Apr 23 / Liz Woods

Intergenerational lifelong learning and a sense of purpose

I provided wellbeing sessions for several nursing homes in Dublin for over 5 years. I had contact with over 100 residents per week who attended my group classes. I loved my work and rarely took time off. It was a privilege to get to know my clients as individuals and it gave me great satisfaction when I was told many times, that some of the residents would get out of bed after several days just to attend. Other residents would get irritated if a carer came to tell them they had visitors during the session. Basically, lots of residents looked forward to the class and did not want to miss it. 

Why was that? When I was asked to develop a group aromatherapy class, I started with a blank canvas, literally with 2 residents. It built up very slowly and I pivoted the class outline and content many times in response to the feedback I received from the residents. Many of the male residents attended, and one daughter was surprised that her father wanted to attend an aromatherapy session as she thought he would have no interest in the topic. I told her it was so much more than an aromatherapy session, it was about learning and sharing knowledge. I learnt so much from the residents. The essential oils became a tool, a sensory aid to give another dimension to the learning, which was helpful if their vision or hearing was impaired. The essential oils are very concentrated and therefore, the aroma was easier to detect. The sense of smell is linked to the long term memory and the residents felt empowered when memories surfaced, once forgotten knowledge was recalled, small glimpses of the long life relived. Space was given for their memories to be explored, other residents reaffirming the memories with their own life experiences. The young carers who were present also learnt a lot. This was intergenerational learning in action. Nursing homes are power houses of knowledge and residents final few years can be honoured by acknowledging and appreciating their wisdom. What a great sense of purpose.

All the best

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