From Cottonfields to Cornfields

There are two things I remember about the last time I saw my great-grandmother: She was a centenarian. She was still actively working in the fields. I was too young to find out how, when, and where she eventually died. Not on the farm, I think.

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Not too many nursing homes are located among cornfields or cattle farms. Yet, for a significant proportion of long-term care clients, the farm is where they yearn to die in. We can try to make each resident’s room as “home-like” as possible, but can we do  something about what’s around the facility as well? Can we plan recreational activities that involve elements of seeding, growing, harvesting, or breeding? How about field trips in the fields? Are there wheelchair-friendly and accessible tractors that one can ride on?

Our long-term care population is becoming increasingly diverse. We are doing a fairly good job in catering to urban dwellers who are now stuck in a facility that is likely quite a distance from the city center. However, being in a suburban area isn’t the same as being in a “rural” area. Even the dust in the air is not the same.

Cultural competence and awareness extend beyond racial and ethnic differences. Knowing the history of cottonfields is nice, but knowing the place of cornfields in some residents’ hearts matters too.

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About C

If you consider volunteering at a luncheon for older adults as my first exposure to the field, I have been in geropsychology for at least twenty years. As family, friend, volunteer, trainee, and professional, I have found myself in adult day care centers, senior centers, senior living facilities, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric wards, hospice, and personal homes of older adults. Wherever I go, be it an orphanage, a museum, a prison, an airport, or a random corner in the neighborhood, issues related to aging and mental health often come to mind. I used to think that I could make a difference only if I became a top-notch researcher, educator, or clinician. As I continue to follow this meandering path, it dawns on me that as a nobody in the field, I can still add my light to the sum of light by sharing what I know. Over the years, I have "converted" a few very dedicated individuals to focus on aging-related work within their respective disciplines and encouraged a handful more to stay in this field despite its winding course. I believe by bringing aging and mental health issues to the foreground, we will amass a stronger force to promote advocacy, research, and quality care.
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