Aging is Living

Aging Is Living: Myth-Breaking Stories From Long Term Care

Aging is LivingAging Is Living- Myth Breaking Stories From Long Term Care”
Dundurn Press, 2009

Dear Mrs. Ash

Your book is a beautiful and so necessary a book. Thank you for it. I hope many, many may read it and find comfort and hope. Yes the ideal is to stay at home. But so many cannot do this. So lets make homes for aging people places of joy and happiness! Your book can help many. Thank you for writing it. May your heart be filled with peace.

Dr. Jean Vanier

I wanted to have the opportunity to convey the message that life in a long term care facility does not have to be the end but rather the beginning of a new phase in one’s life. Yet so many people only see this as the end of life, but I began to see that from the time a person entered into a long term care facility until the end of their life, there may be years where the person could do many things that they never had the time to do when they were younger. If anyone could tell the tale, I could as a social worker with years of experience working with seniors and as a photographer with a passion for capturing the beauty of the aged person.

Be prepared to embark on a journey that will challenge, perhaps shatter your previous conceptions about life in long-term care homes. When seen through the lens of Irene Borins Ash’s camera and expressed in the words of the residents themselves, it is a journey about aging and living. It is a journey about success in pursuing personal interests, remaining connected to personal values and relationships and sharing insights with others.

Aging Is Living” is about people who have found meaning, purpose, hope and joy in life while living in a long term care home. They are not just waiting to die- they are very much connected to life despite numerous challenges. Hopefully the book will help take away some of the fear that people have about spending the latter part of their life in a nursing home.

So much of the media coverage that long term care homes receive is negative but as a social worker who has worked in the different levels of care she was a likely person to tell the other side of the story.

People in nursing homes are invisible and forgotten- generally the public is not particularly interested in those who are in facilities. Irene feels that this is because people do not want to think about the end of life but there may be a considerable amount of time from when the person enters the long term care home until the end of their life.

Irene feels that “Aging Is Living” is timely and an important piece of work as the baby boomers are the next generation of elders and many of the boomers are caring for aging parents while being very involved in caring for their children and grandchildren too. Hopefully the book will help her generation, her parent’s generation and social work and gerontology students as well.

Staying at home when care needs are round the clock and a person is housebound creates social isolation which is bad for your physical and mental health. “Aging Is Living” illustrates how people in nursing homes can thrive because their care needs are provided for, along with being offered a variety of social programs. The family of the resident can also be released from “survival mode” to mend relationships and enjoy each other’s company.

Included in the book is a check list- what to look for if you or someone you know is thinking about long term care. There is also a list of the 21 commonalities that people share who are aging with a healthy attitude- and so much more. Irene partnered with the Ontario Long Term Care Association in this project and book.

One of the consistent findings of public opinion surveys concerning the health care system is that those who have direct experience with the system have a more positive attitude than those who don’t.There is an important lesson in this finding. It tells us that the reality of people’s experience with the system can be powerful enough to overcome pre-existing negative perceptions or opinions.” G. Heffern

The following was taken from the Long Term Care Magazine- Volume 17, Number 2, June / July 2007

“Residents have their own, and, to some, surprising perspective on living in a long term care home. At least part of this perspective derives from their appreciation for supporting their ability to remain connected to those things they personally value….everything from personal interests to relationships.” This perspective is the subject of an image and text exhibit that is currently under development by Toronto social worker and photographer Irene Borins Ash M.S.W., R.S.W., with sponsorship support from Central Care Corporation, Christie Gardens Apartments and Care Inc., Extendicare Inc., Leisureworld Caregiving Centres, Responsive Health Management and Point Click Care.

The idea evolved from Ms. Borins Ash’s experiences as a social worker working with and listening to seniors, as well as her extensive research for an earlier exhibit and book entitled “Treasured Legacies- Older & Still Great”, Second Story Press, 2003.

Gilbert Heffern