Thanks, Carol, for passing along this great source. The link is to an interview with Martin Bayne, who blogs regularly about aging and old age. In this interview, Bayne talks about life in an assisted living facility. His recommendations for humanizing this experience and his desire to create a welcoming community for new residents — had they been followed at my father’s community, would have made his time there much, much more pleasant. I see in Bayne’s description of the despair that descended on him at his first residence a mirror of my father. But recognizing the problem and finding a way to operationalize a solution from a distance– that I could not do. What Bayne describes is a utopian community — communal living but care and assistance (something children of the 1960s might well want to recreate).
In Bayne’s assisted living utopia, I see parallels, too, in the work I do as graduate director for a Master’s program. Our students are with us for only 2 years, and I expect that assisted living facilities see similarly short stays for many residents. One of our goals has been to create a strong sense of peer support, so these students see history as a collaborative endeavor and they draw on each other’s strengths and share their resources. One avenue has been the annual graduate student research conference, organized entirely by students. We, and they, have figured out that the results are best when each student has a role in planning and implementing the conference. Bayne, too, suggests that each resident have a task appropriate to his or her abilities. It works for the short-term residents in our graduate program; why not encourage similar programs for the residents in assisted living?