After 20 years of a career in art and graphic design, Pat Jenkins was inspired to make a huge career change. “I was guided internally after years of working in another passionate career. I finally got in touch with what gave me the most inner satisfaction,” she said.
She had always felt a kindred spirit with seniors that were struggling to get their needs met. Her mother was in a wheelchair when Pat was younger and is about to turn 90 in April. She remembers the challenges that her mother faced. “Society on the whole does not accommodate nor anticipate these needs very well,” Pat said.
She decided to research education courses to help seniors engage in life and stumbled upon an article from the AJC about Dr. Lois Ricci’s Gerontology class. Dr. Ricci has instructed this course for nearly six years and has been working in the field for more than 35 years in both hospital and academic settings as a geriatric nurse practitioner/educator and consultant. The article led Pat to the website where she was immediately interested when she realized that the course was a continuing education class. She was not familiar with Gerontology but wanted to see where this would lead.
“I didn’t want to get another undergrad degree and it was the only type of class of its kind that I found,” she said.
This program is designed to offer opportunities in the field of aging for those who work with older adults. The format is organized around a partnership model honoring and utilizing the skills and knowledge of academics, practitioners and other gerontology professionals. Students will also explore generational differences, growing diversity in aging and the social worlds and theories of aging people and their changing family roles.
Once in the class, Pat felt at home. She found that hearing the other students sharing their passion and experiences made the class unique. “Mostly, I felt like I took away current knowledge of the aging process and had in-depth exposure to the many issues that seniors face in the aging process, from physicality to financial. I’m able to match the ‘realities of aging’ in my job to the classroom educational presentations,” she said.
After graduating in May 2016, she was hired 6 months later at Sunrise Senior Living as an Activities Assistant and was quickly promoted to Activities and Volunteer Coordinator. Her job is to develop, design and implement the activities program for 80 residents with various cognitive and physical limitations including dementia and Alzheimer’s and also recruits and manages volunteers.
For the future, she wants to continue following the path she’s on. “For students interested in the program, I would say follow your passions even if you can’t see where the road is taking you,” Pat said.