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Knowledge Exchange

The Selwyn Institute Ageing and Spirituality Conference

Richard von Sturmer

Storytelling and the practice of resilience

It was then that I realized how my father and I could easily enter people’s imaginations because of our diminutive size. We never talked about our shortness; it was a fact of life that nothing could change. But since we would always be out of the ordinary in the eyes of strangers, there was a tacit agreement that, on certain occasions, we could enhance our unusualness. One day, in the library of Westlake Boys High School, the younger of the Garrett brothers approached me. Unlike his pleasant older brother—a prefect and head librarian—this Garrett had a wild and slightly threatening disposition. But today, instead of eyeing me with disdain, he sat down and said how wonderful it was to have seen me and my father last night. There, in the headlight of his motorbike, along a tree-lined street, two small figures had materialized, walking side by side, dressed in capes. “It was magic,” he exclaimed, “like something out of Lord of the Rings!”

Richard von Sturmer was born on Auckland’s North Shore in 1957. He is a writer, performer and filmmaker. His published books include Suchness: Zen Poetry and Prose (HeadworX, 2005), a memoir, This Explains Everything (Atuanui Press, 2016), and Postcard Stories (Titus Books, 2019). He is also well known for writing the lyrics for There is No Depression in New Zealand, which has become the country’s alternate national anthem. In 2004, he and his wife, Sensei Amala Wrightson, founded the Auckland Zen Centre, a Buddhist community in Onehunga. Prior to returning to New Zealand in 2004, they spent twelve years in residential training at the Rochester Zen Center in upstate New York. These combined and varied perspectives have given him an extraordinary platform for understanding and sharing stories of resilience, acceptance and belonging.

Rebekah Preston – Social Connections Manager

Resilient communities

My own journey towards supporting older people in our communities began with working as a caregiver in a Resthome while studying. Shortly afterwards, my own grandparents were in need of support and the experience I had gained enabled me to have a deeper understanding into the challenges older people face every day. Through this, I developed a passion for supporting older adults to thrive and began to focus my ongoing learning around developing a deeper understanding of the challenges that the sector faces. I have been fortunate enough to continue on this path through my work at Age Concern where I am responsible for overseeing social connection programs and activities.

With up to 20% of all older people experiencing loneliness and isolation at a level that is detrimental to their wellbeing, the importance of social connections and community interactions cannot be overestimated. Such engagements are the cornerstone of creating resilient communities. My work has allowed me the opportunity to engage with programs and initiatives across the globe that all work to address this issue. I am privileged to be able to bring some of these ideas to fruition in my own work and share these with you.

Reverend Caroline Leys

Assessing spiritual distress and needs with older people

Caroline Leys is an Anglican Priest and has contributed as a non-stipendiary priest in several parishes and at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Auckland. Since ordination as a priest in 1990 she has worked in private practice as a therapist, facilitator, trainer and more recently in ministry and business development. She is also a member of the NZ Association of Christian Spiritual Directors. Caroline’s particular area of interest is spirituality. She works both inside and beyond the “walls” of the Christian community assisting individuals and groups to identify core beliefs and practices and integrate these into actions.

Caroline is a certified Sageing Leader for Sage-ing International. Based on the work of Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi their mission statement is:“Sage-ing International is committed to transforming the current paradigm of aging to“sage-ing” through learning, community building and service. With a confidence born from harvesting life experience and with a humility that sees service as the natural result of continued inner growth, we find ways to serve every day. This generosity of spirit elicits joy in human relations, while positively benefiting the communities and cultures we serve.”

As Director, Spiritual Care for The Selwyn Foundation, Caroline leads our strategic development of the spiritual wellbeing dimension of The Selwyn Way — which is our approach to the care and wellbeing of all who connect with us — so that spirituality is made accessible across everything we do as a charity, in our villages, through our community services, and through education and knowledge exchange for staff, older people and their families.

Dr Lucy Hone

Creating resilience. What my life and work has taught me               

“A policeman is on his way to see us” my husband told me with a look that said it all. “They rarely come to bring good news.” With that phone call, and subsequent visit, our lives changed forever. On Queen’s Birthday weekend, 2014 my 12- year-old daughter, Abi, was killed in a tragic road accident. As a resilience researcher, it’s my job to know the ways of thinking and acting that help people come back from trauma. What I had done for others I now had to do for my family and for myself.”

Dr Lucy Hone is a director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience, a research associate at AUT University, a published academic researcher, best-selling author, keynote speaker and blogger for Psychology Today.

In 2014, the sudden death of her 12-year old daughter, Abi, (along with Lucy and Abi’s friends Ella and Sally Summerfield in a tragic road accident) forced Lucy to turn her substantial academic training and professional practice to foster resilience in very personal circumstances. The blog she wrote in the aftermath of Abi’s death attracted international attention and resulted in the best-selling non-fiction title, What Abi Taught Us: Strategies for Resilient Grieving (Allen & Unwin, 2016), now available as Resilient Grieving in the United States, Australia, United Kingdom and New Zealand.

Having been trained by the thought-leaders in the field – Marty Seligman, Chris Peterson, Ed Diener, Barb Fredrickson, Karen Reivich and Angela Duckworth among others – at the University of Pennsylvania, she went on to attain her PhD in public health at AUT University in Auckland. She now works with organisations – from leading law firms to primary schools – to design and implement wellbeing initiatives creating sustained and meaningful change. She is currently running two large-scale pilot projects involving dozens of New Zealand schools, backed by the Ministry of Education.

A member of the NZAPP Executive Committee, the All Right? advisory board, the conference convenor for the Wellbeing in Education NZ Conference, and New Zealand’s only representative on the International Positive Education Network (IPEN), Lucy’s research has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Positive Psychology, Social Indicators Research, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the International Journal of Wellbeing and NZ Journal of Human Resources Management.