Thursday, April 1, 2010

Listen & You will Learn! (Joanna)

Listen to seniors and I guarantee that you will learn oodles of interesting things. Throughout each day, I take the time to listen to my residents (as well as observe them). I like to hear their stories, jokes, ideas, fears, questions, and opinions. Each resident is just filled (actually overflowing) with so many years of memories and history. It's pretty fascinating stuff...

For example, there's several residents in my building that have macular degeneration, a medical condition where the retina is damaged and causes loss of vision in the center of the visual field. I used to not know too much about macular degeneration and how it affects older adults, everyday life. One female resident taught me that she can no longer recognize faces, but can still recognize people by how they walk, talk, laugh, or by their hair color/length/etc. Interestingly, one's peripheral vision is not affected by macular degeneration, which is why she will not become completely blind. Despite her vision handicap, this same female resident is always smiling, socializing, and optimistic. I had a recent conversation with her in the dining room about her vision condition and she started to tell me how she's really starting to enjoy her new visual world--how she manages to see the positive and beauty with her vision loss. Smiling, she pointed to the banisters of the large staircase in the dining room, and told me that all those vertical supports dance around whenever she moves her head! How cool is that?! Definitely unique. Whereas some people with macular degeneration would interpret this as a scary or negative visual experience, she simply learned how to enjoy and make the best of it. She could easily let her visual handicap make her isolated and depressed; however, she chooses the exact opposite and shares her perspectives with others. Meanwhile, I'm listening to this resident and just trying to imagine her visual experience to the best of my ability. It would be a challenging, yet creative project to attempt to have this resident help someone else draw/paint/photograph/video what the world looks like through her eyes...because it is like an art. One thing is definitely true though: Seeing the positive in things (such as handicaps) and being optimistic can do so much for your quality of life....if you have these two qualities, you really have it all.

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