Heidi Ritter in her flower garden. She says senior years can be the best time to concentrate on lifelong interests and follow new dreams.

Heidi Ritter in her flower garden. She says senior years can be the best time to concentrate on lifelong interests and follow new dreams.

Sharing the good stuff in life

The At This Age group has encouraged Heidi Ritter to try several new things, including writing poetry

She can light the room up with her smile and she’s happiest when she’s sharing her sunny outlook with others.

“I encourage other people to see the nice stuff and the goodness, life is hard enough. You want to give the happiness further,” said Heidi Ritter.

There have been some hard times in her life. She was born in Dortmund, Germany in 1937 and was evacuated for safety to the Black Forest to live with foster parents during the Second World War.

“In childhood, we didn’t know what we were missing and we were happy with simple things. After the war, I finished school and we all had to start a new life. When there has been a war in a country nothing is organized, it is all upside down, everything has to be built up again and brought into balance,” she said.

Ritter believes there are many times in people’s lives when they have to rebuild and rebalance. For her, one was when her husband, Otto, died, 14 years ago. That time, working in the family business, Ritters House of Sausage, started when the family moved to Vernon in 1977, kept her going. A year ago, after 63 years in the deli business and training as a butcher, she decided to retire. The store is now run by her son, Otto.

That brought a search for a different kind of balance.

“Before, I had no time to play. How do we play now?” she said. “We have to find something different to do. Listen to your soul, what you need now. And listen to your body, is it trying to tell you something? Listen to your spiritual side, too. Be as good to yourself as you would be to someone else.”

Ritter treasures the memories of her life as it has been up to now, including working and meeting people.

“I really like people. Before, they used to come to me, now I have to go out and meet people. I am learning to do a different life and we have always the memories which belong to life. I try to enjoy the good ones and let the others go,” she said.

“We have to have the positive energy and thinking in our thoughts and words and accept that everybody, that we are all creative and we can do so many things with what is given to us. And we must never forget to be able to laugh at ourselves and to keep our dreams.”

She thought about her interests, the things she had done when she had the time, reading, knitting, gardening (and driving her tractor on her acreage), spending time in nature, she was a longtime member of the Vernon Outdoors Club.

“You have to have a certain age and then you see the things you want. I have good friends, without them I wouldn’t be here,” said Ritter.

She started drawing, taking her inspiration from her pleasure in nature, and making sculptures from natural items that catch her interest. She knew she still wanted to spend time with people and decided to join the At This Age (Creativity and Aging) group facilitated by Dr. Dalia Gottlieb-Tanaka to help seniors keep their minds active through discussion, art activities, writing, and music. The group meets at the Schubert Centre.

“The group gives me so much. I meet people of all ages and lifestyles that I wouldn’t meet otherwise. At first, I wasn’t really sure but I went and then I went again and I liked it. I never played in that way before. I liked all the activities we were doing and to bring the brain in motion which is so important because the brain is so easy to shrivel up,” said Ritter.

“It is different when you are older. At work you know what you should do but in retirement — it is a different way of thinking, what should I do, how can I fill my soul?”

The At This Age group has encouraged Ritter to try several new things, including writing poetry, in German and in English. One remembers her life — the times of gray days and thunderstorms, and the times of walking on rainbows.

“I am going to keep going to the group because of the people and what we share together. I am looking forward to our play in September which we want to bring understanding to what people can do with their lives in our age. There is so much still,” she said.