For decades, society placed a stigma on the process of aging, the effects of which are still felt today. By the year 2030, one in five people in the United States will be retirement age, according to the Census Bureau. People are living longer and, as they do, they will demand care from those trained to work with older people.
There is this idea that "the elderly are at the end, they're not producing anymore," says Monique Eliezer, a member of the executive team at Ingleside, which operates three continuing care retirement communities in the DC metro area. People complain "they cost Medicare. They cost the government, and so forth. So there's less investment,, Eliezer says. At Ingleside, residents aren't costs, though. They're engaged citizens. For Eliezer, it was the people who drew her to a career working for, and with, senior citizens. "We have a great population of aging older adults who have stories that are incredible,, she says. Ingleside is pioneering what they call "engaged living." "It's something that represents a change, because nowadays you can be engaged until the day you die," Eliezer says.
Eliezer says society's attitude toward the aging is changing with help from programs that engage older adults throughout their lives--shifting the narrative of aging from one of sickness to engagement and independence. This engagement manifests in the Six Dimensions of Wellness, a popular model first developed by Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute, that emphasizes a balance of spiritual, physical, social, emotional, occupational and intellectual wellness. "What is a new thing is the ability of helping older adults to have the infrastructure to continue to engage throughout life," Eliezer says. "They don't need to stop. They continue to grow."
As both an Ingleside resident and an expert in the study of aging, Enid Portnoy brings unique perspective to the topic of aging. She moved to Ingleside in May of 2017 after a 43-year teaching career as a professor of communication and gerontology (the study of aging from a humanistic point of view) at West Virginia University. "Even though I've taught gerontology classes for many years, it's different when you are the one who is now in the position of being an older person," she says. But although she's had to make some adjustments, she's found a home at Ingleside.
"I knew this was for me. I'm a people person, and you couldn't find more friendly and warm personalities and...