Penn State

Donna M. Fick - professor of nursing, Penn State University Park

Book Title: As We Are Now

Author: May Sarton

Book Description:

In 1987 I had just started graduate school at the University of Cincinnati (UC) to be an advanced practice nurse and was working as a registered nurse at UC in a surgical intensive care unit. I had declared my intent to become a medical-surgical clinical nurse specialist when I decided to take a class on the Psychology of Aging. The first day of class, our professor, Dr. Ann McCracken came into the classroom and read us a poem about growing older. I knew this was going to be a different class! We read several books in this class about older adults in different contexts and met older adults looking for sources of meaning in their later years, despite the physical and social challenges associated with growing older. We also had an interdisciplinary clinical experience in a funded teaching nursing home project with medical and nursing students, pharmacy students, and nutrition students working together in a model clinical environment.

As We Are Now is told in the first person about a woman put into a nursing home against her will. It is not a happy story, but it is unforgettable and thought provoking, and was written by May Sarton at a time (1973) when pioneers in gerontology such as Robert Butler were speaking out about ageism and emphasizing the positive aspects of aging. This book tackles the poor treatment of older adults in a shocking way and illustrates the social, psychological, and physical changes associated with growing older. This class made me excited about the complexity and human side of aging, and soon after I changed my graduate emphasis to gerontology, and completed my first research study on delirium in older hospitalized adults. Both May Sarton (poet, author, novelist, memorist) and Robert Butler (gerontologist, psychiatrist, and Pulitzer Prize winning author) continued to work and be productive into their eighties. To this day, it is the resilient older people, and the stories they tell, that have taught me about the complexities of being a researcher in gerontology and the privilege of aging.


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