A new book by An Spidéal-based professor Ricca Edmondson looks at how older people make a valuable contribution to those around them, through the concept of wisdom.
In Ageing, Insight and Wisdom, Professor Edmondson (pictured) says that older people can be a great source of guidance but often they are not listened to.
‘If we draw attention to the idea of wisdom that’s one way of saying that older people have a huge amount to offer, but we have to be in a position to listen to it,’ she says.
Professor Edmondson, who is originally from South Africa, moved to An Spidéal in the early 1990s after becoming a lecturer with the School of Political Science and Sociology at NUIG.
She became interested in gerontology, the study of ageing, through talking to older people in the West of Ireland: ‘They were just such fascinating people that it was a privilege to live among them; they were just so full of insights and humour and understanding of other human beings.
‘In the West of Ireland older people have experienced kinds of life that younger people would have little understanding of. So from that point of view they have got a lot to say.’
Professor Edmondson became interested in the concept of wisdom when she was completing her doctorate at Oxford University.
‘For most of human history people have been interested in how you could reason well and how you could think well and how you could live well, then how you could bring these things together, and that falls under the notion of wisdom,’ she says.
Professor Edmondson is an editor of one of the European Sociological Association journals and is interested in what makes up Wise Care.
One of the papers she has co-written is based on research at Áras Chois Fharraige nursing home in An Spidéal, together with another centre in Dublin.
‘All the people I’ve spoken to who’ve stayed at the Áras have really enjoyed themselves; they’ve appreciated it very deeply. I think they have felt that this is a place where they can be themselves, and where they can enjoy themselves and where life is good.’
Professor Edmondson says that wisdom is particularly relevant in the care setting, where having good judgement and decision-making are so important.
‘Our study certainly suggests that humour and sensibility and creativity and diversity are really important in Wise Care. This is what we found in the Áras as well as the other centre in Dublin.
‘It’s a question of how flourishing the older people are, who are in the Home.
‘The people that I’ve known who were here in the Áras have been very, very happy. A friend of mine who stayed here for recuperation after an operation said it was the best holiday he ever had. He was amazed.’