On a random Thursday in mid-November while wandering through The Village of Tansley Woods in Burlington, the sounds of singing in the community centre off the long-term care Main Street catch my attention. I recognize the music as part of the Java Music Club, and venture in to ask if I might sit in on the session, curious as always to see this mutual support system at play with Schlegel Villages residents.
Surrounded by several ladies who gather weekly for the Java Sessions, the young team member Grace who facilitates the program offers two quotes about continual learning throughout life for consideration. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow,” she says, offering the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “learn as if you were to live forever.”
The ladies nod in agreement, each offering their own take on the idea that finding purpose in life is a key ingredient to positive well-being, and continuing to learn new things is one way to find new purpose every day.
The ladies find purpose in the Java Music Club, which was developed as a mutual support system for people living in the shadow of loneliness. They come together in a controlled way led by a trained facilitator, and they offer their own experience and wisdom to the group to tackle some of the challenges life can present in advanced years.
“We enjoy getting together and we enjoy discussing whatever the subject is,” says Muriel, who’s been part of the group since the fall of 2016.
“I like how we can talk and say things that perhaps we keep bottled up and never say,” adds Stella, “and I also love singing with the group.”
All around the table, the ladies acknowledge that they’ve developed deeper connections with each other because of their time in the Java Music Club. In fact, two weeks before, one of the regular members succumbed to illness and passed away. As a group, they were able to talk about the loss and find comfort in their shared grief; for many people living both independently and in long-term care settings, the losses of life are burdens that are not always shared and the Java Music Club offers a way to share these struggles. They know they are not alone.
“I find great encouragement from them,” Stella says, looking around the table to her friends, Audrey in particular. “I like talking to Audrey because she’s a real friend to me and it makes me feel so much better when I leave her and go home.”