This week, Business Administrator Evalynn Wills interviewed St John’s former Director Michael Jackson on his book, ‘Still Love Left: Faith and Hope in Later Life’.
Find out about Michael and his book by reading below:
Evalynn: Hi Michael, can you tell me what the book is about?
Michael: The book is about how to help people to age well, and how to draw on their spirituality as a means of strength. I want people who read the book to feel a sense of optimism about growing old, and I wanted to stress throughout, that there is a positive side to growing older. When I was at St John’s, I was struck by the fact that some people find it easier to age than others, and I was interested in what helps people to age well. I was ordained as a priest at St John’s, and that encouraged me to focus on how faith helps us, so the book looks at the ways in which we draw upon our faith in God to help us to grow old. I tried to do that in as wider terms as possible, so as to provide a support for as many people as possible.
Evalynn: Who or what influenced you to write the book?
Michael: I worked as Director at St John’s for 26 years, and since retiring in 2013 I have wanted to write the book. I have done a lot of talks on ageing over the years, and a number of workshops and retreats on ageing and spirituality. People have often asked me for copies of my notes, or copies of the materials that I was using, and I started to think it would be much easier if I wrote it up – so I decided to write a book. The book took a little longer than I thought. The trustees of the charity gave me a sabbatical in 2012, where I was going to write the book, but unfortunately my father fell ill, and I used a lot of this time caring for him.
Evalynn: You touch upon your own family members throughout the book. Is this something that was important to you?
Michael: I’m a great believer in rooting what one wants to say, in story and in relation to events that you’ve got a knowledge of. I was talking about old age, so it seemed logical for me to talk about my own parents ageing. I felt by using my parent’s experiences throughout, it gave the book an immediacy, and certainly as a priest when I’m preaching, I always try and relate what I want to say to the here and now. The book is dedicated to them.
Evalynn: How did your working experiences at St John’s help shape the book?
Michael: My experiences at St John’s had a huge influence on the book. I observed hundreds of people during my 26 years, so I got to know many residents over the years. I learnt a lot from observing them, how some people coped particularly well growing in old age. It may sound countercultural, but we talk a lot about people becoming ‘grown ups’, as if you level off and that’s it, but actually, in later life you can carry on growing. In the book, I spoke of a friend of mine who published her first book at the age of 90. You can go on sharing wisdom, and wisdom is not just what you know, it’s a much wider concept, it’s an ability to understand how the world works. Many older people have that in spades, and are able to share it, so I learnt a lot from the residents at St John’s.
Evalynn: How have you seen St John’s evolve over the years?
Michael: I can only speak from my knowledge, which runs up until 2013, and it has obviously changed since. One of the greatest things I think St John’s offers older people, is a sense of community. One of the problems in old age these days is loneliness, and St John’s offers a support network for that. If people draw on that, it can help to prevent loneliness, and you can feel part of a community that cares, and that’s not just the welfare staff supporting the residents, but it’s the residents supporting each other as well as the staff. A point I made in the book is how I was struck at Devenish House about how many of the carers were finding an almost surrogate grandparent in the people they were looking after. St John’s is a very all-encompassing community where residents and staff work and live alongside each other, as well as gain from each other.
Still Love Left: Faith and Hope in Later Life costs £9.99. You can order Michael’s book from any book retailer, and you can also order it or download it as an eBook from Amazon. The book was self-published and is also obtainable direct from Michael by emailing him at email@example.com