How in your opinion community psychologist could contribute to involvement of elderly citizens in their communities?
With the amount of aging and elderly people in the world today, it is important that we do all that we can to keep them as viable, productive members of society. In the video lecture Dr. Richard Gitelson acknowledged the fact that there are many millions of baby boomers that are now hitting ages 60 and above. Therefore, the problem of how to keep these aging citizens integrated in the community will become a bigger one in the next couple decades to come. In light of the information on the pros and cons of nursing homes, the biggest issue affecting the lives of the elderly is isolation; isolation from their families, hobbies, and previous ways of life. I experienced this firsthand during the brief time that my grandfather lived in an assisted-care facility; he suffered isolation partly because I became withdrawn and reluctant to even go in there; the patients who were experiencing senility, dementia, or just plain depression intimidated me. This burden of guilt compounded on my family until we realized that we had made a bad decision, after which we removed my grandpa from the facility and took care of him at our own home. I feel remorse and shame still today for what we put him through; placing him in a foreign environment that took away his independence and contact with his loved ones.
Even though Connie Aman Shryock of the Friendship Village defended current nursing home establishments and assured everyone that care for the elderly in these places has come leaps and bounds, the fact remains that anyone put in a home is automatically cut off from the main part of the community...it is only the degree of separation that varies. I am an advocate of the use of nursing homes if it is the absolute last option possible, but there are many other options available that would give the elderly much more of the respect that they deserve. CP can underscore the fact that the elderly are an extremely important part of the community, in the fact that they have a wealth of valuable knowledge and wisdom that can be beneficial to the younger generations. Community psychologists could play an important role in reminding people of the value of keeping the elderly active in community affairs. If people kept this in mind there could be more opportunities for integration of seniors into more community organizations, or chances for the elderly to come and guest speak at a school or public address. In our culture where youth is worshipped and old age is downplayed, CP can and will be an important tool in maintaining community respect for the elderly.
In the video the main message I took away was that in order for the elders in our community to be mentally healthy they need to have a purpose in life. Physical health can be easily achieved through simply providing them with the opportunities for an active lifestyle but in order to ensure mental health they need to have a reason to live, they need to be bale to give back to society and they need to be able to live life to the fullest. In many other societies elders are seen as the wise teachers and they are greatly respected. However, that is not the case in our society. Whether it be due to economical reasons or whatever the case may be in order to ensure that the elders remain healthy through the end of their life we need to provide them with the resources so that they can pursue the things in life they value most. The benefit of the situation is that people inherintly want to stay as independent as possible for as long as possible. When they age the little things in life tend to fade away and through selective optimism they make the most of what they have and they hold onto and cherish small yet sentimental things much more than others. So the resources communities provide do not have to be expense or overdone. Simply making things available to them such as volunteer opportunities or mentorship opportunities or even the option to gain more education is all it will take to ensure than our elders are mentally healthy. Community psychology can aid in this by giving elders a community in which they can come together, find those who share similar passions and live out the rest of their lives doing the small things that provide them with a simple yet meaningful purpose in life.
Community psychology can make a great contribution to the involvement of elderly citizens in their communities. There is a great model to follow here in Arizona. Our own Sun City is a retirement community and is known as the 'City of Volunteers'. There have been estimates that the contributions from volunteers has saved the county anywhere from thirteen to fifteen million dollars. In previous lectures have also discussed the benefits of not only the community from volunteering but of the mental health of the individual with increased self esteem from being productive and giving back to someone else. An obstacle that comes into play for some as they continue to mature is the lack of mobility that arises from driving abillity diminishing. With the money that is being saved we could bolster dial-a-ride services for the elderly to be able to insure their freedom and independence to travel around the city as they please and continue to give access to volunteer opportunities. I think this would be great as it keeps the elderly engaged in the community and continues to foster a sense of self worth for them. Not only that but I think that I would provide opportunities for the elderly to interact with their peers so that they may share their experiences and similarities because as we know those relationships play a large part in their enjoyment of life. What also needs to change is the perception that younger generations have of the elderly. We are so dismissive of the things that they have to say, but if we were to listen to them they can provide valuable information and guidance to have successful lives. For younger generations to understand that the elderly have been through and faced a lot of the problems we will face and have dealt with them and can give advice to us as we go along would be a huge benefit. I know when I encounter problems in my life I seek counsel from people who have gone through a similar situation to seek the best course of action, it was the times when I did things on my own and did what I thought was best when I ran into problems. If we could change the perception of the elderly from burden to mentor I think everyone would benefit.
If anyone has seen the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, they would see that it's a great depiction of how life comes full circle. We are born in a state of need, and we end our lives in a state of need. Community psychology, being a field that is embedded in values pertaining to human life and quality, can have contributions towards the elderly by engaging them in their own community. Putting elders in nursing homes, where they are deprived of their independence, privacy, family and basic needs is not a soltuion. There are many great ways that community psychology can help to establish things like programs that would get the elderly involved in the community, as talked about in the discussion panel. But all the suggestions revolved around the same, and quite simple concept that many people tend to miss, treat the elderly and engage them in a way that you would as if they are not physically or mentally handicapped. More programs are needed that enable the elderly to establish their sense of dignity and ability. Things like setting up opportunities for them to volunteer in schools, as mentors or as aids for children are great examples. As discussed, such programs are limited and community psychology can help establish this to a greater extent. One of the main and very important concepts that was discussed, is the fact that the elderly need to have a sense of purpose in life. After the kids gave grown up, you no longer have your job, and no one's around to ask about your day, you need something to look forward to. Granted, many elderly have established their life where they have things to look forward to, but for those that don't the community should reach out to them and give them that purpose. This can be as small as engaging them in a weekly gardening or book club for example. But we should not strive to give them only minimal mental stimulation, communities should try to enhance them mentally and physcially through such programs and clubs. A lot of the elderly enjoy things like Bingo nights, so recreational activities should be promoted, this would help them engage in social activities so they don't feel isolated from the world. Services that help the elderly become more mobile should be promoted, so they can gain their sense of freedom again. Just like we try to engage children in as many activities as possible and try to give them a normal development, there should be as much emphasis on the elderly within communities. A lot of times though programs are created just for the elderly, this is good, because they get to meet others who are similar to them, however, this can be a way of ostracizing them and can send a message that because they're older, they are only beneficial to other older people. That's why I think that programs that engage them with all members of society, such as children through schools for example, would provide the most benefits. It would enable them to feel like their life's struggles and experiences, good or bad, are useful to a new generation. This comes to my next point, and that is community psychology can only engage the elderly within their community as long as the community is receptive. In order to get rid of the view we have of the elderly as a useless population that should be cast away from sight, community psychology can help diminish such images by making people aware and engaged with their elders. Community psychology can help people become aware that although it may take longer for your grandma or grandpa to learn how to use the latest technology, or you might have to re-explain the concept of Facebook more than once, the wisdom that they can offer about life can be of use to any generation, because wisdom is timeless. And even if they're not wise, community psychology can help promote the concept of respect and engagement through awareness.
As people get older they tend to feel distant from society and feel useless. Through community psychology we need to eliminate these feelings and have the elderly become a bigger part of our society. As the video states the elderly need to feel as though they have a purpose. There are already so many retirement homes available for the elderly, but there needs to be more than that. More people need to visit retirement homes and the elderly need to have more available time to take trips away from these homes in order to still interact with society. The elderly need to have more resources available so they can still remain "in the know" with new occurences. Things such as technology are becoming lost within these group of people, which is difficult since most of society now works primarily through technology. There can be plenty of training programs which help the elderly to learn these new adaptations to society. We can even incorporate young adolescents in running these programs so they can develop an understanding and respect for people other than those their own age. It is important for every person to maintain their independence, and as you get older independence starts to slip away. If we can create a way for the elderly to fit back into our society and regain their independence community psychology can have a whole new realm of people to work with and be able to gain more knowledge from the "wise".
While listening to the lecture I had to keep rewinding because as they began speaking of issues that they are dealing with such as "Granny dumping" or also the lack of social support. I couldn't help but begin thinking of the way we treated our elderly loved ones. When I was young I spent all my time with my great grandmothers, along with my brother. In the mornings we would go on walks and pick up cans to recycle, we would talk to her friends and then she would fix breakfast and then we would all play cards and bingo. I used to have so much fun while I was with her and thought that she was one of the coolest people ever. We would also go over to my grandmothers house where should would feed us and tell us cool stories and actually educated us on our manners. Growing up in a Mexican-type culture this is the way that I thought everyone did it. All my friends would be doing the same thing mainly because the community in which I grew up in was predominantly Mexican. I move out of that town and grow up and see that it's not the same case for many people out there. There are so many places in which the elderly could be put away from all their loved ones. I believe that these programs are great but once someone is placed in living situation in which they don't know anyone, it tends to cause a sense of anxiety for that person. For some people retirement homes are a great place but for others it just a place in which the family could put someone who is holding them back from their own individual needs and wants. I believe that community psychology could help contribute in the involvement of the elderly by simply beginning with the families. All people need is the feeling of belonging. They don't want to be treated and useless trash and stored away in an unfamiliar location. I believe by having these ideals while growing up, the ideals of importance of family and holding strong social ties, would help contribute to a better way of life for the elderly.
I think that community psychologists could certainly contribute a great deal to the involvement of elderly citizens in their communities. With the panel discussion, there was talk about how the elderly often feel isolated and would like most to stay plugged into their communities and be able to stay in participation with society. As one of the speakers mentioned, there are 76 million baby boomers that are aging today. There are unfortunate phenomena's like "granny dumping" and such that diminish the value of the elderly. I think that by maybe keeping the elderly in communities with everyone else in society, and not isolating them in nursing homes would be very helpful to contributing in their involvement. There is definitely a difference in culture, for instance, as mentioned, many cultures decide to keep their elderly in their own home rather than send them to retirement homes and nursing homes. However, there are some that have no choice but to live in these types of homes. For them, I would suggest that maybe the homes that are taking care of them should take them out into the community much more and allow them to participate in different activities and engage in interactions with people.
I think community psychologists could help formulate a plan to encourage society as a whole to incorporate the elderly citizens in the community. I think we first would need to ask ourselfs and the elderly what they would like to be involved in. I think one of the best ideas was stated by Dr. Wosinski when he stated to possibly put the elderly within class rooms. With them in the classrooms it would be great for the kids because of the different history and wisdom they could share. Imagine having veterans in high school classrooms to share their experience with the wars and how they saw things. It would be wonderful for the students to hear their stories and how history is actaully shaped. It would benifit the elderly because they would be interacting with the youth but also being able to share their life. If the elderly were in math classes of biology classes they would be able to keep their brain engaged in learning and understand new ideas or refreshing what they used to learn. As we all know learning and continuing to engage your mind helps to keep people moving a little faster than those who no longer engage in it. Another thing that could happen would be to have schools put on sporting games and dances and what not for the elderly. I think it would be wonderful to have these types of different options for the elderly because we as a society need to not be so selfish and need to learn from the collectivist countries as far as taking care of the elderly.
Community psychologists have a lot to contribute to assisting the elderly and getting involved in their communities. Us as CP students can contribute by volunteering to start giving back to the community. People need to understand the needs of the elderly when they are no longer working and contributing to the community that way. CP can help find ways to keep them involved. A lot of what was mentioned was that when people start getting older they begin to feel isolated, for whatever reason of not being able to drive anymore, not seeing their family as much as they would like, not being a part of their work community and other such examples. There are many ways to get them back into the community and make them feel needed and give them a sense of purpose again by inviting them to speak more to children, students, community centers and use their knowledge and experience as a way to educate others. Let them tell their stories and share with others what they have done with their lives. A lot of people our age and younger are looking for a mentor, what better way than to find someone who has lived through so much and has so much to share. There are also things like community gardens, choirs, community centers with games and collaborative sports.
Community Psychologists can help spread a sense of community by uniting people of all ages that live in an area to show that we are all equal and that life is a cycle. We all need to contribute to our neighborhoods and communities because at some point we were all children, and we will all become elders and retirees. We have an extraordinary opportunity to learn from our elders and neighbors, we need to take advantage of that and help show our appreciation towards these people that have contributed so much to our community. Volunteering our time and possibly encouraging our government to contribute more to housing and health care options to these people that have given so much.
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