Reflecting on feedback and questions

I love getting feedback and comments, they have pushed my view of the world into areas I couldn’t have reached by myself. I thank everyone for their feedback and I encourage you to use this as a platform for discussion.

I stumbled on a blog that had a some interesting insights on my project. Here are some of my thoughts:

“Gurney is 43, he is not 88. He has not necessarily had the full life experience many of the residents in these facilities have had.”

I view the opportunity to live together with people who have much more wisdom than me as a tremendous privilege. I don’t think that there is anyone that I met that would complain about having people living with them that don’t share the same life experiences. I think it’s a shame that so many people living in senior living options could be isolated from youth and those that can learn from their wisdom. I feel having younger people that are living as peers and not staff, family or visitors can add a positive dynamic to the community.

“He may not have the physical disabilities many residents have, or the constant concern that his memory is going bad.”

One of the points of my project was to explore the concept that a retirement community should be a home for “people”, not “older people” or “people with disabilities”. It wasn’t that long ago in our history when we viewed black people and minorities as being inherently different than the “rest of us”. Look at where we have come in a short period of time. The more we can integrate everyone regardless of age and disability, the better the world will be.

“There may be some benefits to noting the transition into a community that you are new to. However to improve our professional understanding of this type of transition, perhaps it is better to ask ‘real’ new residents to journal their own emotions and experiences as they make this transition.”

I have interviewed several hundred residents and families on their transition into senior living options in my 20 year career. I definately had knowledge and compassion on transitions, however, once I started this project, I became amazed at how detached I was from the experience.

Reading or talking to someone about their experience skydiving is vastly different than jumping out of a plane yourself. I will probably never jump out of a plane, but if I am lucky I will someday be the same age as many of the people that I met during this experience. I view the opportunity to experience and reflect on the way we care for our elders at this point in my life as an exciting opportunity to influence change.

“Here are some notable differences between what Gurney is experiencing and what real residents may go through… Gurney choose to go into this facility- many others have had the influenced of their family make this decision.”

Maybe if more people would experience “senior living” before they are “qualified” as I did, this family dynamic could be minimized. I hope we can begin designing “facilities” that will be more appealing homes to people of all ages and abilities.

“Gurney can leave and go back to his four bedroom house, other residents may permanently downsized never to see many of their belongings again, also some may feel this is where they will inevitability die.”

This project made me realize that my belongings are not nearly as important as I thought they were, I would trade any of them for a new friend, time with my family, or a life experience. It also made me realize that I could die or be disabled at any age, so I could be living in my last home right now . . . but I don’t refer or view to it that way and neither does our society. However, nearly everyone seems to view retirement, assisted and nursing homes as a persons last home and a place where they go when they can no longer . . .

“Many residents may feel abandoned by their family, yet Gurney is at the age where he can raise a family, and meet his grandkids.”

There are also many people who have outlived their entire family, and there are many people that never had a relationship with their families. I never realized how much the residents of a community cared for each other until I went through this experience. I became much more aware of how we can redefine our definition of “family”. I feel that for every person that might disconnected to children or grandchildren there are probably others in close proximity that would like to be “surrogate” children and grandchildren. How many teenagers feel disconnected and abandoned to their families? What about families going through divorce? These are opportunities to connect the generations!

I know there are flaws with my approach and this project, my goal is to push the envelope and challenge our current definitions of what “community” is.  Responding to these questions helps me see how much opportunity there is in redefining what we call “normal”.

I remind everyone that there is nothing academic about my comments and observations, they are just my opinions – I am honored that so many people have started using this project as a platform for discussion online, in their families and workplaces. Thanks!

1 Comment

  • I would have probably asked the same questions, but you really have given me some serious food for thought. Thanks for sharing such a fresh perspective.

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