“Listen to them! Learn from them! Laugh with them!”
That is the advice for anyone fortunate to live with, interact with or work with seniors, from Education and Training Team Leader in Allied Health and Nursing at TAFE NSW, Jane Smith.
Ms Smith is someone who always knew she wanted to work with older people.
“I think we have so much to learn from them,” she said.
“We can learn from their toughness, strength and resilience. They have so much wisdom and we just need to listen.
“We can help them by reigniting their sense of humour, which can get lost throughout their lives with loss.
“With older people I think it’s important to help them enjoy the world they’re in now. To stop trying to fix or correct them and let them be where they are, especially people with dementia.”
A passionate advocate for older people in Australia, Ms Smith managed an aged care facility in Killarney Vale on the Central Coast of NSW for 10 years. She has completed an Associate Diploma of Applied Science, Diploma Training and Education (TAE) and Diploma of Frontline Management – Aged Care and has been a guest speaker on dementia for TAFE NSW.
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Instead of thinking of people as “old”, Ms Smith preferred to think of them as “wise because they’re learned from life experience”.
“It’s important to remember that they were young once,” she said.
“Just like you or I, they are someone’s mother or father and someone’s daughter or son.
“Older people have more leisure time. They get to do what they want to do. They’ve made their mistakes and learnt from them, so now they can help us if we listen. They are very wise, and they’re happy to share their wisdom.”
Ms Smith said TAFE NSW often invited older guest speakers into their classrooms to share their lived experience.
“We just have to teach people to listen and open their minds,” she said.
“We can get very closed in our thinking and societies’ perception can be that they are old and of no use, but they have more wisdom and experience than any Google search.”
Indeed, one of the things Ms Smith was passionate about in her teaching was the idea that “there are no old people, there are just people”.
“When I’m teaching people to work in aged care I think it should be fun,” she said.
“If I’m having fun, the students can have fun and when they’re having fun, they’re engaged and then they learn.”
Aged care could be an extremely rewarding career, Ms Smith said.