The Book That Sparked A Conversation
By: Melissa Wombwell-Twersky, LSW, CMC
I first learned about the book The Age of Dignity after reading an article about its author, Ai-Jen Poo in the magazine Spirituality and Health. I was so inspired by her message that I immediately bought her book on Amazon and then I did what any curious person does-I googled her. Turns out, she was speaking at an upcoming conference in Philadelphia. I attended the conference and was in awe of this woman! She was speaking on the exact topic that I had been struggling with.
She is the Co-Director of the group Caring Across Generations which is a national movement to change the way we think about care giving in our country.
Three years ago, I became an Aging Life Care Associate because I saw a need to be a resource for people in the community who didn’t know how to navigate long term care services. I found myself offering advice to friends of my parents and my peers and saw that unless people were tied into an organization, they were unaware of what was available to them as a caregiver or what kind of assistance was available for their loved one. It has been rewarding to be able to connect seniors with resources in their community and also provide support to their caregivers as they navigate this journey.
The concepts in Ai-Jen Poo’s book appealed to me as I related to the idea of creating an organic, informal network of people helping people. I live in a small but progressive and diverse town that is heavily populated with many faith congregations and a large population of older adults. After reading the suggestions that Ai-Jen Poo and Caring Across Generations gives about working locally in my own community to spark a conversation and create change, I went to my local bookstore owner and offered the idea of having a book discussion centered around the book. She was very open to the idea but not before introducing me to a community member and author Yosaif August, a life coach for caregivers and author of Coaching for Caregivers: How To Reach Out Before You Burn Out. He immediately saw my vision and was eager to join me in co-facilitating the book discussion event at the local bookstore.
The event was a tremendous success. Our audience consisted of professionals including grief counselors, social workers, professional caregivers and children caring for aging parents. It was a lively discussion that ranged from a macro perspective of challenges in care giving on a national level to a micro perspective in challenges in care giving at the bedside. The event was scheduled for an hour and a half and could have easily gone longer. We talked about what we can do as a community to support each other and agreed to continue meeting to discuss options that included but aren’t limited to creating a Time Bank (a suggestion from the book) to help support each other. As I cleaned up and was leaving, three of the caregivers were exchanging numbers and promising to keep in touch.