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We Are All Older People in Training

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by Leslie Farin

It’s OK to be old 

In a society where we value youth, I say its OK to grow old. In fact, it’s a good thing. What’s the alternative?

Earlier today I participated in an online conference entitled, Sage 2020, hosted by Honor. Louise Aronson, New York Times bestselling author of Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life was the keynote speaker. 

My favorite part of the presentation was when Dr. Aronson said, 

“We Are All Older People in Training”

What a great line; it’s one I’m sure I won’t forget any time soon. We will all be there at some point. It’s important we treat older people with respect and dignity. Isn’t that what we all want and deserve no matter what our age? 

Attitude changes are needed to better care for our elderly

Dr. Aronson, a Harvard Medical School graduate, is a practicing geriatrician and Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She is also a wonderful speaker who shared her views on how people view aging and how we, as a society, need an attitude change to better care for older adults. Below are three issues she discussed during her presentation that particularly resonated with me.

Know that all “seniors” are not the same

Why do we lump all older people together as a group? Dr. Aronson talked about how we place them into an all-inclusive category like “seniors” or “elderly” whether age 65 or age 85 – despite the obvious differences. Care and support needed by individuals in this group vary greatly depending on the age. Challenges and health issues change with age. It does not make sense to put all older people into one group; we need to break the group down into smaller ones to better meet specific needs. 

Encourage self-care

Do we help older adults help themselves? As per Dr. Aronson, we need to encourage them to participate in their care and not do everything for them. Caregiving doesn’t need to be one-sided. People of all ages like to learn, grow and feel the sense of accomplishment.

Put our money where we purport to put our values

We talk alot about family values, yet Dr. Aronson pointed out caregivers tend to receive low wages. (Teachers too, but that is another conversation.) This job of the caregiver is extremely important, difficult and and personal, yet based on on the pay, we do not value caregivers in the U.S as much as we should.  We need to better support those who care for our loved ones.

Fight ageism

How we take care of older people now impacts the future. We need to examine our attitudes and how they translate into actions. And it’s important to change not only how we see others, but also how we see ourselves.

It’s OK to be old.

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Thank you to Laurie Miller of Apple Care & Companion for the invitation to this informative and enlightening conference sponsored by their partner, Honor.

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