In a new guest column for McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, Erickson School Dean Judah Ronch explores how technology can enhance relationships between older adults with dementia and their caregivers, and also clarifies misconceptions about technology as panacea for compassionate caregiving. He writes,
Technology is not valuable as an (expensive) electronic attendant to deterioration. It is a vehicle that can help the person restore, replace, and compensate for the assault on identity of self that is dementia through pleasurable experiences with others (remote and on site), and by experiencing the pleasure found in successfully meeting challenges through problem solving – like all people do.
Technology can be a partner in caring for the whole person by enhancing relationships that go beyond physical care giving and enabling the whole person to be present with others and experience joy, rich sensory stimulation and success. This use of technology will take us beyond caring for the person’s memory and provide care for the whole person.
Read the full McKnight’s column to learn more.
The New York Times today examined the experiences of older students — in their 60s and beyond — at colleges and universities. The article cites many reasons for retirees taking college courses, including tuition waivers, social connections and an interest in lifelong learning.
“Novelty is something the brain thrives on,” said Erickson School Dean Judah L. Ronch, commenting on the physiological and psychological health benefits that older students experience. “It helps connections between nerve cells form, and that’s the basis of new knowledge and ability. Research now supports the idea that at any age these connections can continue to be made.”
In addition to supporting brain health, the classroom can also be a helpful for adults coping with the death of a spouse and struggling to socialize with friends who are intact couples. Ronch noted that in college fellow students are unlikely to ask, “Is your husband dead or alive?” Read the full article to learn more.
Judah Ronch, Dean of UMBC’s Erickson School, offers a pointed letter in today’s New York Times, responding to a report that some retirement communities are segregating their dining facilities based on residents’ required levels of care, sometimes splitting up married couple during meals.
In “It’s About More Than Food,” Ronch writes that although “different regulatory considerations might play into the dining decisions at differing levels of care in a continuing care retirement community…[w]hat’s important is the fact that dining is deeply tied to pleasure, identity and sense of community, and therefore the service being provided is not simply to deliver food. To make a point of segregating people because of their physical or mental condition is to threaten their sense of dignity and identity as a valued member of a community.”
The December issue of Maryland Family magazine features a unique article on seniors who volunteer in local K-12 schools — a practice that Judah Ronch argues has significant benefits for both children and adults. Dean Ronch of UMBC’s Erickson School comments, “Doing things you enjoy makes [your activities] meaningful, and that means you are more likely to remember them.” For seniors who enjoy interacting with kids and sharing their skills and knowledge, volunteering in a local community can have positive effects on their physical and mental health and well-being.