The Red Hills Gerontology Association held its 2014 symposium “Relationships in Later Life” on Friday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., inside the Campus Center on Thomas University’s Main Campus.
Presenters for the day included Lillian Finn, the executive director of Plantation Manor; Bill Wertman, the director of Alzheimer’s Project Inc. in Tallahassee, Fla., and Betty Sawyer, the director of Social Services at Plantation Manor.
Sawyer, widely known as “Memo,” spoke on the relationship she has with her granddaughters.
“It is absolutely my favorite subject in the whole wide world. It’s so wonderful being a grandparent,” she began.
In her speech, Sawyer addressed the several perceptions grandchildren generally have of their grandparents. These include silliness, wisdom and, patience that parents do not have, plus the thought that grandparents are forever.
She said, “We aid in their development for the years we have left to give.”
Sawyer told stories of how her grandchildren’s humor and wit have enabled her to live a more productive and satisfying life.
“I remember one time my granddaughter Ansley held my head and looked intently at my upper lip and said, ‘Memo, you’re trying to grow a mustache.’ I nearly died,” joked Sawyer.
The grandmother shared with the room full of students, educators and older adults her nine rules for developing a unique relationship with grandchildren that have worked for her.
Her number one rule is to love unconditionally.
She said, “No matter what you do, I will always love you. That’s my most important rule to grandchildren.”
Other rules include establishing traditions and trust, having a sincere interest in their world, complimenting where its deserved, passing off values in a “non-preachy” way, listening actively, having a healthy sense of humor and modeling positive thinking.
“I tell as well as show my grandchildren how to always find something positive about their day and to be thankful for the small things in life,” said Sawyer.
After Sawyer spoke about the relationship, her granddaughters, Ansley Ragan and Amanda Ragan Ritter joined her.
Ragan said, “This relationship is very special. Throughout our lives it something is important to us, it was the most important thing for her. I’ve learned that not everyone has a relationship with their grandparents and we are incredibly lucky. It’s been the most rewarding experience in my life.”
Ritter remembered her grandmother always taking an active role in their lives, Even during her softball games, Sawyer could be found in the dugout.
She said, “There’s always things that we’ve been able to share with Memo that we don’t with parents. That’s one of the things that makes our relationship so unique.”
At the end of the presentation, Sawyer hugged her granddaughters and said, “Enjoy everyday now — that’s the way I live.”
The event was sponsored by Thomas University, the Suites of Woodleaf and Plantation Manor.
Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.