A Senior Housing Forum post brought an issue forward that I’ve been yelled at in conferences for even bringing up! Resident prejudice against those with disabilities and the SL Industries complacency. It’s far past time for senior living to just say NO to disability discrimination. Besides being an ADA issue for communities (lawsuits are being filed and won), it underscores a prejudice that SL has enabled for fear that potential residents won’t move in if the “see” frail residents. You would not allow residents to insist that no-one of a different race or religion should be allowed in the dining room so why allow disability discrimination? I know residents can be very vocal about this issue, but the world has changed and age is no excuse to be inappropriate!
SL can drive change when it: 1- invests in strategic initiatives to create not just socialization, but connection and community among residents of all abilities/disabilities (i.e. working together on purpose-projects in the broader community), 2- makes it clear from DAY ONE that every resident is valued equally and treated equally (i.e. marketing professionals proudly declare how inclusion supports their mission statements), 3- embraces the disability movement model of providing adaptive strategies to overcome disabilities and live fully in-spite of challenges (rather than strategies to merely “cope” with disabilities), 4-confronts disability discrimination head-on with residents, families, and staff (have policies in place to address issues).
There is a great video at Real Beauty Sketches (Dove) focused on how women see themselves compared to how others see them. It really made me wonder what the results would be if this project was done with older adults. Would they focus on outward signs of aging? Would others? I remember when I was in my 40’s and starting to “worry” about wrinkles. At the time I was directing the Young at Heart exercise program for older adults at MSU, and it occured to me that when I looked at the members – most 70+ years old – I didn’t see wrinkles, I saw smiling eyes and faces of friends. How would you describe yourself to someone sketching you without looking at you? What do you see when you look at others? How do images of aging impact self perceptions and perceptions of others.