Linda Garcia December 9, 2011 Human Development Professor Mary True On Site Observation Project: Late Adult Development The site that I choose to observe was a Bethany Assisted Living center in my hometown of Duarte, California. It is a facility that is run by the Carmelite nuns who take pride in their mission of “At the Service of the Family for Life” and providing quality care with compassion and a profound respect for the dignity of life of all.
Elderly residents receive supportive services in the comfort of their own personal living space while still allowing them to maintain their autonomy. I had the opportunity to observe the residents during their daily exercise routine, their lunchtime, and after lunch activities. I observed the physical development program that Bethany offers. It is a guided activity that is done as a community with an instructor everyday prior to lunch. Residents have the choice to participate or not in one of two activities.
One of the activities includes going for a walk with a caretaker around the campus or at the nearby walking trail. The second activity, which I sat in on, takes place in the common lounge and is led by an instructor. The participating residents sit in a circle while doing various exercises that offer variability based on each individuals ability level. This exercise opportunity is provided because Bethany understands the importance of maintaining physical ability despite age and because it serves as “a powerful health intervention” (Berk, 453).
These exercises are performed to help strengthen the heart, muscles, increase flexibility, and to improve stability. The opportunity to exercise can prove to be very beneficial for the elderly, which is why Bethany ensures that it is provided. Through the physical activities that are performed, “gains in vital capacity are seen that compare favorably to young adults” (Berk, 454). Physical activity allows the elderly to achieve favorable benefits not limited towards their physical health, but cognitive as well.
For example, exercise “increases blood circulation to the brain which helps preserve brain structures and behavioral capacities” (Berk, 454). The cerebral cortex also benefits in that there is an improvement in “sustained and selective attention during mental testing, yielding better performance. ” (Berk, 454). Through these activities, the elderly are better equipped to cope with their physical changes. This will allow them to “become more optimistic about health outcomes, better at overcoming threats to health, which promotes further optimism and continued health-enhancing behaviors” (Berk, 452).
As I continued observing throughout the day, it was obvious that the residents of Bethany received adequate social support amongst each other and the caretakers. It is important to create this atmosphere of support because it allows for comfort by the residents in surroundings that are not their home or among their families. The caretakers at Bethany offer assistance to the residents while still allowing them to maintain their independence. This is done because in order “for social support to foster well being, elders need to assume personal control of it” (Berk, 480).
This is also done in order to not make their new living situation so abrupt in that it still allows them to take part in normal everyday activities that they performed prior to coming to the assisted living center. During my time at Bethany, I noticed several ways that social support was fostered. Although living at a place like this does mean relinquishing come sense of control, residents still had the ability to perform many things on their own. For example, while I was there, I witnessed a couple of residents who would leave Bethany, and return with groceries or shopping bags.
It is important to allow residents with their independence because of its high value within our society. On the other hand, “when assistance is excessive, it often results in psychological stress” and “undermine mental health and accelerate physical disability” (Berk, 480). Another sense of social support that I witnessed was that of “ affection, affirmation of their self worth, and sense of belonging” (Berk, 479). This was seen through the interactions of the residents among themselves and the caretakers.
It was obvious that deep relationships were formed among the residents themselves. It was interesting to see roommates sitting together during lunch, and participating in activities together. With one resident that I spoke to during lunchtime, she told me that she was concerned because her roommate had not yet entered to eat. She was saving a seat for her and was worried that someone else would take it. Through the interactions among one another, there is a reduction in “ loneliness and depression while fostering self esteem and life satisfaction” (Berk, 481).
The caretakers also appeared to adhere to the mission of providing compassion and tender care for the residents. Through these “expressions of kindness, encouragement, respect and emotional closeness, the greatest impact is made on mental health in late life” (Berk, 498). The reason that I chose to observe Bethany Assisted Living was because it had been my first job while I was in high school. I became very close with many of the residents and caretakers while I was there because it was such a welcoming and friendly atmosphere.
I also chose it because it was obvious to me that this facility is run in a very intentional way that strives to provide the best living situation for the elderly. One thing that highly stood out to me while I was there was the high need for social interaction among the residents. Even when I worked there, I would constantly see residents amongst each other’s company. I suppose they served as a support system, especially for those whose family did not regularly visit them. It really is a beautiful sight to see the relationships and bonds that are formed with one another. It was almost reminiscent to what dorm living is like.