Last Word: Maximizing Personal, Interpersonal Agency to Enhance the Lives of Elders
The recent American Society on Aging’s On Aging 2021 virtual conference reignited a passion and curiosity to explore ways in which gerontologists and geriatricians can maximize personal and interpersonal agency to enhance the lives of elders. The speakers at the conference were passionate, both personally and collectively, and it was the action and presence of these speakers that reminded me that we need to use our voices for change, and the call to action is now. You see, having agency and exercising one’s agency are distinctly different. By our training alone as gerontologists and geriatricians, we have agency, or the ability to effect change through our thoughts and actions. But it is not until we personally and collaboratively act with our agency that we are able to elevate the lived experiences of the aging population we serve.
Growing our sense of agency can be a powerful, personal journey. Identifying our intrinsic motivating factors for growth in this area can only come from self-reflection as to the meaning and purpose of the work we do or could do in the field of gerontology. What made you fall in love with the aging population, and what would you wish for your legacy to be in this field of study? At the core of your personal reflection will be an apparent passion.
As you gain traction with building your personal agency, surround yourself with other gerontologists and geriatricians who share a common passion or goal. Build interpersonal agency by creating partnerships where the collective voice for change is even stronger. Conduct research, advocate for policy change, and become active in health care reform all for the betterment of an aging population. After all, we are all stakeholders in this investment. Consider redefining your practice to collaborate in interdisciplinary ways where elders experience a one-stop shop when they enter your office. In that space, they know that their gerontological (psychological, biological, and sociological) needs are going to be met. They know that if they can’t afford the medication that you are about to prescribe for them, that the interdisciplinary team working with you will work to ensure that their needs are met. This model demonstrates collective dedication, collective passion, and collective action needed to improve the lives of our elders. This, right here, is interpersonal agency.
Proceed With Passion
— LaTricia Perry, PhD, is a PhD-prepared gerontologist, a registered nurse for more than 24 years, and the associate dean for the School of Nursing at Nevada State College. In 2015, she was recognized with an Excellence in Geriatric Education Award by the National League of Nursing and Hearst Foundation for her integration of the web-based ACE.S (Advancing Care Excellence for Seniors) resources, demonstrating exceptional instruction and innovation in this key area of nursing education.