The idea that I might look at the period of transition from adulthood into something else came from Dr. Bill Thomas. He called it “the end of adulthood”, I picked up on his thought and added thoughts of my own. Out of that comes “Adulthood’s End”.
Over the last two years, my East Side Institute colleague Dr. Susan Massad and I have had the honor of leading “The Joy of Dementia” workshops around the country. One former college professor whose diagnosis was still recent, began sharing the experiences and emotions she was going through, and ended by saying, “What can I say, it’s just weird.”
I think what I saw was this 18-year-old’s inability to imagine herself aging into someone who looked like us. And I get that. It’s hard to imagine when you’re 18 and your body’s perfect, blooming, unblemished, perky, that you’ll ever look like someone decades older.
It’s become a trend in schools around the US to celebrate the 100th day of school by holding a “Dress Like a 100-Year-Old Day.” Pinterest and some websites provide instructions for parents to help their kids look and act the part of an old person. Today’s kids are tomorrow’s leaders. We have a great opportunity to inoculate them against the damaging effects of ageism.
To some extent I have identified as a social and environmental activist myself. One part has come out of my time as a park ranger, and another out of my passion for community. Both of them have grown with me, ripening as the years have passed. So that, the activism that now speaks to me is not the activism I grew-up with.
There is a common tendency to address these challenges with simple or complicated solutions more befitting of the inanimate. We believe the best solutions, while ever-changing, will come from the community itself, and each community is different.
This internship was not starting as I expected. My intuition told me more depth was possible. Trying not to do anything felt very strange. My whole life had been spent doing. I was good at doing.
Long-term care residents living with dementia labeled as “aggressive” when they engage in distressing and harmful “resident-to-resident incidents” are in reality expressing real human needs and frustrations that are not being met by understaffed, undertrained, and inadequately supervised direct care staff members.