After dealing with “caring as the way to the self”, Henri ponders “caring as the way to the other”. According to Henri, “caring can lead to a new self-understanding, but this self-understanding can never be its own goal”. Instead, “we are called to put our aging self at the service of the aging other. The challenge of the care for the elderly is that we are called to make our own aging self the main instrument of our healing.” Henri goes on to assert that “caring for the elderly is not a special type of care.” This is a lot to digest. It almost seems like a riddle but let me try to work through this in my own experience since my current position is is designed to work with the elderly. According to Henri, “as soon as we start thinking about care for the aging as specialization, we are falling into the trap of societal segregation which care is precisely trying to overcome. When we allow our world to be divided into young, middle-aged, and old people, each calling for a specialized approach, then we are taking the real care out of caring, since the development and growth of men and women take place, first of all, by creative interaction among the generations.” The bottom line of this premise is that we ourselves in the aging network are helping perpetuate the “ageism” which we are fighting against! Henri believes that , “grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren–make up the whole of our life cycle visible and tangible to us at every moment of our lives…Therefore, caring for the aged asks for a life style in which the generations are brought into contact with each other in a creative and recreative way.” It makes sense and this happened naturally in past generations. The challenge is to recreate this environment where it doesn’t necessarily exist by creating programs to connect all of the generations. Do you know of any “best practices” that exist in your community to bring together the generations?
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