By: Michelle Remold
“I find I am an old soul.” This is a quote from Rachel Roy. I find a truth in this quote. People often laugh at me when I tell them that I am an “old soul.” The fact is that I really do think I am an old soul. I love watching old westerns and old television shows; Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Big Valley, The Rifleman, Leave It to Beaver, Bewitched – you name it, I have probably seen it or have it on DVD. I can join almost any conversation about Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, or Dale Evans. In fact, Gene Autry’s song, “Barney the Bashful Bullfrog” is one of my favorite songs and “Back in the Saddle Again” is on my iPod.
When I was little I always enjoyed being around adults more than kids and often found kids my age to be annoying. As I write, I can’t help but think that these things more than likely contributed to my interest in Gerontology. These factors also more than likely contribute to my passion for interacting with those who have Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Granted I grew up with Alzheimer’s and dementia being a large part of my life, I have learned to be able to enter their world and have conversations with them ranging from one room school houses to old music. I never find a lull in what to talk about. I think that this is what baffles me when people say that they can’t go to nursing homes or visit elderly people because there is nothing to talk about. We have everything at their fingertips. If you don’t know about a television show or song that seems to be brought up often, we have the ability to look it up and learn about it in a matter of minutes.
Really, all it takes is finding common ground. Similar hobbies (crocheting, baking, collections – I collect quotes), favorite books or authors (my favorite book is “Cannery Row” by John Steinbeck, who also happens to be my favorite author), or other commonalities that can be so numerous I can’t name them all. It might take some time and effort, but in the end I often find that it is worth it. The conversations that can be had and everything that can be learned are fantastic.
I think that it is important to find common ground to have discussions with those who are older, no matter if they have Alzheimer’s/dementia or not. Being that my grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was in second grade, I wasn’t very interested in his stories about World War II or being at Normandy Beach at D-Day and now I often wish that I did know them. For me, this is the driving force behind learning all I can from people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia and taking their stories to heart. Without a little patience and the willingness to find some common ground, you never know what you might miss.
Michelle graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with her Bachelor of Arts in Gerontology: Social Sciences and a minor in Family Studies. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Aging Studies and Nursing Home Administration from Minnesota State University Mankato.