Vital Aging Network

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Evolve in Bloomington Challenges Participants to Deeper Thinking

By Don Heinzman

I was one of ten residents of Bloomington, with varying backgrounds and professions, who came together for eight monthly sessions and learned how to become leaders and project developers for our communities.


We came to ease into retirement, after having successfully completed active professional lives. At the same time we wanted better personal, leadership and project planning skills, offered by Evolve: Re-igniting Self & Community, a program of the Vital Aging Network.

Mark Rubbert and Sheryl Furness guided us, using excellent teaching and involvement strategies. Sheryl relaxed us with her yoga lessons.

The group focused on developing projects that would bring benefits to the residents of Bloomington. Often divided into groups, we came to know one another while learning a valuable project planning process. During one class, we quickly put a giant puzzle together and then discussed what we could learn about group dynamics from the process.

The highlight of each class was first sharing our thoughts and questions as we talked about our progress. Class members asked questions and exchanged insights in that first session, often lasting for an hour.
One valuable lesson was learning how to get to the real root of the problems the members were trying to solve. We keep asking why again and again until we found the real cause. Class members used a six-step process that taxed our thinking to plan and implement community projects.

One member has a plan to develop a mentoring process for African-American students; another is developing a Facebook page to bring a neighborhood together. A team of three has developed a plan to bring a YMCA building and program to Bloomington. One team got a start on their project by planting a flower garden and a rain garden for a senior center in Bloomington. Another team has a plan to encourage seniors in apartment complexes to exercise more and eat the right foods.

We all came away empowered with more leadership and speaking skills, an effective planning process, a greater knowledge of our community and its needs, particularly for the elderly and our projects that will add quality to the lives of our residents. Above all, we became friends with renewed purpose to use our skills and talents for the benefit of others as we enter the golden age of retirement. 



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