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William F. Connell School of Nursing

Musings on the Aging Population

dialogue - dorothy jones and ellen mahoney - fall/winter 2007


Aging, is a process that occurs over time—it is initiated at birth and extends across human existence and beyond • Aging gives life new meaning and opens up possibility • Aging offers each person the potential for self recognition, maturation, growth and depth • All humans engage in aging—it is what we have in common • The relationships and connections we make as we journey our life path, enfold and embrace us as we—without this connection, aging can be a challenging and lonely experience • Waiting to “grow old” delays engagement in an inevitable experience and may potentate needless fear and anxiety • Being an active partner in aging can make the process more familiar and help balance losses with gains • Awareness of our own mortality can help us to value each day and celebrate accomplishments • With aging comes the potential for increased wisdom to share and mentor others • Respecting the human rights and dignity of others is inherent in promoting our own humanness • Nurses recognize the person as a holistic being and work in partnership to accompany individuals and groups as they journey through health, illness and death • Nurses are hope for the challenged, the despairing  and compromised … their presence offers the support needed for others to move forward, make changes, and transform their lives • Nursing cares for the elderly, exquisitely • Aging is a gift—it should be recognized early and participated in, actively • Aging informs our present, acknowledges our past and transforms our future • Supporting each other throughout the aging process is a conscious experience, with mutual benefit, enriching us each day of our lives.

Dorothy Jones, EdD, RNC, ANP, FAAN, is a Professor of Adult Health.


I hear projections about aging in the future, but I see people who are aging; I hear statistics that express generalizations, but I see individuals—quality of life and quality of care are pressing issues now • “Growing ole ain’t no picnic,” as someone said, but there are yet roles to be played, wisdom to be gained, values to be passed on • Nursing knowledge is pivotal to many of the most salient issues—health promotion, transitions, self-care management, partnership, care-giving, end-of-life • Martha Rogers said development occurs in many dimensions, is always forward moving and characterized by increasing complexity and diversity—knowing this gives me a whole new perspective when I interact with older adults • Let us be slow to attribute anything to aging:  stereotypes go out the window—research says that older people are more different from each other than any other age group • Erik Erikson found older people more compassionate, more tolerant, more patient ... but positive generalizations are as suspect as negative ones • One of our Gerontological Clinical Nurse Specialist students (Margaret Doyle ’07) wrote that in caring for older adults, she learned to think creatively and critically—reflections like this make me hopeful for the future, but also acutely aware of the need to develop this knowledge and skill in all • Grow old along with me – who knows what we’ll find – healthy aging is a new undiscovered country, “Old people should be explorers” (Tennyson) • Exercise!  Maintain the brain (and the body)! • If we can pay for war, we can pay for long-term care • Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said (at the first White House Conference on Aging) that a civilization can be measured by how it cares for its old people.

Ellen Mahoney, DNSc, RNCS, is an Associate Professor of Adult Health.