My name is Stephanie Oh and I am a 4th year majoring in Public Health and Human Development. After working with seniors in the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study, I became very interested in the conditions that seniors are aging in today because I encountered such diversity. I think it is important to become aware of the structural, political, and psychological issues that concern seniors because they are a growing, vulnerable population. Further, aging is a common experience. As I think about what I would like to do after I graduate, I am gravitating towards working with seniors or some kind of combination between seniors and children.
One of the models that I think is most successful is St. Paul’s intergenerational senior care and day care. Development occurs across the life span, so creating communities for all ages has tremendous benefits for everyone involved. I also appreciated St. Paul’s efforts to keep seniors in their homes because we all value our independence and independence is a large part of successful aging.
Since there is no standard definition of health aging, I think it is important for us in this program to identify factors and think about a framework for what constitutes healthy aging. Instead of having heterogeneity, where only certain elders age more successfully than others, we as a society should aim for homogeneity. I see promise for this homogeneity at the Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center, where they strive to foster healthy aging for low income seniors. They not only provide essentials, such as daily meals, but also community cohesion. One of the seniors I spoke with said that he loved how he could go from table to table and have stimulating conversations with new people. Interconnectedness seems to be a theme. For example, the social services worker, nurse, and physician are all in the same hallway.
I met one senior who I particularly bonded with at the Center, we’ll call him Joe. Unlike the seniors I met previously who expressed anguish from the experience of growing older, Joe seemed to enjoy his stage of life due to the wisdom he gained over the years. Joe actually graduated from UCSD and he described some of the issues he had with the school. He felt that the environment was too competitive and that many of the professors were too focused on research and did not care about him or his success. It was striking because these are the same issues that UCSD students face today. Even though Joe and I couldn’t be more different in terms of age, cultural background, religion, political views, and socioeconomic status, I was able to relate and connect to him. Sustaining these types of connections is how we will start to bridge the gap between generations. I am glad that I was able to be an outlet for Joe and I hope that I will continue to be a source of strength for others who have something to say.
This week we discussed potential questions for our oral history interview. Knowing what type of information would be inappropriate has been a challenge for me when interacting with the seniors. During our visit to St. Paul’s PACE sites, I was chatting with one lady who admitted that she was an unhappy and depressed individual. I was unsure if asking about her family or her career would trigger something. This type of barrier made it difficult to get to know her on a deeper level. I am excited to learn more about ways to overcome this barrier.
Thanks for reading!