“In full disclosure” is a statement journalists give when they have something discomforting to reveal. It’s where they divulge an asterisk to their fair and balanced pretenses and then quickly move on to the next paragraph. It may not make it better, but it gives the reader awareness of potential bias.
So, as you take a gander at Yellow Scene’s first Senior’s Issue, I have something to divulge. In full disclosure, I’ve grown up in a household where senior issues were front and center. My mom has worked in human services my entire life: She was a senior services case manager in Morgan County; she worked as an administrator, overseeing adult protection and aging services in Larimer County; she currently manages Larimer County’s Office on Aging and represents District 2 (including Boulder County) on the Colorado Commission on Aging.
And because of that—and because I had a close relationship with both my grandmothers as they aged into their 80s and 90s—I’ve always had an affinity for older folks.
So one summer between my freshmen and sophomore years, I took was is possibly the un-coolest job for a college student: working at a convalescent home in Southern California. I was the assistant activities director for a group of elders, who would gather in a large sunny room each day to be entertained…or to nap.
It was one of the most difficult and critical jobs of my life. I was exposed to Alzheimer’s, when I found Bob panicking in the nurse’s office, trying to call his father about getting his car over to the shop. His mind was lost somewhere in the ’50s or ’60s.
I was exposed to the fear and depression of aging—the sadness of having no visitors on Sundays, the frustration of realizing your limbs don’t work as they once did, the awareness that existence was no longer meaningful. This was limbo.
And I was exposed to death.
Still, it was very much a positive experience. I met some of the loveliest people. We played games, we watched movies, we talked. Despite what you may think, nothing is ever dull at a convalescent home. Older adults are fun and funny, they are unabashedly honest, and when they feel feisty, they can go rogue like an angsty teenager. I once chased a wheelchair-bound Italian woman through a parking lot, as she screamed Italian profanities at me.
This is not meant to be a depressing look at aging, I promise, but a reminder that there is one thing that everyone can relate to: We all age. How we age and quality of life for older adults is so incredibly important. It’s something that is over-looked in a world with so many precious causes.
“Older adults are often the forgotten population,” Mary Cobb, communications director of Via, told me when I sat down with her and her co-workers for my “Silver Tsunami” story. “You don’t want to create competition between the populations. Everyone is worthy of good quality of life. But it’s only recently—because of demographic issues—that it’s like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ We need to recognize this population and do something about it.”
I admit that I have a certain amount of bias on the issue. I am concerned—and I believe you should be concerned—about whether or not we can ensure quality of life for all residents as they age. The coming decades will be a challenge for those who provide services to older adults, and as of now, there is a lot of work to do. It’s a lack of funding, it’s a lack of staffing and it’s a lack of awareness. So I encourage you to contact lawmakers to make sure they know their constituents care about funding both the Older Americans Act and Older Coloradoans Act, which help fund aging services. If you have need more convincing, just talk to my mom.