Growing old on purpose
Stephanie Buckland, Chief Executive Officer, Amana Living
The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus”, which means coming or arrival. During this season, we reflect on the anticipation of Jesus’s birth, as well as the spiritual preparation for Christ's second coming. The theme of preparation is central to Advent.
Preparation is a theme we also need to extend to the way we approach later life. I recently attended the Anglicare Australia national conference where we heard from Professor Nancy Pachana, director of the Healthy Ageing Initiative at the University of Queensland, about the impact of ageism.
Ageism colours our everyday experiences. Society sees old age as a period of decline and loss. A period of life that is solely about needing care to survive. As Nancy has said, people are being judged by their chronological age rather than their capabilities.
Yet, thanks to science, we are all living longer and many of us could reach 100 or more! There are so many years left to live so shouldn’t these be full of satisfaction, purpose, and contentment?
Amana Living’s vision is for a community where every older person is honoured and valued, and our mission is to enable older people to maintain their individuality, providing what is needed to support a fulfilling life.
We’re challenging the stereotype that older people are a homogenous group, recognising every older person is unique. As our staff know, people become even more different from one another as they grow older thanks to their vast experiences and knowledge.
This individuality should be cherished and it’s our role as an aged care provider to deliver services, whether in residential care, home care or retirement living, that enable older people to live the life they want.
It’s also our role to listen and to work with older people to understand what is meaningful to them. It’s turning the concept of care on its head by looking at what is needed to help each individual feel fulfilled rather than simply delivering a task like dressing a wound or helping someone to shower.
This involves preparation on the part of the older person too. It involves truly thinking about what matters most in life, both now and in the future. As authors Richard Leider and David Shapiro have said, we need to grow old on purpose.
From my point of view, that means discarding the stereotypes of ageing and embracing the longevity of our years to design the life we want. Just as Advent calls for spiritual and emotional preparation, so does later life.