Friday, March 19, 2010

Introduction from Joanna

Interestingly, I found my way into the field of aging via psychology. I had a very good and inspirational psychology/behavior science teacher in high school who motivated me to start out as a psychology major in college. Because psychology is such a big field, I wanted to narrow it down to at least the population that I wanted to work with. I read a few books about careers in psychology and that's when I read about the Gerontologist. Right away I knew this was it for me! Soon after this discovery, I decided to change my major to Gerontology since I wanted to focus on aging and my other interests related to aging. Of course, having close relationships with all four of my grandparents also strongly influenced and encouraged me to study aging more in depth. I also realized that studying aging is very beneficial since we all age, and understanding it will only help us to better understand ourselves, others, and life in general. (Not to mention there are all those Baby Boomers--my parents' generations--who are retiring and becoming grandparents!)

In May 2007, I graduated from Ithaca College with a B.S. in Gerontology and a Minor in Recreation. I chose Recreation as my minor since my major interest in the field of aging was quality of life and how we are able to improve the quality of life for seniors. After college, I decided to take a break from academics and get some work experience in the field of aging and recreation. So, for the past 2 and a half years I've been working for Atria Senior Living Group, a privately owned assisted living company that has nearly 130 communities located all over the United States. I work at Atria Merrimack Place in Newburyport, MA as the Engage Life Director. This is the same thing as an activity or recreation director. My company chose to call the "recreation" department "Engage Life" because that is exactly what my staff and I do everyday: continually devise and promote a variety of recreational programs in order to keep our senior residents happy, physically and mentally active, and to put it simply, engaged in life! My building has 3 levels of care: independent, assisted living, and Life Guidance (Alzheimer's care). So, it is similar to a CCRC; however, the main difference is that we do not provide nursing care.

Whenever I tell people about my Gerontology B.S. or that I work with seniors, 9 times out of 10 these people automatically tell me, "Well....that must be somewhat depressing, huh?" I simply smile back and say, "Not at all!" Just think of all those seniors I surround myself with and interact with on a daily basis, and if practice makes perfect, then this means I have the great pleasure of spending my 40-hour work week with people who have had the opportunity to develop their sense of humor for over 70, 80, 90+ years! But most people don't think about things like you?

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