Elders Academy Press is excited to present the third volume in the Encounters of the Real Kind series; a shared tome of stories, poems and musings from the 2013/2014 participants in the Pacific Institute Gero-Wellness Program at AgeSong.
The Gero-Wellness Program interns at AgeSong come from a variety of schools and universities in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. The participants are interns and doctoral students with backgrounds in psychology, gerontology, counseling, grief and loss support, and human development. Through their practicum experience at AgeSong, they show an authentic interest and passion in their work with the aging population.
The Pacific Institute Gero-Wellness Program interns are part of an engaged movement that views aging with respect and awareness. All residents at AgeSong Eldercare Communities have an opportunity to connect with the interns who provide emotional and therapeutic support individually and/or in group settings.
A Note from the Editor about Encounters of the Real Kind
AgeSong programming for eldercare seeks to return meaning to aging and “Old Age.” In so doing, the hope is to return to the centrality of meaning in all of our lives.
Meaning is not to be found in either the pure philosophical contemplation of life or just the practical, everyday activities of earning a living. Rather, meaning must be grounded both in concepts and in experience. What makes the Gero-Wellness Program so unique is that students who are learning about the social sciences, such as social work and psychology, can combine these intellectual concepts with the depth of experience presented to them by elders. Residential care settings such as AgeSong provide such opportunities.
AgeSong and its partner Pacific Institute address the marginalization of the elderly in modern society; here, students and interns learn from elders, while in turn elders feel valued and respected for being the teachers they are.
In these stories and poems you can see how the AgeSong Elders are teaching the timeless qualities of being human: being in the moment, in the here and now, relating deeply with others and oneself, being kind and generous, giving and accepting, loving and caring. These ways of being are so very much needed in our modern-day societies, which are increasingly fast paced, materialistic, and cerebral.
“Elders show us what our heart needs, what it yearns for. As such, elders may be the solution to many of the problems we face today. All we need to do is listen, to spend time with them. Our lives may never be the same after such encounters of the real kind.”
—Nader Shabahangi, Editor, CEO AgeSong
“Days spent as an intern at AgeSong are unpredictable. Any given day may hold moments of joy, connection, challenge, affection, sadness, and delight — often in rapid succession. The experience of being there is collage-like, with many elements co-occurring simultaneously. My arts background gives me the freedom to look at things through my own lens, paralleling the creative freedom memory loss can give some of our forgetful elders. The collages reproduced in this book are visual anecdotes created to process my experience of a day’s worth of encounters with members of the AgeSong community.”
-Ivy Tiegel, MFTi Expressive Arts Therapy Intern
“So how can we come to understand and cherish, accept and love our frail and forgetful seniors? The answer: by appreciating who they are right now—not compared to days, weeks, or years ago. We need to meet and appreciate them as they are today and not worry about yesterday or what will happen tomorrow. We can deal with that as it comes. Most importantly, we need to celebrate who they are now, accept their limitations, and rejoice in what they still have—what Age Song calls “personhood. As the educational component of the AgeSong/Pacific Institute collaborative, Pacific Institute actively promotes the recognition of “personhood,” making the experience for residents of AgeSong-managed facilities full and enjoyable. Furthermore, Pacific Institute seeks to spread this philosophy of care to all who desire to connect more intimately with seniors. That philosophy is reflected in these stories, poems, and observations, contributed by our interns. Enjoy them!”
—Peter Szutu, President Pacific Institute