About the SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 In-Home Innovation Scholarship: We started the scholarship program to bring awareness of the unique benefits and challenges of in-home caregiving for seniors to younger generations. The questions posed by the scholarship encouraged our nation’s future caregivers to present solutions for improving home care in the United States. College-aged students were required to answer one of the three essay topics below and provide a short bio as part of their scholarship application. Read the winning essays here.

How can your major of study improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services?

Essay response by Amanda Bond, Columbus State University

It has been said that age is an issue of mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.  Truer words could not be spoken about the men and women living full, happy lives well into so-called old-age.  Individuals are not just living beyond the estimated age of mortality, they are thriving.  A study by the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging (2006) found that over 13% of today’s work-force is made up of men over 70 years old.  The field of communication is driving this upswing.  Communication is defined as the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else.  Communication improves the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services by allowing them to define and promote their lifestyle, improve dialog with the people that matter most, and empower themselves.

Communication acts as a tool for exchanging ideas.  The United States has a long history of valuing the individual and allowing her citizens to define their own successes, dreams, and aspirations.  Communication, in essence, is sales.  Seniors can use communication to re-define their own American Dream and can use communication techniques to sell it to others.  Gone are the days of folks retiring from professional positions and wasting away in retirement.  As people live longer, their lifestyles must change to support it.  In-home care services are an essential part of this new lifestyle.  These days, retirement can look like whatever the individual wants it to: a second career, a new hobby, extensive travel, or catching up on years’ worth of missed time with friends.  Fortunately, seniors are able to use communication to share these experiences with others and create a new culture for post-retirement living.

Communication holds a special power to improve dialog amongst people.  At its root, the field of communication is complex.  Not only does communication provide a particular skill set used to exchange ideas, but it also provides a theoretical framework for understanding the world.  Take, for example, the Standpoint Theory of Julia Wood.  Wood proposes that our understanding of the world and how it works hinges on where we “stand” within society.  This theory has provided extensive understanding of power dynamics within society, but has also provided a useful tool for operating within different systems of society.  Seniors are, too often, looked at with a negative lens: too old, used up, can’t learn new tricks, etc.  It isn’t until seniors are viewed from their own standpoint in society that they can be seen in a new light: wise, experienced, eager to learn.  When seniors can effectively express themselves using communication techniques, the people that matter most to them will be able to understand those needs and can react with the individual in mind.  Not only do seniors need to communicate efficiently and effectively with their families, but also with their caregivers and with one another.

Communication serves as a means to empower seniors.  Having the tools to clearly and accurately express what is going on can be incredibly powerful.  Too often, the message gets lost in the delivery.  By employing communication tools, seniors can assure that, not only is the message being delivered, but it is being heard loud and clear.  Communication gives a voice to individuals that often don’t have a voice at all, creating and sustaining a sense of enduring pride.  In-home care services add to this sense of pride; that is, the senior isn’t asked to give up his/her home, belongings, or comforts.  They are allowed the freedom to continue living the life they’ve designed, while having the luxury of knowing their basic needs are being looked after.

Though the notion of communication often gets lost in the social landscape, its practice is ever-present.  Seniors, and younger citizens alike, use communication on a daily basis to create messages, exchange messages, and understand the world.  Communication is a field that has great opportunity to enhance the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services by allowing them to re-define their lives, improve dialog with the people that matter most, and empower themselves.

About Amanda

Amanda is currently pursuing graduate coursework in Communication Arts at Valdosta State University in order to prepare her to teach communication studies at the collegiate level.  Amanda is especially interested in the intersection of communication and counseling as it relates to aging and society.

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