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Helping Younger People Better Understand Older People

From the tiniest, most fragile infants to older adults facing a variety of ailments, Lee Memorial Health System employees care for patients with the highest level of quality and compassion.

Sometimes—and not only in health care—if one has not experienced a particular health challenge, it may be hard to completely understand actions, emotions and perceptions of another person. This is especially true with younger people understanding the challenges facing older adults who are living with chronic diseases, disorders and illness associated with aging. To help foster greater understanding, our older adult services department created a hands-on training program called The SECURE Project for Sensitivity Training. Developed more than 20 years ago, the program helps anyone who works or interacts with older people better understand the experiences of aging.

“The program is focused on building compassion and empathy for what people go through as they age,” says Teresa Frank-Fahrner, Lee Memorial Health System older adult services program coordinator. “The training addresses and provides a simulated experience for conditions like vision problems, dexterity issues and arthritis. While this is extremely helpful for doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, we have found that many other companies and industries have purchased the program because they want to be able to better understand, improve sensitivity and support our growing older population.”

The SECURE Project for Sensitivity Training program includes a DVD and CD; training manual; handouts with exercises; glasses that simulate eye problems like glaucoma, macular degeneration, stroke, cataracts, and yellowing of the lens; a pair of arthritis simulation gloves; a laminated number card; and a prescription bottle with “pills”. All of these items—both the information and hands-on props—provide insight into common conditions of the aging population.

Not only is our nation aging, but Southwest Florida is twice the national average in older adult population. Thus the need to better understand the challenges of aging is even greater in our community.

“The growth of the older adult population is one reason why this training is so important,” Teresa says. “But, it also is a good reminder to young people that how you take care of yourself today affects how you age.”

Teresa also shares that the program has been sold throughout the country, as well as in Canada. “This has been our best year ever for sales,” she shares. “Kimberly-Clarke—the sellers of products like Kleenex and Depends—recently purchased 9,000 kits to train their workforce throughout the country. Companies, along with other health care facilities and nursing schools, are realizing the importance of properly training staff to compassionately care for our older population.”

Teresa adds that this sensitivity training helps remind us that older people were once young. “We ask people what they see when they look at an older person? Do they just see wrinkles, gray hair, ailments and illnesses? Or, do they see a person who has had a great life—a career, a family, wonderful experiences and interesting hobbies?” Teresa says. “We hope that this training provides a greater respect for our aging population—not just in what they can accomplish today, but what they have accomplished in their lives.”

We are proud of the SECURE program and that it provides another opportunity to serve our patients by helping organizations and individuals learn how to adapt and compassionately serve the older generation.



Jim Nathan
President, Lee Memorial Health System


Jim Nathan,
LMHS President

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