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Wellness fair focus on courage to live a better life

Wellings of Picton general manger Rachel Henry with Kathie Donovan, former CTV Regional Contact host, now author and motivational speaker.

By Sharon Harrison
Community members attending a wellness fair at the Wellings in Picton were challenged to re-think what retirement looks like and unlearn conditioning to think life is for the young.

Kathie Donovan, co-host and co-producer of CTV Ottawa’s Regional Contact program, was in Prince Edward County for the first Wellings Wellness Fair. Donovan and co-host Joel Haslam explored the Ottawa valley and beyond for almost four decades, telling the stories of people who inhabit eastern Ontario and west Quebec, who made dreams come to life and often sacrificed something to live a life of their own design.

The celebrated speaker, broadcaster, author and coach was the keynote speaker, where her presentation, The Art of Aging Gratefully: How to Feel Seen, Heard and Valued, was well received by an audience of both Wellings’ residents and the public.

Wellings general manager Rachel Henry said a ‘live well’ focus at the retirement community encompasses more than health and fitness.

“It also encompasses socialization, financial, emotional and spiritual well-being,” she said. “Everyone here is on a quest for a wellness journey, and we definitely want to embrace that and celebrate it, and that was the inspiration behind this fair.”

The day featured workshops on making healthy smoothies and breakfasts, improving mobility and fitness, growing food, using wellness apps and a guided meditation.

Following a buffet lunch, Henry introduced Donovan, “one of the most uplifting people I’ve ever met” and praised how she the almost 68-year old re-invented herself after CTV.

Donovan represents what happens when a fear of trying new things is put aside and courage steps into its place, said Henry.

“At Wellings, we challenge people to re-think what retirement looks like every day,” Henry said. “Wake up, chose to be positive, choose to be courageous, choose to make a difference, chose to share your wisdom and educate and elevate others.”

Henry called Donovan’s work a call to action to “unlearn what we think we know to be true, to stretch what is possible, so that we can see our true potential, and lead a beautiful life of our own design.”

Donovan spoke to her early family life; of a mother who she believed suffered from some form of undiagnosed depression, and a father who became an alcoholic.

In the 1940s, for her parents and especially her mother, Donovan said it was expected for people to “just get on with things” but noted her mother was afraid of everything. Donovan is the youngest of three children. Her parents had lost two other babies.

“She was so afraid on our behalf and was afraid something might happen to me too and my brother and my sister,” said Donovan. “What I got from her was negativity and fear, because the message I got from my mother when I was growing up was, I was to be seen and not heard… What does that message a person receives tell you? It tells you that you don’t have a voice.”

Donovan described herself as a curious child whose self-esteem was non-existent. “I didn’t know who I was,” she said describing her life experience. “Behind closed doors, my life at home was pretty miserable.”

The seed of the magic of broadcasting and community was sown when she was about eight years old and “lay in my heart until I was old enough to figure out what I was going to do in life,” she said, describing how broadcasting was a place she felt she belonged and was part of something greater than herself.

“I want to encourage women to take care of themselves first. It sounds selfish, but it’s really about self care. The bottom line is the value of appreciation. You can call it gratitude, you can call it whatever you like.”

She spoke to conditioning of thinking that getting old is a curse, “when in fact, it is the greatest privilege there is. We are conditioned to think life is for the young, but that is simiply not true.”

She suggested focusing on what’s working and what you have.

“If you have a breath, you have a long list of things to be grateful for,” she said, and recommended cultivating the habit of appreciation.

“What brings us together is kindness and compassion.”

Donovan is the author of two self-published books, “Inspiration in Action: A Woman’s Guide to Happiness”, and “Unconform: Harnessing the Radical Power of Courage”. A complimentary signed copy of her latest book was given to everyone who attended the fair.

Henry was pleased with the first wellness fair and expects it will become an annual event.

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