5 Invitations for Professionals in Aging

1    Don’t Wait

The maturation of the professional encompasses the realization that each interaction with an aging client is the prime opportunity to show high-esteem, glean wisdom, and progress life-review in the conversation. The invitation stands for you to be a 'boots on the ground' kind of practitioner to discover your WHY in relationships.

2    Welcome Everything, Push Away Nothing

There are times that it is abundantly clear that a person’s narrative is …. not true or grandiose. It can be frustrating and requires patience to be able to filter what the person is experiencing. Every person has the need to be heard. Furthermore, the client’s perspective is the client’s reality. The popular addages about kindness are everything in this business. You'll never know what your client has experienced or survived... be kind.

3    Bring your Whole Self to the Experience

Professionals can ‘be the change [they] want to see’ by being fully present with the person talking. This includes active listening, response (rather than reaction), sincere interest. Frank Ostaseski (2017) notes that professionals should be a soul, not a role to those they serve (p117).

4   Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of Things

It is said that there is calm in the middle of the storm. For aging professionals, there is no such thing as mission accomplished. Our service doesn’t stop, but our bodies and minds have to. As a practitioner, there are occurrences that will replenish what so often is drained. The time spent making memories is often the thread that makes it all worth it. Remember, it takes courage to admit that you don’t have all the answers. Sometimes the best relationships are those where you can safely grow and learn together… even with clients.

 

5    Cultivate “Don’t know” Mind

I never recommend ending an exchange with “I don’t know”. In fact, those words are not in the vocabularies of my team. Rather, the “don’t know mind” refers to the open mindedness required in aging services. The professional (for their own sanity) must maintain some wonder, some adventurous spirit, and some curiosity when tasked. So often, professionals feel they’ve conquered aging services and they know all there is to know about their sector. This is a dangerous belief in the meaningful work we do.

 

These 5 initiations are from “The Five Invitations: Discovering what Death can Teach us about Living Fully” by Frank Ostaseski and adapted for the professional working in aging services or with the older adult in any capacity. I encourage you to reflect on these concepts and deliberately infuse face-to-face contact with these principles.

Ostaseski, F. (2017). Five invitations: What the living can learn from the dying. New York,, NY: Flatiron Books.