How Does One Become a Gerontologist?

By Valerie
March 2, 2016
Wendy and her beloved Nana J

Wendy and her beloved Nana J

Many people I connect with ask why I became a Gerontologist. The answer is easy: my grandmother and the influence she had on my life.

Meet Me – Wendy – at nine years; a beanpole with eternally frizzy hair. I’m visiting my Nana J’s house, located just around the corner from my family home, in Toronto. Like any kid, I’m hanging around the kitchen like a bad rash, salivating as I watch my grandmother take out some chocolate chip cookies. I start jumping around the kitchen from foot to foot, like a sprinter preparing for the 100 metre dash. My Nana looks over the rim of her glasses and says, “Dearie, do you ever stop moving those limbs of yours? Let me get these cookies into that hollow leg of yours and then you can show me how you do those cartwheely things on the front lawn.”

Fast forward 15 years later. I’m at the hospital sitting beside my Nana J, who is near the end of her life at 92 years old. I’m 24 years old, fresh out of university and ready to fly away on my own. She takes a ring that I’m used to seeing on her hand and tells me she wants me to carry her friendship and love with me through my life. That was the last time I felt the warmth of her hand. The words she spoke that day are still in my heart.

Two months later I, got on a plane heading west to Vancouver to pursue my Master’s Degree in Gerontology and kept my Nana’s promise and friendship close to heart.

My Nana J gave me unconditional love and told me countless times how special I was. She supported my dreams, soared alongside my accomplishments and held my hand through broken hearts and tough times. I learned many valuable life’s lessons from the time spent in her presence. Through her, I learned the value of aging, the importance of intergenerational relationships and the gift of spending time with and supporting our elders.

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“You are amazing! What I tried to do in 2 months, you did in 1 week. You’ve helped us navigate the system, made sense of Mom’s disease, and gave back her independence and control. Thank you for making such a difference in Mom’s life and giving us, her family, complete peace of mind.”

– Mike G., Nanaimo, BC