How Those With Dementia Need To Be Included In The Community Too…

Through taking many classes in the Health & Aging Department at McMaster University, I have learned the importance that the community has on aging. As a student in gerontology and health studies, I have just started to become educated in the benefits of age friendly communities, and have seen a need for others to become more aware of this topic. An article written by Dupuis (2010) considered an interesting perspective when he looked at older adults with dementia and the need to still incorporate their lives into communities, along with solutions on how to do this.

            The Dupuis (2010) article looks at how we can improve the lives of individuals with dementia as well as their family. Long-term care (LTC) centres are faced with pressures such as low staff assurance, high turnover and a lack of specifically skilled workers to allow for these specialized programs to be implemented. Dupuis (2010) identifies some necessary changes that need to occur to improve the well-being of those with dementia. The two goals for this new approach are a framework centered on meaningful lives despite the level of dementia the older adult has, as well as readdressing how we currently support not only the people with dementia but also their families (Dupuis, 2010). Dupuis (2010) argues that leisure is the solution to help older adults become more engaged in the community as well as helping meaning be found for the lives of the older adults and those close to them (Dupuis, 2010). A more socio-cultural approach to dementia and the care of these individuals are crucial. By looking at things from a wider perspective, we can confront the ways that we discriminate against those with dementia, and understand that which we are uncomfortable talking about (Dupuis, 2010).

Dupuis (2010) looks at how the community can impact these policies and work with those who have dementia and their families. The guiding principles of this framework are a relationship-based approach that calls for:

– Acknowledging the dynamic of family/friends as a support system

– Ethical principles of ‘do no harm’

– Reevaluating the ways which people with dementia may be impacted

– Recognizing individual and community rights

– Making sure these individuals in society are valued and considered citizens

– Respecting diversity and inclusiveness

– Recognizing there are different types of people and dementia levels, so not one case is the    same as another

– Fairness in policies and accessibility

– Accountability of not only the people who are caring for those with dementia, but the community and family as well.

The three foundation pieces that need to be regarded are an informed society that is educated, supportive environments that allow individuals to be safe, and a sense of connectedness that eliminates this sense of ‘otherness’ that individuals with dementia face due to stigma (Dupuis, 2010). Dupuis (2010) believes that recreation and leisure need to be at the forefront of this framework to act as a way to buffer and normalize the individuals, and to get people to see beyond the diagnosis of dementia.

From experience, I have found that when people find out that a loved one has dementia, how they act around you and your family changes. People that you know and love begin to distance themselves from you, instead of talking and trying to become educated about the disease. There continues to be this stigma that surrounds the illness, creating distance from those who have dementia instead of an understanding and support that would so greatly help not only the individuals with dementia but their families as well. It takes a lot of adjustment as losing the support of your friends and community leaves a gap that is difficult to handle.

Jessica Barlas is studying health and aging at McMaster University.

 

 

 

References

Dupuis, S. L. (2010). A planning framework for improving the lives of persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and their families: Implications for social policy, leisure policy and practice. Decentring work: Critical perspectives on leisure, social policy and human development, 91-117.

 

Advertisements

Precarity: Reconsidering Housing and Home

Many people hope to stay at home for as long as they can. Researchers continue to believe that the home is central to aging well. However, what is often missing from research is a discussion on how feelings of safety, security and affordability must be in place in order for one to really be able to age at home, or feel that the place they age is ‘home’. To have a positive sense of home, one must be able to afford to live at home, and feel safe as well as secure. Achieving the expected ideals of home can thus be hard for seniors who live in poverty, or if they are marginalized and excluded.

 

Since society values people that have a home, older people who are homeless are often deemed as ‘unsuccessful’—a key indicator of wellbeing in late life. The implications of not having a home are thus about public perceptions and realities in care. By not having a home in older age, the homeless cannot access home care services, and have no choice but to use other care systems that are more expensive, such as hospital emergency rooms or a shelter.

 

In thinking about ‘home’ and ‘homelessness’, we need to find a language that is inclusive of the many inequalities that can occur with regards to seniors housing and homes. The word ‘precarity’ is helpful in outlining the risks and inequalities that can happen among older adults with home and housing. Precarity means uncertainty, risk and insecurity. There are a number of ways that seniors housing can be precarious. Older people for instance may be homeless, meaning that they lack stable, permanent and secure housing. According to the Canadian Homeless Research Network, there are four sub-groups of homeless people which includes: unsheltered, emergency sheltered, provisionally accommodated and at risk of homelessness. In addition to being homeless, many older people are provisionally accommodated or at risk for homelessness. This means that although they may not currently be homeless, they have a financial and/or housing situation that is precarious. This ‘at risk’ category can help us to understand the inequalities that exist and the need for a housing agenda that would prevent older people from falling into homelessness for the first time in later life.

 

What this means for policy and programming is that we need to consider both home and housing, and not either or. We need to think of the taken-for-granted ideals of home and make safe, stable and affordable housing a central part of discussions on aging, care and late life. Only through these discussions of housing and home, can we be sure that all seniors have equal access to ‘aging well.’ Precarity and precarious housing provides the language to move us forward.

 

Setting an Agenda- What is important for the community sector?

 

Communities have a responsibility to reach out to groups who are marginalized or excluded in later life and to make sure that their voices and needs are heard. We need to make sure that everyone has access to aging well and need to discuss housing older people who are at risk.

 

The assumption that people want to live at home throughout the life course requires that the home is safe, affordable and secure and that the needs of the senior can be met at home. These pre-requisites need to be accounted for when looking at the ‘home’ in later life. Policy structures need to be completely redesigned with this thinking in mind, and need to account for the needs of older adults who have precarious housing situations.

 

At the moment, all care is configured around the home without looking at the gaps faced by many people who are excluded, in poverty or marginalized. Those with less access to structures that make ‘home’ possible are put in positions of unequal aging.

 

Amanda Grenier is Director of the Gilbrea Centre for Aging and Gilbrea Chair in Aging and Mental Health at McMaster University. You can follow her on Twitter @ Amanda__Grenier

 

Emily Sully is a Master of Arts (M.A.) candidate studying health and aging at McMaster University.

Have We Changed? Comparing Ancient and Modern Views of Aging

Have society’s views towards aging changed since Antiquity? Three months ago, I would have thought modern society’s views towards aging would be entirely different when compared to that of society over two thousand years ago. A seminar I am currently taking at McMaster University titled The History & Culture of Aging by Dr. Sarah Clancy led me to recognize many similarities.

In Ancient Rome, retiring from public life was difficult for the older population. There was no specific retirement age; however, there was a general consensus that after the age of 60, men could honorably retire from public life and live a life of leisure (Harlow & Lawrence, 2003). Ancient Roman society saw this withdrawal from public life as both positive and negative. The positive outlook embraced the individual’s productive and self-gratifying lifestyle, whereas the negative outlook saw retirement as a means of socially marginalizing the individual (Harlow & Lawrence, 2003). Does this sound familiar? To this day, many people find it difficult to give up their job, possibly out of the same fears ancient Romans had – fear of social marginalization. This could be why countless people continue to work after their 65th birthday. In addition, modern society continues to have mixed views towards the retirement of older adults – some viewing it positively, and some regarding these individuals as not contributing to society.

Cato, a political leader in ancient Rome also discussed views towards aging that society continues to have today. He wrote that the “weakness of old age” should be resisted by a routine of “frugal eating, moderate exercise and intellectual pursuit” (Harlow & Lawrence, p. 24). This statement could be considered a form of “anti-aging” that we still see our society partake in today. Our society continues to be filled with pessimistic views towards aging, over-emphasizing on the negative side of growing old – as if it is something one should strive to resist.

Or rather, is Cato’s view not so much an ageist remark, but a kindhearted strategy to help the older population manage with the physical or mental changes that are associated with aging? Maybe Cato is merely suggesting strategies for older people to live the best way possible for the period of life they are in. Modern society regularly encourages strategies to help deal with certain aspects of the aging process just as Cato did – such as exercise classes targeted to older adults or the promotion of mental stimulation for older adults. I at first thought that these views that have continued from Antiquity into modern times are ageist and yet another way that society is resisting aging. However, Graham Knight reminded me that every age group has a different way of dealing with certain aspects of the life stage they are in. For instance, children are encouraged by society to eat healthy breakfasts to help with their attention span and teenagers are encouraged not to smoke to prevent various diseases. This is no different than older adults being encouraged to eat healthily, exercise and participate in mental stimulation to decrease risks of mental or physical impairments that are often associated with aging.

It’s interesting to see that views regarding aging formed over two thousand years ago persist to this day. These understandings of aging from Antiquity can teach us that we can still improve as a community to make Hamilton and the country more age-friendly. Both modern and ancient society seem to objectify older people as victims, and at the same time encourage meaningful strategies to age in the best way possible. Instead of emphasizing on the negative aspects of aging, we as a society need to focus on the positive aspects. What we need to resist is not aging, but the one-sided view of aging as nothing but problematic and negative. In resisting this negative perspective of aging, more and more of society will see it as the wonderful, multi-faceted natural part of life that it is. It is as Plato from ancient Greece said, “He who is of calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden” (Arnhoff, 1955).

 

Megan Acton is completing her Honours B.A. in the Department of Health, Aging & Society at McMaster University

 

References

 

Arnhoff, F. N. (1955). Research problems in gerontology. Journal of gerontology, 10(4),   452-456.

Harlow, M., &. Laurence, R. (2003). Old age in ancient Rome. History Today, 53(4), 22- 27.

HomeShare — Burlington Age-Friendly Seniors Council

HomeShare empowers Home Providers and Home Seekers the ability to live in affordable, shared accommodation inclusive of respect, choice, dignity and is of mutual benefit to all.

Due to the ever growing need of housing options in Halton, it is important to give careful consideration and thought to innovative solutions so that the housing needs of many can be met. One alternative is HomeShare, with a benefit for seniors, who wish to stay in their homes for as long as possible. Although HomeShare may not be the answer for some, for others it may provide the perfect solution, allowing and empowering seniors to remain independent and active, while developing meaningful relationships. It can be a win-win situation for the Home Provider and the Home Sharer and of mutual benefit for both.

Key Definitions:

  • Home Providers: people who are interested in sharing their home.
  • Home Seekers: people who are looking to share a living arrangement with someone for a variety of reasons.
  • Home Sharers: people who are currently living with a Home Provider.

The Halton HomeShare Toolkit has been developed by the Burlington Age-Friendly Housing Committee, as a self-resource guide for individuals who are interested in learning more about HomeShare or considering this as a housing alternative.

HomeShare is considered a living arrangement between two or more people who reside together in the same residence. Each person has his or her private space and will share common areas such as the kitchen and living room. Household responsibilities can be shared, or sometimes services can be exchanged for reduced accommodation expenses. Services may include; household cleaning, lawn and garden maintenance, shopping, taking care of pets, etc.

Home Seekers are people who are looking to share a living arrangement with someone for a variety of reasons.

The benefits of HomeShare can include the following:

  • Companionship and security
  • Reduce isolation
  • Affordable
  • People can remain in their own community
  • Promote well-being
  • Mutual benefit for the Home Provider and Home Seeker

Every HomeShare situation is unique with its own successes and challenges. We are aware that this is not an answer for all, and that it is important for individuals to consider a variety of housing options before making any decisions.

HomeShare is a living situation that can be of mutual benefit to all involved and is about people helping each other.

 

June 2015

AGING IN COMMUNITY

 Writing, Aging & Spirit

Connecting with another person is a deeply fulfilling experience. When a group of people purposefully stretch themselves, by connecting to each other beyond the borders of selectivity and commonality, a profoundly hospitable community is created — a community in which belonging, contribution and accomplishment occur regularly and naturally. Now that’s something to look forward to during one’s second journey through life!

~ E Headley


Aging with resilience can be an exciting journey if we broaden our vision to seek innovative ways to foster aging in community. It is time for us to embrace our interdependence – to move past the North American focus on independence. We dream of a good old age of mutual support and connections – creating many options beyond the two modern established paths: aging in place in frailty (often isolated, without support) or moving into an institution. Calls for sustainability and austerity budgets everywhere add to the emerging cry for new alternatives.

 The underlying values are very similar to those espoused by baby boomers in the 1960’s: desire to rediscover ourselves and live more authentically, to live simply, to reconnect with nature. Aging with community aims to be inclusive, sustainable, healthy, accessible, interdependent, and engaged.

 

Senior Cohousing Model

 Adapting the European approach to senior cohousing for Canada, these innovative seniors-led housing communities support optimal aging. Senior cohousing combines private home ownership with shared amenities (small private space with large common space), lower energy use, governed by residents, neighbourly cooperation, and an emphasis on flourishing through mutual support. Members volunteer for various roles according to their time and talents. Variations include subsidized units, intergenerational housing, intergenerational outreach. Most cohousing communities are located within a broader neighbourhood with easy access to services and opportunities.

 

Village to Village Model

 The Village Model offers a non-housing approach to creating and sustaining a mutual support network within a specific geographical area. The fast-growing Village to Village Network already supports 200+ Villages across North America. The most frequent services offered by these mostly-volunteer, seniors-led villages are: information and referral, transportation and shopping, household and computer maintenance.

 

Aging Together

 Our local Aging in Community group, initiated in the Fall of 2013, has been growing in experience and membership.  A small core group is committed to learning together how to provide mutual support and to create community in our everyday lives. A much larger group, interested in aging in community, receive periodic updates of our activities and relevant resources. We presented a panel for the Gilbrea Centre for the Studies of Aging at McMaster University last June – thereby recruiting potential members and broadening interest among seniors and academics in the concept. This past November, we celebrated our first anniversary with a Naming potluck party – choosing Aging Together. We will present a panel in Westdale on June 4th on Home Sharing Options.        


Aging in Community”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GiToYHaGTs&feature=share&list=PL4BAB5EDB6087FF00&index=7

With the help of friends, I have prepared a 9-minute video on Aging in Community. I raise issues about the meaning of a good old age, discussing how my focus has shifted from individual aging to growing old in community.  Brief descriptions of mutual support groups and seniors cohousing are included.

For further information, see Resources on Aging in Community: http://writingdownouryears.ca/resources/aging-in-community/

Ellen Ryan is Emeritus Professor, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.

 

 

 

iPad Skills For the 65+ Community

 With new devices, applications, and websites popping up daily, new possibilities are arising for us to use technology as a means of bettering our health and well-being. In particular, devices such as iPads and other tablets create new opportunities for older adults to become more engaged both mentally and socially. For some, using an iPad may even empower them to play a more active role in their healthcare. While many of the potential benefits of using technology later in life have yet to be explored in research, I believe it holds great promise. 

Applications and tools such as Facebook, instant messengers, and email may serve to easily connect older adults with loved ones, while also closing the generational gap between themselves and younger family members, grandchildren, etc. However, social media sites and email only represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to seniors and iPad use. Advancements in both technology and research have led to an abundance of innovative applications supporting older people, including those with varying dementias, history of stroke, depression, and so on. 

Through my work with the Regional Geriatric Program, based out of St. Peter’s Hospital, I have been fortunate enough to engage with many local seniors and teach them how to use iPads. In doing so, I have been able to witness firsthand the benefits that can arise for seniors who learn to use technology.

 While visiting a local retirement residence several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work with a 78-year-old resident who had recently suffered a stroke. Within 15 minutes we had downloaded a free app called “This is to That” and had worked through a series of logic puzzles. When I came back the next week, I was amazed to see how much of an improvement there had been for him. Not only had he improved his accuracy and response time to the logical reasoning questions, he expressed to me that he felt a sense of accomplishment from using his iPad.

Over the course of the winter I have seen countless other seniors connect with their iPads to accomplish a variety of meaningful goals. Some of the outcomes include: 

  • setting up online banking
  • watching educational YouTube videos
  • borrowing an eBook from the Hamilton Public Library’s application
  • video calling family members in other provinces and countries
  • reading informative articles about health, lifestyle, and finances
  • logging physical activity into a fitness application.

As exciting and multifaceted as these accomplishments may seem, they still only begin to scratch the surface of what older adults may achieve when they engage with iPads and similar technology – particularly for those with diverse mobility and accessibility needs. Unlike some laptop or desktop computers, portable iPads and tablets are very accessible. Many come preloaded with “text-to-speech” software, enabling seniors to have their device read text aloud to them – a feature that has been quite useful for those with visual impairments, or difficulty with reading comprehension. Additionally, stylus pens can be highly effective in assisting those with fine motor impairments or tremors navigate the touch screen. The ease of access also allows users to complete tasks that would otherwise require them to make a trip into the city (i.e. library, bank), from the comfort of their residence – a benefit that is especially useful during long Canadian winters.

 As mentioned, many of the practical uses seniors may find for their iPads have not been fully explored or documented. Although, feedback thus far suggests that the 65+ community is excited to learn iPad skills, and that mental stimulation and knowledge acquisition are among the greatest advantages they are experiencing as a result. It is my hope that as more seniors connect to the digital world we will be able to better integrate technology into programming and practice for our aging population going forward.

 

Rachel Weldrick is a Program Coordinator at St. Peter’s Hospital and McMaster University. You can follow her on Twitter @RachelWeldrick  

Walking city streets

The other day I was watching my neighbour teaching her son some rules for being on the sidewalk, and it brought to mind a rhyme learned many years ago:

 

       Two’s company, three’s a crowd,

      Four abreast on the sidewalk is not allowed!

 

The City of Hamilton says that sidewalks are for pedestrians, but what exactly is a pedestrian?

 I was taught that a pedestrian was anyone walking on two feet. The definition the City now uses includes anyone on foot, using a walker, manual wheelchair, motorized wheelchair or scooter. Baby strollers and bundle buggies are also allowed. Our sidewalks have become crowded, and at times even dangerous places to walk.

 Most sidewalks in Hamilton are 1.5 metres wide; the City is attempting to make new ones 2 metres wide where possible. This is certainly a positive move forward, as in many areas the sidewalks have reached or exceeded their maximum capacity.

 We have all seen pedestrians on foot forced onto the roadway, either by motorized vehicles cutting across their path or by large groups of people walking abreast and occupying all the available sidewalk space.

 As society is now encouraging people to use their cars less, for reasons of both the environment and personal fitness and health, I think it is time to consider giving pedestrians on foot the right of way on sidewalks. This simple courtesy of giving way to those on two feet will make being out and about on City streets a safer, more pleasant, experience for all of us, and will help Hamilton on its journey towards becoming an Age-Friendly city.

 

Penelope Petrie is a member of the Board of Directors for the Hamilton Council on Aging.