Assignment 4: Spirituality and the Elderly
It used to be that the elders were the most revered members of any community, tribe or family. The elderly in our lives were held in high esteem and they were often sought out for advice about love, marriage, home remedies for illnesses and life itself.
While some cultures and communities continue to treat their elderly community members with love and respect. Other cultures and communities have replaced the role of grandparents with daycare centers, the internet, televisions and videos games. Some treat their elderly relatives more like old furniture than part of a family. They are dusted off every so often and taken out of the house for a trip to the mall or a fast food restaurant; or they are simply placed in nursing homes where they spend the rest of their life lonely and forgotten. Of course, these are generalizations, but all too often in western cultures, the elderly population is not treated with the respect and dignity they deserve and are sometimes the subject of abuse, mockery and ridicule.
Older people and elderly people are key members of our society, with much to offer all of us, in terms of life experiences, wisdom, and the stories they have to tell us. What is the role of spirituality when working with older people?
- Read Mathews Chapter 4
- Watch the documentary Alive Inside
“Filmmaker Michael Rossato Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music. His camera reveals the uniquely human connection we find in music and how its healing power can triumph where prescription medication falls short. This stirring documentary follows numerous visionaries in healthcare including social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, as he fights against a broken healthcare system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it. Rossato Bennett visits family members who have witnessed the miraculous effects of personalized music on their loved ones, and offers illuminating interviews with experts including renowned neurologist and bestselling author Oliver Sacks (Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain), healthcare visionaries Dr. Bill Thomas, Dr. Al Powers, Naomi Fiel, and musician Bobby McFerrin (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”).”
After reading Chapter 4 and viewing Alive Inside, respond to the following questions:
- Discuss the concepts of personhood, celebration, and communication, in relation to the elderly population.
- Music is untouched by the woes of dementia, and can be a powerful healing force, regardless of the factors that define and confine us. What is it about music that makes us feel ‘alive inside’?
- The contradiction in praising medical advances while shunning old age is tremendous. Why does the U.S. lock its elders away, treating them as pariahs, a facet of society to be forgotten?
- Can you find (and describe) a community that continues to honor & respect their elderly?
- Why is music therapy given such low priority in the care of dementia and other diseases?
- Which character or scene from ALIVE INSIDE had the greatest impact on you?
- Complete and reflect on activities 4.1 & 4.2. from Mathews.