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“ Something as simple as putting your hand on their shoulder or encouraging them to walk goes miles for them.”
He sees the elderly as a “ forgotten part of society,” and to him that is an injustice. “ They built the society we are privileged to live in now. I truly feel that they deserve not to be forgotten,” he said.
“ You wouldn’t believe how lonely some of these people are.”
Mr. Best enrolled in the PSW certificate course at the Pembroke campus of Algonquin College in January 2005. He was one of two men in a class of 33. Now 49, Mr. Best was also second- oldest in the class. He had retired from the military about five years earlier after serving 22 years in the army’s dental corps.
He has been working as a PSWfor more than a year. “ Overall it has been a wonderful experience. I didn’t do this for money. I did it for my own personal reward, and the fact that I know I’m helping somebody else.”
“ The majority just want you to touch their hand and say ‘ How are you today.’ Or give them a hug at night and say, ‘ Have a good sleep.’ The smile on their faces just from that little gesture, you can just tell it has put them at ease or calmed them. I would say touch is a very important factor.”
A study done in the early 1990s predicted that about half of the population — 46 per cent — will spend time in a nursing home. Muriel Gillick, a Harvard professor and author of The Denial of Aging, says she feels that society needs to show caregivers more respect.
“ If we hope to have people available to take care of us as we age, we’re going to have to redefine caregiving jobs to make them attractive,” Ms. Gillick says. “ That will mean boosting pay, increasing the prestige associated with such jobs, and creating avenues for advancement.”
Like Dr. Gillick, Ms. Clarke feels there should be more pay and recognition associ-