Mr. V.A. is an 86year-old African American man. He was born in Nigeria, moved to the United States in late 60s. He has six children but is currently living alone with his wife in their own house in Washington DC. Mr. V.A. attended college, both in his country of origin and the United States and has retired as a financial consultant. He is well oriented to person, place and time.
On the day of my interview with Mr. V.A., I met him well dressed in sneakers, and a Redskin’s football team sweatshirt. From my reflections, Mr. V.A. is accepting the aging process. He is not happy with the changes to his vision or losing friends and family with age, but he understands aging as a stage in life. He was just diagnosed with macular degeneration. While, he is discouraged with the diagnosis, he is comforted with the support of his family.
I did not have to establish rapport with Mr. V.A because he is my husband’s relative (uncle). I have visited the family few times, and always interact with them. However, to build trust and credibility, I described myself as a Montgomery college nursing student in second semester and stated the purpose of the interview. I informed him that I was going to ask questions about his life and aging and assured him that I will only use his initials to identify him when I share the information with my teacher and fellow students as a requirement for a class project. He understands that I was genuinely interested and appreciates the older generation. His demeanor was good, seemed relaxed in both appearance and voice tone. He has clear and slower speech. The eye contact and body language made me believe in his genuine response. Occasionally, he would excuse me to use the bathroom, and I listened and heard the sound from the tap after toilet use. I would say he has good personal hygiene. When I asked Mr. V.A. what his favorite food was, he responded “meatloaf” without hesitation. He said his late mother’s recipe was the best, and whenever he chooses to cook, he settles for meatloaf. He said it’s his first choice at a restaurant! He then started laughing and said, “No meal is complete without dessert though! He said his homemade coleslaw and iced tea will always hold a special spot in his heart. He confirms that he has a very good appetite and his sense of taste is still intact. He has no problem with swallowing and chewing and does not wear dentures. He is independent, sometimes use a cane when he tries to get up from the couch. He has a history of fall which did not result to any injury.
Mr. V.A. said he loves shopping and driving but can’t do it anymore without someone being around he believes he still have the ability but has decided to take safety precautions. He explained that he prepares meals sometimes mostly baked dishes and still do laundry and cleaning for himself and his wife. He also states that he is determined to try to keep up with some form of formal exercise when he is done with physical therapy. He enjoys the way he feels after exercising and it keeps him feeling young and healthy.
Mr. V.A medications include Atorvastatin, Lisinopril, and multivitamins. He takes medications to “lower my blood pressure and cholesterol. He knows how often to take his medications and the dosage. He has no medication allergy and adheres to his medications perfectly!
Mr. V.A. described his hobbies as eating and socializing. He jokes that it feels like he eats around the clock. He plans his days around meals and when he’s not eating he’s socializing with friends and family. His usual activities include watching the news everyday followed by Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune to “keep the mind sharp. He claims to be at a disadvantage with out door exercise due to declining vision and a new diagnosis of macular degeneration. However, with the help of his physical therapist, he is told to do certain exercises. He said he would not be exercising on his own.
His favorite day of the week is Sunday, because it’s the day he’ll likely drive himself to church. He belongs to the Catholic community and does not joke with the prayers especially the Rosary. He is a dedicated member and has imbibe same in his children. He said he speaks with his children on phone at least once a day and they take in turn to visit every other weekend since his wife spends most of her time at work. He enjoys staying up to date in his family’s lives, he said they remain his source of support. He said he always finds out about community resources and issues regarding the elderly whenever he takes a walk with his wife to the recreation park very close to his house though it happens occasionally because his wife is always busy working.
Life Review and Reminiscence
Mr. V.A. said when he was my age, his life was romantic, hard, and exciting. He said he got married to his wife at an old age, when he was 49yrs old and had six children. This was a happy time in his life. He said they “were madly in love and were even more in love with their children.” It was difficult financially taking care of six children in the United States. He worked for a financial institution while his wife worked as a tech in a hospital setting. He said he had an ambition for adventure inside of him. Reminiscing on his life memories with his family brought a huge smile to his face.
Mr. V.A feels that everyday life is filled with age discrimination. He hates that getting old is seen a negative thing or a joke. Birthday parties featuring black balloons or cards making fun of getting old/aging. He constantly hears, “You look good for your age,” or, “You’re young at heart.” He said, “I earned these wrinkles by walking on this earth for so long. I am 86 and proud!” Furthermore, he finds that society uses patronizing language. If he goes out to eat or shop, he finds waiters, waitresses and cashiers call him names like “sweetie, dear, honey.” He hates that people seem to think being younger is better.
Some challenges to be an older adult in America today in Mr. V. A’s opinion include physical/mental health, financial security, and mistreatment. Mr. V.A. said, “The problem that comes most readily to mind is health, or, to be more precise, poor health.” He knows a lot of people living with chronic health conditions as an older adult. He knows many individuals with arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, hearing loss, vision problems, and diabetes. He said dementia and depression are two mental health problems people face too and they are sad to see in friends and family. He noted that “for many people, growing older means living with less money.” He is aware older individuals are at a higher risk for living with poverty. With fixed incomes from pensions, retirement plans, and social security, while paying for healthcare and living costs, many individuals have financial hardship. Mr. V.A. shared he feels very lucky to live in his home where he does not have to worry about elder abuse. He said, “It is horrible that individuals are neglected in facilities with bed sores, soiled bedding, and poor hygiene.” He noted that caregivers physically and emotionally can abuse elders too, an experience he had when his late elder brother was in a long-term care facility.
Mr. V.A.’s greatest concerns for his health include his gradual approach to total blindness. He is still able to watch TV and read the paper with his glasses, but he knows one day he will no longer be able to do that. He is concerned on losing his independence in dressing, bathing, navigating around the house, etc. He finds hope and strength in God and relies on his faith and support from his family, community and church to get him though this difficult transition.
Mr. V.A had a lot of advice to pass onto the next generation and myself. He told me to give myself a chance. People in my generation need to “stop saying ‘I don’t think I can’ or ‘what if I am not able to?’”. He urged me to believe in myself. He said, “When you get older, your knees do not work the same and you won’t have the best memory, and you are going to wish you’d given yourself a chance year sooner.
Summary of Interview
Based on the time I spent with Mr. V.A., he demonstrated feelings of hope, accomplishment and satisfaction which can be characterized as integrity against despair, the eighth stage of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage takes place from mid-sixties to end of life. Mr. V.A had little concern for present health condition saying it’s one of those that comes with aging. I would rate him above average on the health scale following my assessment of the five dimensions of person.
- Spiritual: He finds hope and strength in God and relies on his faith and support from his family, community and church to get him though transition.
- Physical: He can perform ADLs independently. He complained of joint problems and moves very slowly.
- Intellectual: He is well oriented to person, place and time. and thinks positively about himself. Mr. V.A also has good insight.
- Emotional: He feels bad with the decease in sight which has caused him to stop driving but has accepted to adapt and cope with the plan of care.
- Social-cultural: Mr. V.A. said he has social support group of both friends and family and has maintained a good relationship with his neighbors.
Overall, I found Mr. V.A. to be an insightful, inspiring man. Despite his health and financial status, he remains a positive, faithful person who lives by God’s word. I admire his ability to see the positivity in life despite his declining vision. I did not find difficulty in the interview process, as Mr. V.A. was very eager to share his life and welcomed all my questions. He shared stories and ample life advice. A safety risk I identified although he did not agree with me was the carpet in his living room where we had the interview. It had too many curled edges and some areas are squeezed. I told him it could possible lead to fall and cause fall related injuries. What I found most meaningful was the advice he gave me. My surprise was that at his age, he’s still full of strength, active and lives a normal older adult life. My assumptions and beliefs about older adult did not change, rather it was reinforced noting that good support systems can help and make a great impact in aging process.