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!



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


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