nterview with an Older Adult
University of New Hampshire
In an effort to learn about the process of aging and what it means to someone who is considered an older adult, I interviewed a man who is approaching his sixty-seventh birthday in August. For the purposes of this paper, I will refer to the gentleman interviewed as John, a fictitious name in order to protect his privacy. John is the youngest of two sisters and one brother, who all grew up in a small town in New Jersey. Both of John’s parents died before his thirtieth birthday, his mother dying of a young age after suffering from tuberculosis, which caused her to live her last years of life quarantined to a sanatorium. When I asked John about his thoughts on aging, he answered by stating that aging is “a natural progression laid out by God. I am not scared to die and instead, I look at each day as a gift. I don’t see aging as a positive or a negative, but just a normal, natural process.” John concluded by adding that, of course, dreaded aches and pains do in fact come with age, but so does increased wisdom and the opportunity to continue to learn about oneself and grow from those reflections. As the conversation between John and me continued on however, I noticed that he did in fact have concerns about aging, which became more apparent in his references to financial issues as well as the poor job he indicated he has done at living a healthy lifestyle.
When asked if John’s thoughts have changed about aging in the past twenty years, he mentioned that “financially, I blew it. Twenty years ago I was in a great financial position, and now I have nothing. I can barely make the rent for my apartment, have no retirement and I’m scared for that reason.” John was married and divorced two times, and commented that the second divorce, coupled with his own “detrimental behaviors and bad decisions” led to the state he is in today. Without prompting, John went right into a conversation about how unhappy he is with his lack of effort to take proper care of himself. John explained that currently he works twelve hour days, smokes heavily, drinks alcohol in excess and follows a “wrong diet” filled with fast, easy foods that are usually high in fat and low in nutritional value. In addition, he has had a heart attack and suffers from diverticulosis, irritable bowel syndrome, is overweight, and has high blood pressure and high stress in his life. In addition, John mentioned that he has had changes in his oral health and over the past few years has had three teeth removed. Finally, John had a recent scare when he contracted a nosocomial infection, MRSA, after an operation on an infected wound site located on his foot, which kept him out of work for weeks.
At this point, based on John’s candid and honest answers to my questions, I asked him what he thought nurses and other health care professionals can do to assist people like him (those who know what promotes wellness yet continue to make decisions that are detrimental their health) at reaching their goals of a healthy lifestyle. John responded by stating “well, you can’t blame the doctors. There is plenty of information out there and in our society people sue left and right and blame others constantly, but it is ultimately up to the individual to take responsibility for his [or her] own wellness.” In addition, John stated that there is every opportunity to be healthy but that “one huge important thing is that [health care providers] need to care. People should not be made to feel that they are being rushed from nurse to doctor on an assembly line without having the chance to ask questions or engage in conversation.” John provided details of the doctor that he sees on a regular basis who, “does not overload his schedule with patients, and actually has patience” and concluded that a little more quality time spent with patients could go a long way in terms of patient outcomes. He also...
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