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Project EngAGE holds conversation about end of life preparations

Tom Wolf (left) talks to Bill Crittenden about having conversations about death and dying at the Seymour Center on Thursday night.
Tom Wolf (left) talks to Bill Crittenden about having conversations about death and dying at the Seymour Center on Thursday night.

Project EngAGE held a community discussion about preparing for death at the Seymour Center Thursday.

The program was hosted by one of several senior-led teams that focus on specific aging-related topics. Project EngAGE is led by coordinator Yvette Missri.

“Basically this group, their mission is really to raise awareness around the importance of talking about death and dying and normalizing it in our society, which is often a taboo, and also to raise awareness around planning,” Missri said.

The project leaders believe planning ahead for death can free older people and allow them to live with less pressure. The discussion was aimed toward gathering information from the community and allowing people to share their stories with others.

“We’re particularly interested in hearing what didn’t go well — were their loved ones’ wishes honored or not?” Missri said. “Did they suffer unnecessarily or did they have a good death? Did they die with dignity or didn’t they?”

She said they’re hoping to uncover the issues people are encountering and discuss them with the group to help shape the project’s initiatives.

The founder of Senior Care Management Associates, Bill Crittenden, opened the discussion as the moderator.

“While death is and has always been inevitable, we tend not to actually plan for it, even though accepting the fact of our death and making arrangements for care in advance frees us to live our end of days more fully, more serenely and calmly with the assurance that our desires will prevail,” Crittenden said.

The event was an open-mic session, which allowed volunteers to speak on their experiences with death and their feelings about the importance of planning for death.

The discussion centered on leaving loved ones with details of what you would like them to do in case you are in need of emergency medical attention.

The majority of the speakers said it made them and their loved ones more comfortable with making a life-or-death decision for them after talking about what they would want.

The speakers emphasized how much more bearable it was to make a decision in a time of medical emergency because they know what their loved one would want.

Linda Baird Van Wyk shared the story of her husband’s experience near the end of his life.

“I liked hearing today about what people have had happen in their life,” she said. “There was nothing terribly new that I hadn’t already known, but I firmly believe that I should have a right to control my own body. What goes on inside and outside in regard to my body, I think everyone has that right.”

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