In order to help meet the future retirement needs and interests of the older employees, all Archbishop Bergan Mercy Hospital personnel who were 55 years of age or older were personally invited to attend a sequence of preretirement programs conducted by the Staff Development Coordinator of Gerontology and a member of the Pastoral Care Team, Franciscan Sister Claire Teeling, FFPA. The course format, patterned after one developed by The University of Nebraska at Omaha Gerontology Program,1 included seven two-hour sessions concerned with personal life planning. The seven two-hour sessions included presentations and discussions on appropriate topics dealing with retirement such as: Mental Health, The Process of Aging, Leisure, Estate Planning, Finance, and Everyday Law and the Senior Citizen.
The class participants who elected to take the course represented a wide range of occupational backgrounds within the hospital staff including service workers, clerical workers, and professional workers.
At the beginning and conclusion of the series of programs, the Nathan Kogan Attitude Scale2 was administered to the participants. This questionnaire is designed to determine negative and positive attitudes toward aging and consists of a set of 17 negative statements and 17 positive statements about older people. The items speak to such topics as the discomfort experienced in the company of older people, qualities of personality and appearance of older people, and the extent individuals vary amông each other as they age.
In order to compare the data compiled from the persons who participated in the preretirement series, a random sample population was selected from the total hospital employees who were age 55 or older and who had not participated in the programs. A letter explaining the questionnaire and the Nathan Kogan attitude questionnaire were sent to the selected random sample of employees in that age range who were currently employed at the hospital. A total of 72 percent of the questionnaires were completed accurately and returned.
The results of the questionnaires indicated that both participants and nonparticipants in the preretirement series demonstrated a positive attitude toward aging. These questionnaire results may have been influenced by the fact that all participants were employees in a "care giving" facility. Kogan states that more nurturing persons demonstrate more positive attitudes toward aging.3'4
Although the preretirement series had little effect on the participant's attitude toward aging which was initially positive, a variety of personal growth experiences occurred at the cognitive level during the course. Facts about retirement were assimilated by the partici1 pants along with developing an ability to function as a group. The value of the get-acquainted activities are reflected in the following statements of some group members.
1 Reflect on past experiences of youth.
2 Focus attention upon future options and life potentials.
5 Practice communication skills and self-representation in personal relationships.
7 Engage in financial and estate planning.
8 Contemplate the availability of support systems in the event of illness or death.
3 Pursue fantasies of this future life with a feeling of dignity and self-worth.
4 Develop an awareness of individual differences related to physical change and aging.
6 Acquire knowledge of maturing sexuality.
9 Evaluate needs for diversified leisure, volunteer or work activities.
10 Become familiar with community organizations and activities for aging persons.
"Queenie" the hospital information clerk brought her husband to plan for their third age.
Two executive secretaries visit about a retirement community for secretaries in New Mexico.
"I had more respect for each person after I heard him share about himself."
"I felt part of the group after I talked." (She was usually silent.)
"I feel different ways on different days, you can't put people into categories."
"I'm like a 'clothes line,' steady and responsible. I'd like to be more free like a 'kite string,' but that's scary and involves more risks."
These comments again reflected the positive attitudes that the preretirement program participants held toward themselves and toward their aging process. They asked to be respected as unique individuals, they reached out to learn about each other, and some even expressed a desire to take risks and to learn new ways of living.
The participants in the program were asked to evaluate the series in terms of what assistance was gained in personal life planning and for dealing with older patients and relatives. All of the participants "agreed" or "probably agreed" that the series would be helpful in planning for successful retirement, in dealing with older people, and would recommend the course to others who work with older patients. When asked to evaluate each individual program as a tool for learning to work with older patients and friends, a total of 82 percent of the participants selected "Mental Health" as the program which offered the most assistance in working with older individuals. The "Process of Aging" topic was chosen by 73 percent of the group members. "Property Disposition" was the least popular topic and was found to be of value by 45 percent of the participants.
"Security"'is their business, now and in the future. Both employees attended the preretirement series at Bergan Mercy Hospital.
Retiring is no emergency for these two Bergan employees who are preparing in advance for the future.
Local's attitude toward aging is so positive she will continue volunteer works with the elderly after retirement.
According to the Nathan Kogan Attitude Scale it was demonstrated that employees who became involved in the preretirement program at Bergan Mercy Hospital, held a positive attitude toward aging. Although the preretirement series seemed to effect little change in the attitudes of the participating members, positive growth did occur at the cognitive level.
In conclusion, the participants in the preretirement program "agreed" that the series could be adjusted to either personal life planning for the employee or for help in preparing to work with older patients and that they would recommend this type of course to other personnel within the hospital who were considering their years ahead in retirement. The instructors found that even though the participants in the series were positive in their feelings about retirement prior to their enrollment, the course did offer much cognitive information that was well received by the participants and useful for future application.
Courses such as this may offer much for employees who have reached the point in their occupational life where they are actively considering the retirement years ahead. They might respond readily to information on how they may effectively enjoy those years.
- 1. Waskel S et al: Planning And The Third Age. Omaha, Gerontology Program University of Nebraska at Omaha, 1975.
- 2. Buseck S: Staff development in the nursing home. Lecture Presented At The University of Nebraska Medical Center Continuing Education For Nursing, Omaha, Nebraska, Feb- ruary 25, 1976.
- 3. Kogan N: Attitudes toward old people: the development of a scale and an examination of correlates. J Abnorm Soc Psychol 62(l):44-54, 1961.
- 4. Kogan N: Beliefs about 'old people': a comparative study of older and younger samples. J of Genet Psychol 100:93-100.1962.