Deciding on a career working with older adults, or perhaps more specifically Geropsychology involves understanding the types of settings where you might find this population. Perhaps the best place to start is in long-term care, as it is usually what people imagine when they think of Geropsychology (I will hopefully inform this notion a bit better!)
Long-term care facilities are, in a nutshell, places where anyone who may need skilled nursing services can live with the level of care they need. This means that you might encounter residents who are not older adults, but they are in need of nursing care. Not only is nursing care provided, but commonly social work, dietary services, recreational services, chaplain services, psychological services, and of course holistic medical care.
Long-term care homes are typically referred to as skilled nursing facilities or SNF’s (pronounced “sniff’) by those working in these integrated care settings. Yes! That’s right! Working with older adults in these settings is considered integrated care. This is another advantage to doing this type of clinical work, not only do you get exposure to work with older adults, you also learn about functioning in your professional role within a group of other providers from various disciplines. Check out Psychologists in Long-Term Care (PLTC) as this is a great place to start exploring this option and they provide a wealth of resources about this very special work.
In graduate school, much of what you learn is about yourself, more specifically, grad school asks of you to be insightful. This look inward may include a reflection on the kind of psychological services you want to provide, research you wish to conduct, and who you would most like to work with in your professional career. Many graduate students may consider working with adults, children, couples, Veterans, the incarcerated, LGBTQ, racial and/or ethnic minorities, or those who may be most vulnerable in our society. If you find that you want to work individuals that come from all those parts of life, then I have a suggestion…older adults!
You may ask, what exactly does the term “older adults” mean? Well, it generally is meant to refer to adults 55 years of age and older. Using the term “older adults” is generally received as more acceptable than “elderly,” or “senior,” but there is no hard and fast rule about which term to use. As the awareness around the culture of being an older adult grows, so do appropriate evidence-based treatments, considerations in assessment, and expectations around what “normal” functioning look like.
“Write like you’re in love. Edit like you’re in charge.” – James Scott Bell
Here on the APAGS blog we’ve previously offered some tips on how to become a better scientific writer, addressing ways to make it easier to put words onto paper (and finish your thesis/dissertation/manuscript!). But good writing mostly happens in between drafts one and two … or 19 and 20, as editing your own work effectively is consequential to getting your point across. So to pay homage to the skill that is fine-tuning, below I’ve assembled some tips to help you become a better editor. Hopefully they will help you transform your original ideas into digestible content.
Edit as if you were another person
You will always be your best editor when you can look at your writing from the vantage point of your audience. First, this helps remove the emotional baggage from reviewing your own piece, whether this involves feeling as if you are not good enough or – just as dangerous – as if you are Nobel Prize worthy. While we always want to feel invested in our work, and proud of the pieces we put forth, much about writing effectively has less to do about you, and everything to do about your reader. So try forgetting for a moment that you wrote what’s in front of you and ask yourself: what is the author trying to convey here? Answering this question time and again will help you identify areas that are either not clear enough or need reframing.
Print out your draft
I’m not usually an advocate for printing many things on paper these days, but when editing your writing you may consider making an exception. Seeing words on paper simply has a different effect on a reader versus seeing them on a screen. Plenty has been written about this topic, enough to ensure me that I’m not the only one that feels this way. So if your stuck in your writing and unsure how to move it forward, print out what you have thus far and read it away from your computer. Annotate edits in the margins (for old time’s sake). Another tip is that if you have multiple pages already complete, start with printing just page one and go from there. Often you’ll notice that there is something to attend to early on and you’ll need to change it right away before moving forward. So save your paper (and toner) and go one page at a time.
Professional conventions are an integral part of the graduate school experience. APA Convention is one of the largest and brings together a diverse group of psychology students, academics, professionals, community organizations, and clinicians from across the US (and the world!).
If you’re on the fence about attending the APA Annual Convention, here are just a few (of the many) reasons why it’s worth the trip:
By Rachel Moore and Michael K. Scullin (Baylor University)
Hi all! We’re Rachel Moore (student) and Michael Scullin (professor), and we are teaming up to show you how to go from being a student of psychology to an ambassador of psychology.
Across two class assignments in 2016, Baylor University students translated psychological science from the classroom to the community. The students collectively produced 15 community outreach projects on sleep health and 19 “news” videos on human cognition. Below we interweave the professor’s view and student’s view on the two classroom assignments.
Community Outreach Project on Sleep Health
As a sleep researcher, I spend a lot of hours in the lab (not sleeping), without direct contact with the families who might benefit from my research. Therefore, I asked the local Children’s Science Museum if my lab could create a “pop-up” exhibit. For an entire day, we held a booth of sleep science activities and taught kids and their families about sleep. It was a lot of fun. I think we learned as much from the families as they did from us. Following this transformational experience, I challenged students in my Sleep class to create an innovative, community-based outreach project that promoted sleep awareness.
The community outreach project intimidated me! It extended beyond the comfortable bubble of homework and tests, and I feared the impending face-to-face interaction with strangers. In the beginning, I remember thinking I was in no position to interrupt people’s lives with some information I learned in classes—why would they want to listen to me? Understanding that friends, family, other students, or strangers may exist on the receiving end of our work raised the stakes to convey information as clearly and effectively as I could. So we had to buckle down and ask ourselves, “What do we find important? Who should know this information? How will we share?”