The holiday season has a way of encouraging acts of kindness toward family, friends, and even strangers. As the holiday spirit inspires us to treat others with kindness and respect, let us not overlook older adults who tend not to receive everyday acts of kindness, gratitude, and respect.
Many dying patients express the need for meaning—in life and in death. In palliative care, our primary goal is to facilitate comfort and maximize quality of life. We often employ interventions that emphasize the importance of meaning-making. Unfortunately, these interventions seem to be overly individualistic and westernized, overlooking important aspects of intersectionality and cultural variations.
We spend a lot of time talking about quality of life, but, increasingly, people around the world are talking about quality of death. Facing the end of life is hard for everyone involved, and many worry about the pain and loss of dignity associated with dying. In some areas of the world, individuals may choose legalized medical aid in dying, allowing them to control the time and place of their own death.
Have you ever noticed that the tone of birthday cards for children is upbeat with messages like, “way to go, you’re another year older”? Whereas that is rarely the theme in cards for adults older than 21, at least in the United States. Birthday cards and gifts that poke fun of older adulthood are communicating negative ageist stereotypes found in society…
“I would kill myself.” This is what a 70 year-old transgender woman told me recently when I asked what she would do if she needed long-term care. While this sounds dramatic, it is a common sentiment among older transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) adults (Witten, 2014). Many TGNC older adults do not have family caregivers available to meet their needs for assistance in later life, having been rejected and ostracized by their families of origin according to a study by Grant and colleagues (2011), and long-term care services may be their only option.
As students around the country are excitedly gathering their backpacks and school supplies in anticipation of the new school year, there is another group of students who are more worried than excited…worried about the family member(s) they are caring for…”What if something happens when I am at school?” “What if people at school find out what I do…will they take me away from my family?”
Our society places the highest value on independence; doing things by ourselves for ourselves. Because of this, we rarely think about what it would be like to need someone else’s assistance with even the most basic activities: getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating, driving, or filling out paperwork. Thus, when individuals are faced with changes in their physical abilities, the adjustment to using personal care assistance can be challenging.
How do we counter the negative impact of ageist stereotypes pervasive in Western society? It’s more complicated than it appears. Even embracing positive age-related stereotypes can have unintended consequences. Here’s an overview of what research suggests might really work.
Gardening is a popular summer activity for a reason! Research shows that it can have positive effects on our physical, mental, and social well-being as we age. Gardening can range from caring for a single plant to mowing the lawn or planting an entire vegetable garden. Don’t be intimidated. Given the versatility of gardening options, anyone can do it. It’s not too late to dig into gardening this summer!
As our Vietnam veteran population ages, many may become increasingly vulnerable for death by suicide. Despite the fact that the Vietnam war occurred approximately 40 years ago, the moral injuries sustained are still felt by many who served our country.