“We’re so afraid of aging that we begin to devalue ourselves and others with each passing year,” Isabel Tom, an MPH graduate from the Department of Behavioral and Community Health, wrote. “The phrase '30 years old' incites panic. Seniors live in separate communities and barely interact with young people, while middle-aged people spend millions each year on anti-aging products.”
But what if we have it all wrong?
Tom has spent her life living with and serving older adults. With every job, she says she has come across new insights on the older generation and the value they add to our lives.
In March, she published The Value of Wrinkles: A Young Perspective on How Loving the Old Will Change Your Life, a book filled with professional and personal stories to inspire grandchildren and adult children to love the older adults in their lives more.
“When my grandma passed away, I felt so blessed to have spent my entire life with her,” Tom said. “She was 102, I was 35 and I considered her one of my best girl friends.”
During her time at UMD completing a Master of Public Health (MPH), Tom worked on "Developing an aging curriculum for children”— her MPH project —with Professor Kerry Green.
“Surprisingly, my passion for serving older adults has only grown since grad school,” Tom said. “I believe my book can be a powerful tool to educate and inspire students to appreciate the older generation.”
Jarmin Yeh, program evaluator and researcher at the Institute for Health & Aging says that the book is good for use in the classroom, as it brings a cultural lens to aging as well.
“The language is simple, the message is clear, and Isabel humanizes the aging experience, which is refreshing in a field that heavily medicalizes aging,” Yeh said.
Tom says the book is for anyone who wants to create a stronger bond between themselves and the older people in their lives.
“After reading my book, I really believe you will never think of old people the same,” Tom said.
- Department of Behavioral and Community Health