I have been a longtime fan and follower of the blog Humans of New York. It’s run by New York-based photographer Brandon Stanton who walks around the city to take photos of strangers and hear a little bit about their stories.
Recently, Stanton embarked on a 50-day trip across 10 countries to capture images and stories of people around the world. He travelled to several countries, including Vietnam and India, and one photograph taken while in Mexico caught my eye in particular.
On September 25, Stanton photographed a gorgeous older Mexican woman. The woman, who is unnamed and dressed in colorful shades of pink, explains she has achieved three graduate degrees in a variety of subjects, including education and anthropology, but there is only one thing that she considers her greatest accomplishment – her personality.
Personality is who we are. It’s what makes us a unique. When we have a personality that shines bright to others, they are attracted to become our friends, significant others, mentors, etc. Personality is what keeps our culture and communities alive.
It’s important to remember that the essence of who we are doesn’t go away with age. We live in a society that is obsessed with youth. The prevailing (and by and large, untrue) notion is that one’s quality of life begins to go downhill once we hit our youthful peak, and, among other things, we begin to lose our individuality.
Everyone changes as they go through life and experience different things, but they don’t lose who they are. As family members, caregivers, and persons who work in senior living, we need to keep this in mind. Being classified in as a “senior” doesn’t change who you are. Seniors want the same respect we give everybody else in regards to acknowledging and celebrating what makes them special. The bottom line – no one wants to live in a place or be surrounded by people that don’t respect their individuality.
So, how can we (family members, caregivers, etc.) ensure we don’t make this mistake? Thankfully, the senior living sector has seen a shift in perspective in the last decade or so. The industry is now resident-focused rather than community-focused. Residents can personalize their apartments and rooms, pick and choose the activities, clubs, organizations, etc. in which they want to participate.
Communities are built and designed to not only meet their needs, but to appeal to their tastes in design, technology, cuisine and a suite of other amenities that are quickly becoming the standard for quality senior living. Families of residents are invited to be more involved in the lives of their loved ones.
But there are a few ways we can continue to improve these trends. We can make sure staff members are trained to be attentive to individual needs and personalities. We can continue to customize our communities and amenities to appeal to both the community as a whole and the individual resident. The more choices we offer, the more we are allowing residents to continue to let their personality and interests shape their lives rather than their life stage.