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A New Meaning for Aging in Place?

grandmothers_clockThe other day, Patrick Roden, creator of agininginplace.com, re-tweeted a link to a previous blog post of his that resonated with me as much on re-reading, as it did the first time I saw it. Called “The Meaning of Objects”, it had me pondering how much of the desire to “age in place” is about the actual place, the home, if you will—and how much is about not wanting to leave the objects—and the memories and stories they hold—that give that place its meaning.

Roden told of a study that asked respondents: “Is there one personal possession you value above all others?” He reported that more than 4 of every 5 respondents were readily able to identify such an object. (Interestingly, men were more likely to identify a consumer item, while women preferred more emotional items like photographs and jewelry.)

But to me, the sobering fact is that when the researchers talked to adults over the age of 75, 30% could identify no cherished object, as compared to only 8% of the younger respondents. As Roden recounts: “Upon further investigation, the researchers learned that this was because many of the older participants lived in nursing homes and a lack of cherished things was associated with the absence of one’s own home.”

According to Roden, the findings for the researchers proved that institutional care often means moving into a place bereft of meaningful things that surround one at home. As he poignantly recalls “from the glass roses I presented to my friend in the nursing home lasting 2 weeks before being knocked off the window-ledge (broken by a nurse-aide); to the antique Santa that I had to identify as hers by labeling it with black marking pen (nursing home necessity), meaningful things can lose meaning in institutions.”
memories_mantle
As I write this, I look up and see a number of my own dear mementoes: my great-grandmother’s antique clock, which stood on the fireplace mantle in my childhood home, an oil painting done by my mother, the nutcracker I brought my father from Germany, and I wonder: how can institutions evolve to provide greater personalization and offer deeper emotional connections, comfort, and meaningfulness to residents? Seems to me there’s a winning business model for the senior living center or nursing home that can accomplish that—and it could add a whole new meaning to the term, aging in place.
nutcracker

– written by Lynn Schweikart

-posted by Laura Willis

Labels: Aging in Place, Senior living center, nursing home