and eat your own food. And a love of reading that opens up a whole new world and lets your imagination soar.


Knowing that God has given me a job that is needed and benefits lots of people

Holding hands. Connecting with people’s stories. Dreaming. Adventures. Dreaming Adventures.  Possibilities….and then leaning into them

I like knowing that I’ve helped someone while I’m going along this journey called life.

Crisp fall days, beautiful fall leaves, cozy sweatshirts for my favorite place and time. For my day to day: the love of my family & friends and knowing I make a difference in this world

Something to look forward to. Sharing. Something that needs to be done. Something completely unnecessary that I just want to do. On a really bad day, remembering that things have been better and nothing is static. Paying attention to everyday life. It’s better than any TV series if we give it our attention.

God’s grace!

Those occasions you are in the right place at the right time with just the right thing to do or say to make someone’s day amazing.

Family. Cooking something delicious and sharing with family and friends. Laughter. A quiet walk in the woods. Campfire and fireflies. Movie (in the theater) and popcorn. Singing. Occupational therapy

Love, compassion, joy, and laughter

Lipstick! This layered strawberry cream cheesecake slice down the street, small animals, dancing, small dancing animals, wandering around, getting lost, smiles, waves…and love, compassion, joy, and laughter!

After Helen and her peers heard the results, she drew the following conclusion, “When it all boils down, life makes us tick. I never wanted to get old, but if I’d lived to 75, I never would have enjoyed all the things I got to enjoy after that. And if I’d lived to ninety, I’d missed a lot. So maybe I should live to be 100,” she declared, adding later, “It’s wonderful to think we all tick for something.”

People often talk about what works in long-term care settings and with older adults. The answer came from the lips of a dear resident who I serve on a weekly basis at a retirement community:

“You stimulate our minds. You care. I love you.”

So, please go out and find out what makes people tick!



Helping People Carry Sunshine, Rather Than Weight, On Their Shoulders

August 30, 2014

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 […]

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What Makes a Facebook Post Go Viral?

August 11, 2014

  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 […]

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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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