Celebrate Older Americans Month by Talking With Seniors
For those of you who work with seniors, congratulations. Since 1963, May has been Older Americans Month. The theme this year is "Never Too Old to Play."
It is a time to remind ourselves of the contributions made by older Americans here in our country: some fought in wars, some invented things, some made advances in medicine possible; and some even started new professions like "inhalation therapy" which, of course, later became the field of respiratory care.
The United States does not have a shortage of holidays and celebrations on its calendar, that is for sure. Chances are, you did not see this one coming. I have never seen a calendar with Older Americans Month on it, yet much of what we do today can be attributed to those who came before us, blazed our trails, and brought us to the point we are at now, good or bad.
Take a moment and think about the changes these folks have survived. My father was born in 1928. Though cancer claimed his life a couple of years ago, I often marveled at him witnessing the invention of power steering, living through the depression as a child, fighting in WWII before the days of email or even dependable mail service with his loved ones, and the influence of computers and cell phones (which he never adapted to). In the hospital, he was amazed at all that technology has brought us and yet had complete confidence that people in the medical field knew how to use it all to help him feel better.
In my opinion, we have lost touch with our older Americans. We do not seem to value them as generations past have. We should be learning from them, admiring them for what they have been through. I know no one who reads this blog is likely to have a "month" to celebrate senior citizens, but at least consider taking the time to talk to a couple of them during your day. Go back to a patient's room who happens to be older than you, and talk about the way things are versus the way things used to be. I do this often and find it amazing. We cannot move forward as a nation, or as a profession, if we do not first understand our history. The world moves fast. Especially if you know a senior citizen who worked in the early days of respiratory care or even "inhalation therapy," why not give them their own day or allow them to do an inservice for your group? How fun it would be to listen to someone tell you how it was before ventilators were push-button machines and what it was like wheeling oxygen tanks around everywhere you went. We could learn much from these folks, like how to successfully build a profession from scratch and keep it going for the next generation.
That's just my opinion,
Jim Thacker, MHA, CRT, AE-C
Editor's Note: Respiratory Flashback blogger Richard Lochemes, RRT, RCP, CRT, has spent 45 years as a respiratory therapist. Get his perspective on the evolution of mechanical ventilation by listening to this webcast, or read his blog, here.