As editors of Healthy Ageing and Aged Care, Maree Bernoth and Denise Winkler aimed to provide students with an engaging resource to encourage students to read and learn about ageing.
The authors appreciate the most valuable sources of information about ageing come from those who have lived life and experienced what it means to age. So, the foundation of the text is stories, which relate the experiences of older people and are then captured in text, on videos and in a podcast. These stories and experiences demonstrate the variety of lives lived and focus on the strengths and contributions older people have made and continue to make to their families, communities and their countries.
Taking such an approach debunks stereotypes and ageist attitudes that can negatively impact on the quality of interactions between older people and health professionals. Dr Bernoth said it was important to understand the individuality of older people and that they are still living lives and contributing. In this case, they are contributing to student learning by sharing their experiences in the text and media resources.
“One of the really valuable things is having older people themselves contribute. You can engage with real older people telling their real stories. They’re sharing honestly and generously their experiences with you,” Dr Bernoth said.
Dr Bernoth went on to say “one of my particular passions is in having nurses engage with older people and see them as the complex beings they are and understand that working in ageing is complex, requires sophisticated clinical skills, and there is so much to learn.”
She said that after more than 30 years working in aged care, she remained excited by new research and learning about new ways of working with older people. This excitement and passion is reflected in the book.
“The other really valuable thing about learning about ageing is that you’re learning about yourself. You’re learning about the consequences of choices that you’re making, and you’re learning about how they impact on your ageing, so this is a really exciting field to be involved with.”
It is Dr Winkler’s expertise in storytelling and in the refreshing approach she has to presenting information that adds a new dimension to the text and captures hearts and minds. This is a novel and courageous way to write a text but it adds to the life in the book and engagement of the readers.
Some case studies detail the complexity of living with multiple chronic conditions, diverse family relationships and coping with grief. Contemporary issues such as ageing prisoners, homelessness, senior entrepreneurs, information technology and elder abuse are included in complete chapters.
There is not one way of ageing and it is crucial that future health care professionals are armed with attitudes, understanding and knowledge of the diverse experiences of those with whom they will work.
Healthy Ageing and Aged Care has been shortlisted in the Tertiary (Wholly Australian) Student Resource category of the Educational Publishing Awards Australia. The winners will be announced in September.