Genevieve Abbot tends to see the silver lining in things — including getting older. Earlier this year she decided to share her positive attitude with others and create a place where seniors could share their thoughts on aging — both the good and the bad — although Abbot tends to stress the pros rather than the cons. Earlier this month she launched an every-other-Monday Zoom Senior Discussion Group as part of Pathways Arts programming.
“I didn’t really want a space to whine and complain,” she says. “I wanted to provide a forum to share the positive things about getting old.”
The first get-together on March 8 brought together about eight people over Zoom. According to Abbot, participants represented an eclectic mix, including a couple of artists who spoke about projects they are currently working on.
Abbot sparked the discussion by posing two questions: “What are some positive things about getting old?” and “How has the pandemic changed your life?” It turns out that there was some commonality between answers to both questions, as many mentioned that having more free time was one thing they appreciated in their retirement years, as well as a benefit of the shutdown.
“Most people agreed that they were happy to have more time to do what they really wanted to do, and that, surprisingly, they have found themselves busier than they have ever been,” says Abbot.
One man shared a painting — his first ever — which he had just completed. A couple in their 80s talked about how much they are enjoying daily nature walks, and shared information on lesser-known trails on the Island.
“I think we’re going to be learning a lot of new stuff,” says Abbot. “What we really wanted to do is to discover new things.”
Abbot herself has taken advantage of the pandemic break by taking up a passion of hers more seriously. A lifelong horseback riding enthusiast, she started taking riding lessons last year, and is thoroughly enjoying herself.
The group is scheduled to meet via Zoom through the rest of the spring, and then will resume in the fall, hopefully in person at the Pathways space in Chilmark. Abbot says that she may eventually introduce some interactive elements, like role playing and improv exercises.
A longtime Islander, Abbot has a background in theater and education. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Boston University. While there, she joined a women’s discussion group, and was eventually asked to lead it. Abbot went on to earn a master’s degree in theater, and taught for many years in Newburgh, N.Y. She was involved during the summer months with the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, acting and directing.
Ever since she and her husband moved to the Island full-time about 10 years ago, Abbot has wanted to form a group in order to expand her circle of connections and to offer a useful socializing tool for others. She spoke to Scott Crawford, a member of the dance group that Abbot is involved in, about working with Pathways on the project, and he embraced the idea wholeheartedly.
Only about eight people attended the first Zoom meeting, but Abbot is optimistic that the group will grow over time, as well as expand its base to people from all walks of life.
“All the people who attended seemed enthusiastic about discovering new things,” she says. “We want to keep our brains active, and have the chance to share and to discover new things.”
Pathways Arts Senior Discussion Group, for individuals 65 and over, will meet two more times, on April 5 and 19, from 11 to noon. The group will resume meeting in the fall. Contact Genevieve Abbot for more info and for the Zoom link at email@example.com.