Five Lessons from Elders
Richards, Marty, Aging Today
Back in the 1960s, while attending Augustana College, a Lutheran institution in Rock Island, Ill., I learned to see social work as a lay ministry. We students went every Sunday morning to lead a simple worship service at a local nursing home. Those residents and the residents I have known over the years, as well as elders in faith communities, have taught me a great deal, not only about Jewish and Christian traditions but also about life. Following are some lessons I have learned from elders that I'd like to share:
Listen, honor and bear witness to the sacredness of the stories we as professionals hear from those we serve. By appreciating elders' unique narratives, we can learn from their survival skills and help elders, find renewed vitality. Also, because older social workers were my teachers, I have grown to become a mentor to students.
Grow personal and professional friendships, which are integral to one's well-being. Interdependency, such as through mutual support, is truly key in our lives even if we think we are independent. The six colleagues who have been a part of my life for 14 years have provided encouragement throughout my career and many of my life transitions. Professionals need to acknowledge that we cannot effectively work alone.
Learn from those we serve. One lesson clients have taught me is to slow down and be present even when a person does not seem to make sense. …