From: Jenny Kuderer
In our nation, it is clear that a significant slice of our consumerist culture is deeply entrenched in youth-obsessed, age-denying advertising. This advertising offers the promise that products will be able to erase any sign of having lived beyond early middle-age. Within this consumerist cultural lens, youth is prized above the wisdom and resilience that often come with living beyond early middle-age — that kind of living that furrows the brow and frames the eyes with hard-won lines. While there is no question that vitality is to be celebrated, vitality and age are not mutually exclusive qualities. However, the youth-obsessed consumerist culture, I’m afraid, extends far beyond billboards and glossy magazines. It extends to how we have shaped the acceptable models for elder care in our nation with an approach skewed toward an institutionalized model that makes aging and our elders less visible. No doubt, there are many wonderful facilities where those in advanced years are treated with dignity, respect, and kindness. However, within this dominant model of institutionalized care, there are far too many occurrences of neglect and substandard care, as well as a lack of vigilant and effective oversight to address such occurrences as soon as they are reported.
While our nation is rich in monetary resources, we do not always allocate such resources toward ensuring the well-being of those who should be revered, respected, and protected – our elder population. What if our nation committed itself to providing all its elders the resources to age with dignity and grace via a new cultural lens that values the experience and growth that so often accompanies advancing years? What if we could reimagine other models of elder care that are community-centric with regular opportunities for seamless intergenerational relating? What if we as a society tapped into the collective wisdom and counsel from all those elders willing to share lessons learned through rich and challenging decades of their lived experience? What if we committed to meeting the medical needs of our elders with resolute competence and unwavering compassion?
We ought not settle for a model of elder care where too many institutions are understaffed places where we would never wish to live ourselves, though we send our loved ones there due to financial pressures and lack of other viable 24/7 caregiving options. We need to continually reimagine the possibilities for superb elder care models and prioritize needs to bring such models to life. Our moral wealth as a nation would increase substantially if we would commit to earmarking a greater fraction of our monetary wealth to create more models of well-resourced care that profoundly value our elders in ways that allow for greater dignity, grace, and interconnectedness to extend into the sunset years.