Inspired by culture change conversations in Florida
Restoring the role of elders in our societySeptember 11, 2012
On the Saturday of the August long-weekend, my plane touched down in Jacksonville, Florida, the city where I would be immersed in the concept of changing culture of aging during the Pioneer Network Conference.
This was the organization’s 12th annual conference, which started as a small coalition of elder care experts who saw the need for a shift in societal thinking when it comes to how aging is viewed.
There were 32 people at the first conference.
There were more than 1,000 people with me in Florida, all sharing ideas and views on enhancing the lives of people living in the continuum of care, from retirement communities to the behavioural-care floors that house people living with the most advanced stages of dementia.
The greatest take-home for me was that people from all backgrounds, in family-owned organizations or larger corporate entities, have the ability to approach the world of elder care differently.
There are structural things organizations can do that may cost money, time and effort, but there are other things to do that are centred on relationships in the homes.
I spoke with a gentleman named Barry Barkan, who in 1978 founded an organization called the Live Oak Institute in Berkeley, California, which is “grounded in the sacred vision of a culture in which elders are valued.”
In 1978, the institute defined an elder in a way that gets directly to the heart of that vision, and when considered, allows stronger relationships to flourish between caregiver and elder, according to Barkan.
“And elder is a person who is still growing, still a learner, still with potential and whose life continues to have within it promise for, and connection to the future,” according to this definition.
“An elder is still in pursuit of happiness, joy and pleasure, and her or his birthright to these remains intact. Moreover, an elder is a person who deserves respect and [honor] and whose work it is to synthesize wisdom from long life experience and formulate this into a legacy for future generations.”
Barry and his wife, Debora, shared stories of writing poetry in groups with people who wouldn’t participate in other activities, and they talked of empowering other residents to take ownership of the changing face of aging in society by helping fellow residents.
For 35 years Barry and Debora have worked tirelessly to make life better for seniors.
“I believe that the restoration of the role of elders to society is what will transcend borders and bring peace to the world,” he told me.
We’re looking for innovative ways people within the OMNI family of homes are working to contribute to this movement. Please contact kristian(at)axiomnews to share your story or ideas.
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