Growing Old Gracefully with Gratitude

Cicero, a great orator in Greece at 106-43 BC told the world about the potential in Gratitude thousands of years ago and we can benefit hugely from his advice in the 21st Century!

What did he gift to us?  He taught us about the happiness that we can create and enjoy if we build Gratitude into our life.

What is it that can be so valuable about Gratitiude?

It is the feelings of joy, excitement, appreciation, warmth, satisfaction we can build into our contact with other human beings. In our interactions with our contacts, as we meet and speak with our families, our friends, our partners, our colleagues or whoever, we have the opportunity to make them feel happy and positive about themselves, and also create enjoyment in ourselves as we convey or experience gratitude from our exchange.

Gratitude between people can enrich, can inform, can promise, can inspire, can forgive, can please.

Experiencing gratitude has the power to make us and others happier about how we work, about our exchanges, about our and their achievements, our and their kindness, and their shared experiences. No wonder Cicero’s thought can provide the greatest of all human experiences.       

What can we be Grateful for ? Here are some ways in which some people build gratitude into their life – the examples below are some ways that different people have described how they have experienced feelings of gratitude:

This list of course can be endless because each of us, in our unique life, can have many things to appreciate and be grateful for, even if sometimes we can be more conscious of our problems than our joys. What would you want to add to this list of things that you have been especially grateful for ? 

Some people have found that gratitude is such an attractive element for them in their life that they build it into a daily habit. One way of doing this is by keeping a gratitude diary. Keeping such a diary can be a way of requiring our thoughts of gratitude to become part of our everyday life.

It can simply be a special diary or note book which they can use daily or weekly to note moments of gratitude that build up special memories. The owner of the diary can start their entry with “today I am grateful for …………….” and build up a history of positive moments in an everyday life. Some diary users have a special time (say their final act in the evening before bed?). Some use their entry for special people (“ I was especially grateful today for my mother or a special friend…………………etc.)

What can be helpful is to think about what is special in terms of each day’s gratitude and remind yourself of its importance and what it means to you

One older person who celebrated their 82nd birthday turned it into a celebration of gratitude by this list of “Thank you’s”

  • “Thank you for sharing my celebration – I am very grateful you are here
  • “I have reached the age of 82 and have had many great friends who made my life very lucky and special in that time”
  • I am grateful …….to have had great parents and grandparents who were never wealthy but gave me a great start in life.”
  • “I am grateful……….that 55 years ago I was introduced to a girl called Margaret and we are still a pair
  • “I am grateful  ……. that I have 6 very grown-up children who have given me lots of happiness (and a few challenges at times !) and now give me 12 grandchildren who make me very happy
  • “I am grateful …..that I have longstanding friends in north and south who are loyal and great company
  • “I am grateful …. that we have enjoyed walking and travelling and are still able to do some of that
  • “I am grateful ….. we have had a house that we bought very cheaply some 50 years ago and we can still live in it
  • “I am grateful ….. that you made my birthday very special by being here

“Gratitude is infectious and contagious. It builds on peoples’ strengths and generosity. It creates well-being and even happiness. It is hugely valuable and important”


‘Here is a one-sentence formula for becoming a grateful person:

Think, Speak, and Act like a grateful person does’.

Rabbi Zelig Pilskin in his book ‘Thank you!: Gratitude: Formulas, Stories and Insights’

Michael Scally is from Leeds, born on Halton Moor; he taught for many years and is the author of  a number of books with Barrie Hopson including ‘Build your own Rainbow’ and ‘Lifeskills Teaching‘. He is now gratefully retired.

Enjoy 3 Minute retreats at home

Loyola Press provide ‘3 minute retreats’ for each day that you can easily access at your computer whenever you want.

One of our readers alerted me to this precious resource and I thought I would share it with you all.

The website says:

‘3-Minute Retreats invite you to take a short prayer break right at your computer. Spend some quiet time reflecting on a Scripture passage.’

‘Knowing that not everyone prays at the same pace, you have control over the pace of the retreat. After each screen, a Continue button will appear. Click it when you are ready to move on. If you are new to online prayer, the basic timing of the screens will guide you through the experience.’

Each retreat has a lovely picture accompanying it, and you can listen to the music audio if you want. The first screen prepares you by prompting you to pause and breathe.

It is followed on the next screen by a short passage from Scripture and then a brief narrative comment/reflection on the passage. Next come a couple of questions for your own reflection, and lastly a prayer.

Why not try out today’s retreat ?
Or choose one from the list of past retreats..

You can also sign up for daily email alerts or download the app for your phone.

Thanks are due to the Loyola Press for all their work to help us learn and reflect each day. There are also many other places you can access daily prayers and readings, some of which are mentioned on our page about mass and prayers online.

Free courses on well-being and looking after your mental health

Leeds Recovery College is part of the NHS services in Leeds.

On their website they state:

‘We believe that good mental health is important to everyone and that we can all play a part in improving our own mental health and contributing to that of others.’

‘We offer free educational courses that focus on keeping us mentally and physically well. These courses have been co-designed and co-facilitated by people who have experienced their own mental health challenges, working alongside health professionals and education providers to share their knowledge and advice.  The aim of these courses is to help you learn more about mental health, work out what keeps yourself and others well, and find ways to enjoy life more.’

‘Our courses are attended by a range of people including those who experience mental health challenges, staff and carers who are looking to improve their knowledge, and people from across the city who would like to better look after their own wellbeing.’

The courses are free to attend
and you do not need a referral to take part.

Courses are open to any adults who live, work or study in Leeds and would like to learn more about mental wellbeing.  The courses are currently online or distance learning only, but face to face courses will be resumed when possible.

Click HERE for the list of current courses available.

Click HERE for a prospectus with more details about the courses
they normally run through the year.

To book on a course, you will be asked to complete a Recovery College enrolment form and email it to  They can also send you the enrolment form through the post, or if you call them on 0113 855 5127 they can complete the enrolment form with you over the phone.

If you would prefer a printed copy of the prospectus please email for details.


‘A Matter of Life and Death’- Autumn series of 4 online events

dead flower with seeds in a hand

We are excited to announce a series of 4 online events providing opportunities to talk openly about the subject of death and dying, rather than avoiding it as a taboo topic. We feel this is even more important in the wake of the devastating effects of the Covid-19 global pandemic during recent months.

The events are being organised and run as a partnership between Leeds Church Institute, Faith in Elderly People and Growing Old Grace-fully.

Here are the details of the events:

All are welcome at these online events; you may find them particularly helpful if you are supporting, visiting or caring for older people, the bereaved, or those nearing the end of life.

Format for the Events

We will kick off the series with a seminar type event with Dr Lynn Bassett being interviewed by Carol Burns, followed by opportunity to post questions in the chat function. This event can host a greater number of attendees.

The following 3 events will give more opportunity for discussion, and so may need to be limited to 30 people per event; if the events are oversubscribed we will keep a waiting list and consider planning further dates.

You can pick and choose which events to attend, there is no obligation to attend all 4 events as they are each stand-alone events in their own right.

A Second Reflection from an Older Person during Coronavirus-time

I wrote a Reflection in Covid 19 time at the end of March. Four months further on what have I, (what might we,) have learned since?

Looking back on it we have all travelled a long way since March.

At the end of July there are fewer newly infected people and fewer deaths in the UK, but the infection and death rates have been horrifyingly hard.

In other countries rates continue to rise, in some areas where war, poverty and the attitude of some country leaders to the Virus mean infection and death rates in parts of the globe are soaring.

We hope that Covid 19 decreases globally. Many lives have been irrevocably changed. In the UK some people are returning to work. Others have lost their jobs. Many of us can now go out more and our churches, shops and other facilities are opening.

I thank God for the tireless work of scientists, NHS staff, those working in care homes and other essential workers who have toiled thus far. And although some government decisions can be criticised I am grateful that I live in a democratic society where we aim for transparency, we can question what is happening and our health, social and educational services have standards of reasonable governance.

What has happened locally?  

Some of you may have been ill with the Virus, for many there have been life changes, people bereaved and grieving deeply for others who have died, without some of the usual parish community funerals, Requiem Masses, and supportive visits. Zoom and other internet facilities have helped but can only go so far. We hope that our parishes and communities will start to open up more. We also know that many of us are anxious, and worried about our and others’ future, finances, employment and young people’s education.

Many of our parishes and other organisations have been very busy supporting the bereaved, the sick, supporting foodbanks and giving grants for essentials. There have been networks of parishioners keeping in contact with older people, those living alone. families, the newly and chronically impoverished, the homeless, destitute asylum seekers.

Many people have prayed, phoned and supported each other as best we can. Kindness has been flourishing. Hugging does not suit everyone but how many of us have missed this….? 

In our organisations and parishes, we are beginning to think how we can come together in our communities and parishes to memorialise and support each other when the restrictions for Mass attendance and meeting each other are further lifted.

When I last wrote the air was clearer and spring growth was fresh and unfolding new colours and flowers every day. Now, many have returned to work, shops and parks, the school holidays have started, traffic noise has returned, and the deeper, established greens of high summer are around us. If people are able to go on holiday it is more likely be within the UK than abroad. We are fortunate to have sea and beautiful countryside not too far from us.

We are hopeful of finding an effective Vaccine after the final tests are done to ensure its safety and efficacy. Other countries are also exploring different types of vaccination. It is being acknowledged that we will need different vaccines and approaches in different situations.

Health workers are discovering new effective medical procedures to help the very sick, and existing medications are being used in different, effective ways to help more people survive and recover more quickly from the symptoms of the Virus. The pandemic we believe will pass but we will likely be living with spikes of the virus until a vaccine is proved to be safe and works.

Uncertainty remains. Vigilance, hand washing, social distancing, face-coverings and some curtailment of our freedoms is having to be negotiated.  Hopefully with measures like Track and Tracing any recurrence will more likely be spikes on a local basis that can be targeted and treated.

Being on the side-lines

One of the things I have had to learn as an older person is to be more on the side-lines. I am a retired Social Worker and accustomed to being in the midst of someone else’s crisis, bereavement or life changing situation. Now I have found other ways to try and support others. I still work part time in Pastoral Care and while I was furloughed I spent time phoning and emailing those I temporarily could not visit. I am also in touch with fellow parishioners and neighbours and have been very aware of the vulnerability and also the resilience, faith and courage of many I am contacting.

I have learned a lot about the daily courage of most people, particularly older people.

Many older people who are housebound have a wealth, wisdom and freedom of faith which is an anchor in the centre of the Church.

A lot of priests are now older and shielded and when our churches open again fully I hope that more, younger lay people will feel empowered to offer their gifts for parish communities and that their skills and fresh outlook will be considered and valued. And it is important to let younger people come forward, feel empowered and take their place at the forefront, as they are the future….

Roller Coaster of Emotions
I have been very aware of the ups and downs of coping with the challenges of the Virus in everyday life. Sometimes we can feel relieved to be well, safe, taking the struggles of family and friends in our stride. I am enjoying the extra time to read, walk, watch TV and reflect on the many spiritual resources on the internet.

At other times we might feel anxious, sad and despondent. But this is natural and it is important to be aware of our mood and take care of ourselves, as well as others.

For a helpful article on how we can cope with this roller coaster, click HERE

For those of us who attend Mass in we have needed to find ways of “attending” on the internet or phone. I know that many without a computer have read their missals, followed the Mass and the daily readings at home.

My own parish hasn’t been streaming Mass and our sister parish started a pre-recorded Mass after a few weeks. I started off watching “live” Masses at Leeds and Liverpool Cathedrals and eventually found a parish in Leicester where my mother lives. Although I was watching from 100 miles away I felt welcomed by a pastoral, inclusive parish priest who gave us interesting, supportive and inspiring homilies and prayers and the woman organist played her music and choir recordings that linked to the themes of the day. I haven’t missed receiving Communion as much as I thought I would, and I think my understanding of Eucharist has widened. At a time of feeling powerless to alter events I have mostly felt the presence of God in amidst the suffering and grief of so many people.

For details of where you can find Mass and prayers online click HERE

Pope Francis stood in an empty St Peter’s Square in Rome on the 27th March and said:

“This is a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to the Lord and others.”

Living in the moment

I concluded my first Reflection at the end of March with the thought that I hoped I,- we,- might be able to live more in the present: rather than yearning for the past – what might have been – or worry excessively about the future. I think more than ever that it is important to engage in and value the present.

Julian of Norwich, (here quoted by Joan Chittister, in ‘The Gift of Years -Growing Old Gracefully’ DLT London 2008) said that in the acorn she was holding is everything that ever was.

And Joan Chittister writes, “In that tiny burst of life were all the elements of all the life in the world. In this moment is the now of life, is everything we have ever been and will become. And it is calling us, now, to be that to its fullness, and even more.”

Covid 19 is ongoing – and so is our learning….

The impact of Covid-19 on 50-70 year olds – from the Centre for Ageing Better

A new report by Ipsos MORI and the Centre for Ageing Better shines a light on the impact lockdown has had on those aged 50-70, revealing dramatic changes to people’s lives and their plans for the future.  

The interesting short video above is a compilation of clips from people describing their own experiences, both negative and positive.

To watch some more short videos on specific aspects of the impact of Covid-19 such as health, housing and work, see this playlist on their Youtube channel

Ageing Better held a recent webinar focussing on the Neighbourhood Networks in Leeds and Birmingham – see the one hour recording HERE

This was one in a series of webinars entitled ‘Road to Recovery’. The next one is on Weds 12th August and will explore ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’, again including speakers from Leeds.

The Centre for Ageing Better is working hard to highlight the issues facing older people in the recovery phase after Covid-19 – see their website for more details.

Make your opinions count – take part in an NHS survey

The NHS wants to hear the views of older people as they are regular and important users of healthcare services in Leeds. To fill in this 5 minute survey, click HERE.

They want to better understand how the general public use NHS health and care services in Leeds. By taking part in this survey individuals will support their local NHS develop a health awareness campaign to help people understand which service they should access when they’re unwell or injured.
Your views will directly impact changes to healthcare services.

In addition, for the first 500 responses, £1.50 will be donated to Leeds Cares (the local NHS charity).

The survey is online and takes around 5 minutes to complete, all answers are anonymous – they don’t ask for names and nobody will contact participants about their answers.

Click HERE to complete the survey – thank you very much.

Online Dementia Friends sessions now available weekly

Recognising how hard it has been for people who are living with dementia during the COVID crisis, and the increasing need for us all to understand dementia better,  Dementia Friendly Leeds now has weekly online Dementia Friends sessions.

To book your place, click HERE and look for ‘Dementia Friends for Volunteers in Leeds‘. They are every MONDAY at 12 noon.

A Dementia Friend is simply somebody that learns about dementia so they can help their community be more dementia friendly. Dementia Friends help by raising awareness and understanding, so that people living with dementia can continue to live in the way they want. As part of the work of the Friendly Communities project we want to support volunteers and staff in Leeds to be able to offer good support for people who are living with dementia.

Maybe you had been meaning to attend a Dementia Friends session before but hadn’t got round to it, or maybe you have recently become more aware of dementia and how it affects people you know. Or perhaps you attended a session a few years ago and would like a refresher…

..Well now you can attend an informal online session right in your own home!

How to book:

  • The sessions are every Monday at 12.00 – 12:40 online (they will be adding more on different days).
  • The session will either be a webinar (sound and no video, using typing to join in) or livestream (using sound, video and some typing).
  • Go to the Dementia Friends website to register with your contact details then you can book your place.
  • Look for the sessions with the title: Dementia Friends for Volunteers in Leeds which are scheduled on Mondays at 12:00.

Short of time? Alternatively Alzheimer’s Society offers a 5 minute Dementia Friends video for people who do not have time to do the 40 minute interactive session.

Accessibility: Get in touch if you have any questions about the accessibility of the sessions,  if you need to do the session at a different time or if you have any other questions.

Contact for queries:

To book your place, click HERE and look for ‘Dementia Friends for Volunteers in Leeds‘. They are every MONDAY at 12 noon.

‘A Moment of Revelation’ by a Diocesan priest

The other day I was advised that I needed a routine chest x-ray (not COVID-19 related). The nearest available hospital was in the centre of Leeds.  Driving myself into the business of the city from the outskirts was a bit of a novelty.

Until the March lockdown, I had enjoyed an active priestly life which involved ministry to an enclosed community of religious sisters, prison chaplaincy and some committee work but not parish involvement.  I live, therefore, in an independent flat. I am 74 years old and preparing for retirement in August. I am the owner of 2 arterial stents, 3 by-pass arteries and more recently a cardiac pacemaker.

As a vulnerable older person I was instructed to self-isolate in my home. It has made obvious sense for me to keep the rules. Other than daily exercise and the odd minor infraction, I have stayed at home, isolated from the general commerce of daily life. Even my shopping has been done by two very kind friends.

Thus a trip into Leeds was a novelty which at first felt quite daunting. However I soon got into the swing of it. Everything went well and it was the most straightforward outpatient appointment, I think I have ever had. It felt good to become again part of daily life with nurses, doctors and patients all moving about their business as if they were nothing too unusual happening in the world.

As I drove back I tuned in to radio 5L, as I have so often done in times past. And then suddenly, as if the clock had been turned back, I experienced a strange and powerful feeling of being young and energetic again. It quite startled me to realise that three months of isolation and constant news bulletins of sickness and death had imperceptibly given me a sense of having aged.

That revelatory experience has caused me to ponder and wonder what might be the connection between isolation and a sense of ageing.

One of the things I have struggled with during enforced separation from the world, is a sense of purpose. What is the meaning of life if one is all locked up and nowhere to go! What should I do with the day. Like everyone, in the beginning I busied myself with emptying an overflowing in-tray and answering overdue correspondence. But gradually when most of those loose ends were dealt with the question surfaced  – “what is it all about Alfie?” this life locked in doors.

Then the words of Jesus to St. Peter after the resurrection began to resonate.     “But when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will   put a belt around you and take you where you would rather not go. “

Though I am blessed with my faculties, both physical and mental, I seem somehow, during isolation, to have lost some independence. Now I must wait for the Government to tell me what is safe and what is not safe, what I can and what I mustn’t do. The belt feels to have been tied around me.

Seeing, each morning, the younger residents of the complex of flats where I live, setting off to gainful employment, seeing the key workers organising things in the supermarket car park opposite and watching the delivery men and the refuse collectors keeping the wheels of life turning, made me feel as though I do not quite belong to the world.  It has created a sense of separation with a resulting sense of unimportance!

It would appear that these three personal experiences of self-isolation have unwittingly left me feeling older.  It makes me wonder will I retire well, – a very pertinent question since my retirement may very well proceed my liberation from lockdown.

What I am very conscious of is that my admiration for the many housebound people older or younger, who manage to stay young at heart, has grown. It is to them I must turn for wisdom and guidance so that lockdown doesn’t rob me, prematurely of a youthful outlook.

‘The Blessing U.K.’ plus ‘The Blessing – KIDS’

Whether you have seen it already or not, this moving song collaboration is bound to lift your spirits – an amazing coming together of over 65 churches and movements across the U.K. which has had over 3 million views on Youtube.

This is the message they attached: ‘At this unique and challenging time in the United Kingdom over 65 churches and movements, representing hundreds of others, have come together online to sing a blessing over our land. Standing together as one, our desire is that this song will fill you with hope and encourage you. But the church is not simply singing a blessing, each day we’re looking to practically be a blessing…’

And if that wasn’t enough, get the tissues ready before you watch this kids version

a wonderful rendition by children and young people from the UK, USA, NZ, AUS, SA and many other nations

The Lord bless you
And keep you 
Make His face shine upon you 
And be gracious to you 
The Lord turn His 
Face toward you 
And give you peace 
As we receive, we agree, amen 
Chorus:  Amen, amen, amen 
May His favour be upon you 
And a thousand generations 
And your family and your children 
And their children, and their children 
May His presence go before you 
And behind you, and beside you 
All around you, and within you 
He is with you 
He is with you
In the morning, in the evening 
In your coming, and your going 
In your weeping 
And rejoicing 
He is for you 
He is for you

Original Song “The Blessing” by Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Elevation Worship. Written by Chris Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Steven Furtick Audio produced by Trevor Michael Video edited by Level Creative