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How did I get the idea, to develop Montessori-therapeutic interventions under gerontological principles?

The idea to transfer the work of Maria Montessori to the work with seniors arose in the Senior Citizen Residence Neustift, (retirement home) 10 years ago.

As person in charge for retired people I, Bianca Mattern, was working in the field of “assisted living”. There, 50 to 60 people live in rented apartments and see to their daily household duties more or less autonomously. In order to meet the seniors’ demands and their requirements I let myself be guided by the idea to intensively study the work of Maria Montessori and to transfer it to the work with seniors.

In order to get a better perspective I tried to find more information on the topic: existing literature, descriptions of situations and suggestions for various activities. However, I noticed that everything I found was very clinical, impersonal and too imposed and forced on seniors; by far not differentiated enough.

In the past, it was mostly ignored how important it was to work with seniors and their biography, which way they have already gone and which difficulties might occur in new surroundings.  

Moreover, the persons concerned had often been treated like small children – only because certain tasks could only be done in a very limited way, or not at all, due to age or disease reasons. It is exactly these people who need emotional support as well as support in giving them a practical structure in helping them get used to their new everyday life.

An example:

What gets increasingly difficult for the aging is communication with contemporaries. Mostly, the topic of the conversation is “a disease” or “a discontent or frustration” linked with a lot of pessimism. Creating a “new” social life among the community of seniors (between 70 and 90 years of age) is a very difficult and slow process. It takes a long time until social commitments, tolerance, and responsibility towards the others arise. 

Making this experience was wonderful. With Maria Montessori’s pedagogy and her guideline “Help me to do it myself”, the seniors´ quality of life could be tremendously improved.

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