My name is Sandra Jon Amon. I'm a graduating fourth year majoring in Public Health (though I've also invested a significant amount of time in psychology, theater, ethnic studies, as well as urban studies and planning classes). I heard about the Life Course Scholars program while I acted as an undergraduate teacher's assistant (TA) for Dr. Leslie Lewis' class on Environmental and Preventive Health. I instantly reached for the opportunity - I identify strongly with the struggles of the marginalized, disenfranchised, and dispossessed. I recognize elders as a community who counted among these.
When Glenn Omatsu, a founder of the Asian American studies movement, visited UCSD two years ago, he talked about the importance of intergenerational mentorship. Similarly, I believe that meaningful relationships between the young and the elders of the community are important in not only sharing knowledge, but also in empowering each other to work towards a more socially just future. I’ve been marginally aware of the shared struggles my age group and elders both face as a result of ageism (e.g. economic powerlessness, invasions of personal privacy, learned helplessness, etc.) but have only been involved in organizing around issues concerning race, gender and sexuality, as well as class. My goal as a Life Course Scholar is to participate in community-based projects centering ageism, as a way to develop my own social justice consciousness, as well as work with others to dismantle oppressive structures.
For me, my conversations with two women from our past site visits to St. Paul's PACE and Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center, most strongly resonate with me so far. I interviewed a woman at St. Paul's, C, who shared with me her struggles with family, mental health, and in(ter)dependence. C emphasized that having bipolar mood disorder significantly affected her throughout her lifespan. At the Senior Wellness Center, another woman, J, had a similar story. J also struggled with mental health disorders although unlike C, seemed more lively despite the fact that she was technically homeless.
Strikingly, both J and C's disorders emerged largely as a result of tumultuous marriages. This speaks strongly to how the environment (family, community, political, legal, social, cultural, etc.) works to precipitate individual illness. As women with mental disabilities, J and C faced, and continue to cope with, a triple burden of suffering from sexism and ableism, as well as ageism in their current situations. I dream of one day addressing these intersecting oppressive structures. For now, I'm all the more inspired to pursue a healthy aging project centering mental health in elders.