Cassia in the News

Changing the Conversation about Older Adults: An Interview with Open Circle Manager Patty Crawford

Patty Crawford, MA, is the manager for Augustana Open Circle in Apple Valley. She also provides educational sessions about how we perceive older adults and wrote a column on this topic, published recently by the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Here, Patty discusses her presentations.

Where do you speak? What’s the focus of your presentations?
I provide educational sessions for staff at Augustana Care and other home care agencies, county social workers, senior centers and assisted living communities around the Twin Cities. Recently I spoke at health conferences and symposiums in Duluth, Phoenix and Chicago. I discuss how we communicate with older adults and how that impacts them and society.

Has your work at Augustana Open Circle informed the work you do as a public speaker?
My work at Augustana Open Circle made me realize we must always support identity and dignity. The basic human need of belonging is central and language is one component of creating that experience.

What do you feel happens to older adults because of how they are currently perceived?
There is the overlying belief that aging is negative and not a natural thing. Take a look at birthday cards at your local store to see what our culture thinks about aging.

Is it important to change the way we relate to older adults?
Older people tell me it feels like they disappear in the eyes of people around them. Even at medical appointments the physician may talk to the family in the room and not to the patient. Changes in hearing and cognition should not eliminate the individual’s experience of inclusion.

What is the most important thing we should remember about older adults?
We should remember they are us, not “the other.”

What do older adults bring to our communities?
There are many gifts in aging; perspective is one. When I experience loss and sorrow I seek an old soul. In art and literature, we see a flowering of genius from older adults.

Can you suggest three ways to change perceptions about older adults?
Acknowledge our own journey. Listen to the words of elders and express gratitude.

To inquire about a speaking engagement, please contact Patty Crawford at or 612-219-2486