Wellness Conference Focuses on Aging in Place

Amy Stewart-Wilmarth Friar News

Participants in the Aging in Place conference came from across the United States. (Photo courtesy of Jack Clark Robinson)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After enjoying dinner together, an interprovincial group of healthcare representatives from the US-6 provinces gathered at A Becoming Place on the grounds of San Juan Diego Friary last month to discuss ideas about ways to collaborate on the healthcare of friars especially in relation to the aging process.

The Sept. 18 to 20 gathering included Our Lady of Guadalupe Province hosts Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, Fr. Ron Walters, OFM, Br. Michael Burns, OFM, and Marta Ortiz, PA,  as well as friars and staff members of five other provinces.  They were from Fr. Craig Wilking, OFM, Fr. Michael May, OFM, Fr. Carmen Scurderi, OFM, and Charlene Duley, RN, from Assumption BVM Province; Fr. Bob Valentine, OFM, Fr. Richard McManus, OFM, and Anita Pivato, RN, from St. Barbara Province; Fr. John Abts, OFM, Fr. Henry Willenborg, OFM, and Denise Reindl, RN, from Sacred Heart; Fr. Tom Gerchak, OFM, and Fr. Frank Jasper, OFM, from St. John the Baptist; and  Joseph Cavoto, OFM, and myself from Holy Name Province.

A warm welcome given by Fr. Jack, provincial minister of OLG Province, which is headquartered in Albuquerque, commenced the meeting on Tuesday evening and was followed by individual introductions from the provincial healthcare representatives.

Fr. Jack suggested working toward the best possible care of the new province that is being formed by the joining of the six provinces, and for the healthcare representatives to keep the following goals in mind during their two days of discussions:

  • How can we cooperate?
  • How can we collaborate?
  • How can we care for the friars to make the smoothest transitions over the next few years toward this “new province”?
  • “When is it realized that Franciscan life is a lifelong venture? And aging is a part of living, dying is a part of living”

Over the following two days that the healthcare group met, four areas were focused on:

  • Aging in place
  • Environmental concerns
  • Financial concerns
  • Fraternal concerns

Included in the discussions and presentations were these themes:

  • Aging in place in the friary is preferred
  • A more appropriate term for “aging in place” would be “aging in fraternity”
  • Meeting the needs of the friars within the means of the Province
  • Every friar is unique
  • Remaining in the friary of choice, retirement friaries, determining levels of medical care
  • Common qualities of aging at home
  • What are the qualities of aging well, what are the common ailments of aging
  • What is being done now for aging friars that is working well in the friary(s)
  • Resources available through government and other assistance programs
  • What is the retirement policy? Transitioning into retirement, into active retirement.
  • Practical concerns vs national concerns.
  • The medical lay professionals participated, and shared their experiences and expertise in healthcare, with older friars and within the Franciscan Order

At the end of the last day, Fr. Jack rejoined the group and was given ideas and advice from the discussions that he will share with the other provincials of the US-6 provinces.

The meeting participants also looked ahead, discussing the following –

  • Learning from each province through listening and working together
  • “Each province is made up of men, not of places”
  • Continued future support and collaboration among the interprovincial nurses and the physician assistant was established
  • A strong advocacy for elder care and its concerns
  • Continued work will be done together on the elder agenda
  • Looking at “Third Age Transitions”

A final comment was made as the last session of the gathering concluded ~ “Remember Article 22, Chapter III “You are all Brothers” (General Constitutions, General Statues).

— Amy Stewart-Wilmarth is the Province’s director of health and wellness. Since assuming her role in March, she has been visiting the friaries around the Province and developed and written six Inside Out Wellness newsletters that are distributed monthly to HNP friars.

Editor’s note: this meeting about healthcare was one of several interprovincial gatherings held in the last month. Others were the JPIC animators, Juntos Comos Hermanos and the English-speaking Conference communicators, who met in Burlington, Wis., from Sept. 17 to 21.

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