DR. HONEY DELIVERS A KEYNOTE SPEECH IN MC’S GERONTOLOGY SEMINAR
by: Olive P. Carandang
On April 24-25, 2014, Miriam College hosted a Gerontology seminar entitled, “Making the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life.” The atmosphere surrounding the venue was festive. Participants in their golden years flocked the registration area. Attendees ranged from grandparents, health professionals, nuns, a senior citizens’ group in Marikina, teachers, school personnel, and students. Art booths featuring hand-painted bottles, clay sculptures and paintings of senior citizens decked the waiting area of the Little Theater, the seminar’s venue. Organizers of the event wore a blue shirt on which was written Robert Browning’s famous verse, “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.” To jumpstart its activities, Day One of the seminar featured a keynote speech from Dr. Honey Carandang.
“I am 70 years old and this is the best time of my life,” Dr. Honey began. Indeed, this statement, which was met with smiles and nods of approval, reflected the profound content of her speech. Dr. Honey drew out gems from her personal treasure house of wisdom to share with the workshop’s attendees. She used her framework on the seven basic psychological needs as the basis for discussing the needs of older adults.
Beginning with a brief review of Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development, she focused on the development of wisdom, the basic strength of old age. She emphasized the values of respect, care and compassion as crucial elements in bringing forth wisdom to one’s decision-making. She posed a vital question to today’s market-oriented culture by asking whether what can be done should be done. For instance, would it be wise to build more malls just because one can? It was also through decades of practice as a clinical and child psychologist that Dr. Honey strengthened the virtue of integrity. She described this as the “incorruptible core” that prepared her to do battle against perpetrators of child abuse.
The framework she construed on the seven basic psychological needs is applicable to different developmental stages. The first principle, “I matter” and “I make a difference” allowed the participants to reflect on their personal legacy or what would be “stamped in the hearts” of those who survive them. This personal legacy would greatly depend on the quality of lives they left behind. The second principle focused on how to give and receive unconditional acceptance from one another, especially in the most intimate relationships. The third, which emphasized the notion of providing clear and consistent limits, reminded the participants of the importance of saying a high quality “no.” With age came the awareness and understanding of one’s physical limits. Dr. Honey transformed this potentially discomfiting thought into an opportunity to learn more about patience and humility. She also brought renewed vitality to aging by encouraging the participants to explore new areas from which they could develop a sense of competence, as well as to nurture healthy self-expression through play.
Another principle she highlighted was the importance of affiliation. She cited how it was the Filipinos’ capacity for building caring communities that they were able to survive the worst calamities. She also emphasized that the practice of kindness was a natural remedy for growing old and bitter. Helping others was revitalizing and this helped older people feel youthful. The need for solitude was equally important and so was the need for transcendence. Dr. Honey said that there is a “need to look beyond what is there; to have faith and hope that things will get better.” Lastly, she added an eighth basic psychological need, which was the need for beauty. “Beauty allows us to take care of ourselves,” she mentioned. “Beauty heals the soul.”
Dr. Honey’s gems were like Robert Browning’s verse, an invitation to the profound joy of growing old. Like the ebb and flow of the tide, growing old offered rejuvenation, renewal and deepening of one’s psychospiritual core.
*all photos courtesy of Olive P. Carandang