Die Laughing or Live Trying

by Kareen King on 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 as he stood to his feet in an instant. “That was the kicker,” he added.

Everyone roared with delight.

Later, when thanking him for attending he remarked, “I felt uncomfortable.”

I probed him a bit till I discovered the discomfort was the flood of acknowledgement over the knack for comedy he knew he’d had since he was a young boy. I had even included his name with all the other famous comedians that were noted by the residents.

“I was overwhelmed with what was within me,” he remarked, eyes welled with tears.

He then voiced concern that the words might not flow as easily, should he have another occasion to be put on the spot again.

“Remember the rules of comedy improv,” I reassured him. “Be willing to take a risk, jump in, and let the chips fall where they may. What really matters is that you brightened the room today.”

He nodded his head, as if relieved.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all die laughing?

 “The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” – Albert Einstein

Did I Make You Smile? - Photo by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience® Did I Make You Smile? – Photo by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience®


Venting Your Spleen

by Kareen King on March 24, 2014

To vent one’s spleen is to express anger. Sometimes it presents as displacement of anger, such as kicking the door when you’d rather yell at someone.

The phrase was introduced to me last week by an older adult during a St. Patrick’s Day creative engagement gathering with a group of residents. It was used while we pieced together an improvisational tale that incorporated words that rhyme with the word green. The tale went as follows:

The Giant Jelly Bean Scene

There was a girl, Doreen

She was sixteen

She lived in a giant green jelly bean

She liked to prim and preen

And to keep clean

She loved caffeine

Which made her serene

If she did not have her caffeine

She would become mean and obscene

She would vent her spleen

Take it out on the Dean

Of the school of teens

Even though she liked the Dean

Because his hair had a shiny sheen

And he was buff and lean

And he was very keen

She took her friends Jean

And Colleen

To their giant jelly bean

‘Cause it’s a cool scene

Where they like to be seen

A few days later I took my dog Hank for a walk on a local nature trail instead of venting my spleen at my husband over a very minor issue based on a misunderstanding.

The nature trail was just what I needed to redirect my focus and gain some better perspective. Plus, it gave me a chance to fulfill a promise I made to a resident with whom I’ve developed a special connection over the past several years.

“Albert” is a stroke survivor who loves nothing more than to view my latest collection of Nature Trail photos. You should have seen him a couple weeks ago going gaga over my photos of  my dog, Hank’s encounter with an opossum along the trail.

Albert has “vented his spleen” a time or two when I failed to deliver a display of trail pictures for him. A seemingly minor incident as viewed from the eyes of any other fully functioning individual. But for Albert, who can no longer walk or talk clearly, experiencing a vicarious nature adventure is one of the few things that bring him any pleasure in the long-term care setting. If I fail to deliver as promised, his day is ruined. It’s amazing what five short minutes of nature can do for a person.

So, Albert and I have a lot in common. We both need a little dose of nature to keep from venting our spleen on others.

Speaking of venting one’s spleen, the following photos brought Albert sheer delight. Hank is on the brink of causing an Opossum to vent his spleen. Thankfully, no actual contact was made by either animal!

Hank and Opossum - Photo by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience Hank and Opossum – Photo by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience


How to Be a Good Aunt and What That Has to Do With Gerontology

March 9, 2014

I am playing catch-up after exhibiting and presenting for an AGHE (Association for Gerontology in Higher Education) conference in Denver, Colorado. During my stay, I opted to spend the nights with my brother Mark’s family in Erie, Colorado, a 35-minute commute from Denver. I also brought along my dear friend, Darlene, as a traveling companion […]

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KC Youth Volunteers Learn About Communicating With Older Adults With Dementia

February 14, 2014

I recently presented an educational concert for the Youth Advisory Board of the YMCA of Greater Kansas City. The event was set up by Leanne Mersmann, a team leader for Youth Volunteer Corps of Greater Kansas City. During the presentation, I shared some ways to connect with older adults who live with Alzheimer’s or symptoms […]

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Small Ways to Make a Big Difference in Long-Term Care

January 31, 2014

Where to begin? With each passing day springs new conversations, insights, beautiful nature images, disappointments, challenges, and more. My scarcity of blogging over the past couple years certainly hasn’t been because there’s nothing to write about, but because there’s not enough time or mental energy left to record it all! Each day is much too […]

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The Voice Auditions With Nursing Home Residents As Judges

January 17, 2014

My youngest child, Kathryn, has been home between semesters at KU. I invited her to spend a day with me at Wellsville Retirement Community to participate in what I do and to share her music with some of the residents in their rooms. This was also to help her decide whether or not to pursue […]

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Topsy Turvy Little Red Riding Hood – A Tale To Bring in the New Year

December 31, 2013

Once upon a time there was a little girl who was sent on a mission by her mother to take a basketful of goodies to her grandmother’s house. Little Red and her mother were excellent bakers, so they filled the basket with lots cookies -  chocolate, ginger bread, sugar, and lemon cookies. They also filled […]

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Merry Christmas Via Zoo Lights!

December 25, 2013
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“Twas The Night Before Christmas” – Performance of a Lifetime

December 14, 2013

I have the privilege of interacting on a weekly basis with some very wonderful individuals in long-term care communities. Two of those individuals are Jackie and Edna, the storytellers in the performance that I videotaped during Wellsville Retirement Community’s 2013 Volunteer Christmas Party in Wellsville, KS. The performance was a last-minute decision by WRC’s Activity […]

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A Most Unlikely Thanksgiving Meat

November 28, 2013

There were about twenty of us sitting in an intimate circle in front of a burning fireplace and newly decorated Christmas tree. We were discussing our favorite Thanksgiving foods including mincemeat pie, dressing, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Someone mentioned pickled peaches, a delicious recipe made with vinegar, brown sugar and cloves. And of course, […]

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