Among many initiatives, David Kent seeks to bridge the generation gap
By Kristian Partington
David Kent was shocked to learn that he would be among the people honoured by the Ontario Long-Term Care Association with a lifetime achievement award. It’s not that he hasn’t had an impact on the world around him through the course of his life, because he has; 35 years as an educator has left his influence upon the lives of thousands, for example.
What shocked him was the fact that the nomination submitted by the team at The Village of Erin Meadows in Mississauga where he’s lived since August 2014 didn’t focus on any of his past experiences, as is typically the case for most residents nominated for the award. Instead, the team chose to focus on the impact he’s had in the village since he underwent a deep personal transformation following his arrival there.
When he first moved to the village, David left his room only for meals. He was depressed and frustrated with the disease that finally robbed him of his mobility after decades of slow progression. He wasn’t himself and he felt as though his life held little worth, but he soon found new purpose in teaching again, this time offering seminars for his fellow residents on a range of subjects from sports and art to Canadian history.
“This rejuvenation of his teaching career has given him a new purpose and meaning in his life,” the lifetime achievement nomination suggested, and he’s since expanded his influence beyond the village walls. His newest mission is to bridge the generation gap between young and old, building upon the great success of an initiative he helped spearhead that brought young people from a neighbouring high school into the village for a Specialist High Skills Major program in health and wellness.
“We’re really excited about this,” David says. “My vision is to get the gap between the generations connected and the place to go to for that is the young people.” The SHSM program, which brought students to the village for hands on experience in a long-term care setting and built upon in-class discussions about healthy aging, “was a resounding success,” he adds. The students were expecting a hospital-like setting filled with feeble people stuck in their beds and were surprised to see a vibrant home instead. Many of the students suggested their path in life might now take them in the direction of a career serving residents of a similar setting.
David is now working alongside team members at the village to develop a program called Meet the Elder, which will encourage long-term care homes in any jurisdiction to reach out to high schools and invite student leaders from Student Council and the Athletics programs into the home to learn about the reality of life in long-term care. “These are the leaders of the schools and they’re going to come back and they’re going to spread the word,” David says. “It doesn’t take long.”
The residents will gain much from the experience while the students access the knowledge and experience of the residents they meet.
“The homes have a resource that no one else has,” David explains. “There’s more learning and knowledge in long-term care homes than you can put in any library in Ontario, and it’s untapped. We want to tap it because we have all these unbelievable stories here.”
Beyond his regular duties as president of the village’s Residents’ Council, where he’s led several new initiatives to improve life quality for his fellow residents, David intends to continue the growth of his youth outreach proposals. It’s one of great purposes he now finds in life and a driving force that gets him moving every day and certainly one of the key reasons why the OLTCA chose to recognize his achievements.