Introduction with Betty Dominici, AgeSong COO at 2015 Intern Training

In this video, Introduction with Betty Dominici, AgeSong COO, Betty talks to the AgeSong Pacific Institute GeroWellness 2015 Interns. She speaks about a non-judgmental attitude, relational care and getting to know the residents during their internship.

Introduction with Betty Dominici, LVN, AgeSong COO

Betty Dominici expresses the wish that a goal this year at AgeSong, is to not judge the elders we work with. She speaks to how AgeSong is different in it’s approach to care. AgeSong uses relational care to get to know the elder. This emphasis on relational care is different from the mainstream. Relational care is how AgeSong works to address what is happening with the residents. She recommends that interns do not jump to conclusions about an elder, or look at an elder as their diagnosis or view them medically. At AgeSong we first try to understand the elder. By doing that we find the reason why the person is exhibiting the behaviors they are. Perhaps there is an unmet need. The only way to do that is to be accepting, to really get to know them and gain the understanding needed to meet that elder’s needs.

Betty finishes with a preview of her talk to come on assisted living operations and what it means to be an AgeSong Assisted Living Community.

In the GeroWellness training there are more talks and training on relational care at AgeSong and how it helps the CarePartners, Nurses, Engagement team and Interns meet the AgeSong residents needs.

Find out More!

Read more stories about how importantRelational Care is in the AgeSong Communities.

Explore more videos in the AgeSong Video Library

Understanding Forgetfulness – Reducing the Use of Psychotropic Drugs

At AgeSong, memory loss is not a reason for pity or despair.  Care Partners undergo rigorous training to perceive forgetfulness from a holistic, non-patholigizing viewpoint.  So-called “challenging behaviors” are approached from a place of curiosity and are considered to be full of meaning. There is a huge difference between attempting to change or control a behavior and attempting to understand its meaning. For example, someone may ask, repeatedly and in a loud, impatient voice, for a tunafish sandwich on white toast and be quite satisfied with a turkey sandwich on wheat bread. What the person really wanted was company, someone to talk with, because she became quite happy when a care partner sat and talked with her while she ate the turkey sandwich on wheat bread.

Deeper into the Soul Back in Stock(Paperback)

More Deeper into the Soul: Beyond Dementia and Alzheimer’s Toward Forgetfulness Care

Elders Academy Press is excited to announce that Deeper into the Soul is Back in Stock.

deeper_cover202Deeper into the Soul: Beyond Dementia and Alzheimer’s Towards Forgetfulness Care
by Nader Robert Shabahangi, Ph.D. & Bogna Szymkiewicz, Ph.D.
Elders Academy Press (2008)
124 pages; $13.95-Softcover: Back in Stock!, plus shipping & handling;
or $9.95 eBook – Epub & Mobi

OrderOrder ebook

“If you are a researcher, a hospital worker, a teacher, a caregiver, this book belongs on your desk or at your bedside. Deeper into the Soul will push you further than you meant to go, surprising you into a smile of pleasure, a buzz of new learning, a challenge to your usual interpretation of meaning. Best of all, it will engage and enlarge your heart.”

~Elizabeth Bugental, Psychotherapist and Author of AgeSong: Meditations for Later Years

This book is a practical guide for people who work and live with relatives or residents with symptoms of forgetfulness. The authors offer ideas and tips dealing with symptoms such as aggression and wandering, but they also explore a new way of understanding the people for whom we care. They ask the basic existential questions: What are the possible meanings of forgetfulness? What purpose does it serve for both caregiver and the one experiencing forgetfulness?

Read More on the Elders Academy Press website.


AgeSong’s Central Vision

by Nader Shabahangi, AgeSong Founder and CEO

AgeSong and Pacific Institute are vision-driven organizations. This means that people who belong to these organizations understand their work as contributing to a larger vision of a more loving and aware world that makes room for the many diverse expressions of all there exists. At its core, AgeSong is grounded on the belief that we live in an interdependent world where all is related with and to each other. As such, AgeSong emphasizes a relational model of working together as opposed to a model that believes in absolutes, that is in one right way of being and doing.

At AgeSong’s elder communities, we strive to create, both in theory and practice, a place where we can allow people to be who they are, a place where the intention of those with whom they interact, such as carepartners (commonly termed caregivers) staff, interns, family, and volunteers) is to understand more deeply about the Other facing them. As such, AgeSong desires to create learning organizations where we ask such basic questions as the following: Who are we? What helps? How do we help? What does it mean to live, to age? How do we age? At AgeSong, our intentions are to take a stance of curiosity rather than knowing, to understand how we best care for the other and to appreciate difference as much as homogeneity.

At AgeSong’s elder communities, AgeSong and Pacific Institute implement the foundational belief that all phenomena we humans experience are meaningful and important for a deepening of human awareness and for the enjoyment of life. This belief understands phenomena normative society designates as undesirable, even deviant – through labels such as disturbance, disorder, illness or disease – as essential for understanding and living human life. Among the phenomena mainstream regards as unwelcome belong also aging and old age and often any behavior different from what we consider normal, ‘appropriate’, or ‘well adjusted’. AgeSong elder communities share in the belief of the meaningfulness of all phenomena through by creating therapeutic environments at its elder communities. In this spirit, AgeSong works together with Pacific Institute to combine resources, apply internship training, and implement AgeSong’s varied and diverse specialized programs. These specialized programs are modeled on an existential, processwork philosophy and psychology that are non-comparative and do not pathologize. Such a philosophy and way of life do not separate the world into good or bad, right or wrong, better or worse. As such, this philosophy and practice stands in contrast to present-day mainstream perspectives with their emphasis on dividing the world into things that are more desirable and less desirable.

At this time, the following programs are being implemented at AgeSong senior communities:

• Community Living (Assisted Living Care)
• Forgetfulness (‘Dementia’) Care
• Engagement and Outings
• Expressive Arts Therapies
• Gero-Psychological Care
• Spiritual Care (Interfaith)
• Palliative (Hospice) Care

The intent of these seven programs is to address the many different facets and dimensions of aging, old age and of being human in as comprehensive a way as possible. The central concern of all of these programs is to educate and train carepartners, staff and interns in a basic attitudinal shift. At the heart of this shift is learning to perceive life as meaningful. Though seeing something better than something else, such differentiation and judgment are necessary in some parts of life, applying this attitude without discrimination to the care of the human being marginalizes and perpetuates suffering.

Towards an Attitude of Curiosity and Acceptance

An existential, processwork-oriented attitude that lies at the foundation of an AgeSong therapeutic environment approaches human beings and the world we inhabit with an attitude of curiosity and acceptance. It is this attitude of curiosity and acceptance in which both AgeSong and Pacific Institute would like to train carepartners, staff, volunteers, and interns. Such an attitude welcomes and enjoys difference. It understands perceived difference as an opportunity for growth, and thus wants to learn from it.

Stated personally:

“From each difference I perceive in the other allows me to see a part within myself that may as yet be unfamiliar to me. That which I perceive as different is different because I do not identify with it or know yet. What I know already I do not regard as different or ‘other’. It is my attitude towards difference that is essential here.”

I have a choice to reject or accept difference. In rejecting difference I state that the ‘other’ is not part of me, is not worthy of being understood further. But would I not want to understand what I don’t know if it could help me understand myself better? In accepting difference I state that there is something I can learn from the other, something that deepens my awareness of myself, hence the world within which I live.

This attitude of acceptance and curiosity translates into the way each of the specialized programs is carried out. For example, in assisted living care the special needs of the elderly residents are met with an attitude that understands each need as a way the elderly communicate their unique difference to us. All kinds of possibilities can lay behind a community member’s tentative or slow walk, need to be fed, or desire to be quiet for a long time. Rather than ‘seeing’ these ways of being as aberrant, we might understand them as ways of expression in their own right. This holds true as well for those elderly who seem to forget what they once knew, appear confused to us in the way they go about their daily lives. If we do not judge forgetfulness or confusion as abnormal, but rather as the way this particular individual now lives his or her life, then we could see the wisdom behind this change and difference. As importantly, we can enrich our own lives with another way of being we did not imagine or ‘see’ before.

Educating and Training a New Generation of Carepartners and Interns

The central task in teaching and educating a new generation of managers, administrators, supervisors, coordinators, interns, carepartners and volunteers is to start with showing how each of us holds certain beliefs, values, ways of seeing people and the world. The purpose here is to have us become clearer about how our beliefs shape our perception and thus determine how we see our world. It is important to show how, for example, what we judge to be undesirable or aberrant can also be seen as something valuable, even enjoyable. Working primarily experientially, we are invited to probe in ourselves for character and behavior traits with which we would normally not identify. In this way we may begin to first notice and then counter the tendency to judge whatever may be in front of us.

Another training consists of learning to make contact with one’s own ‘inner elder’. This training conveys a connectedness to the wise part in oneself. This part allows us to learn to look at life and living from the ‘long view’. In such a perspective all phases of life are seen as important for the creation of a full life.

Central to the attitude of acceptance and curiosity is learning to be cognizant about our expectations. Noticing our expectations, becoming explicit of them, helps us be in and with the moment. We develop a ‘beginner’s mind’ attitude where we feel more and more comfortable with not knowing what will be, what should happen. This attitude allows us to enjoy what is. Enjoying the beauty of the moment means enjoying life, enjoying all that happens. This enjoyment is based on us being present with the unexpected events that often go unnoticed: the graceful movement of an elder, the faint smile, the warm hand I touch, the green plant I see, the food I taste, the raindrops I hear.

Important in this shift to an attitude of acceptance and curiosity is learning the art of listening. This involves as much noticing our desire to speak as our tendency to assume what the other is saying. Language, however, both verbal and non-verbal, is very complex and difficult to understand fully. Every word, movement and expression contains multiple meanings, often unknown even to the person communicating. Here trainees will learn ways to listen and understand, to take time paraphrasing and helping the other search for understanding.

Warriorship of the Heart

What we want to communicate to the world ought to be congruent with our message itself. At AgeSong we desire to communicate to others that we would like to re-define aging as an important phase of life. This phase of life is given special importance through re-establishing the role of eldership in our culture and society. To be truthful with others we need to model the ways of elders ourselves: being attentive listeners who continually practice being aware of what occurs in the moment, within and without.

The Seven Specialized Programs

All seven programs are based on the same attitudinal shift towards a loving curiosity and acceptance of the other. The only difference is the form this loving attitude takes. In assisted living care, carepartners practice their loving attitude of acceptance and curiosity when they bathe, groom, feed, walk, and otherwise help, support and sit with our residents. In forgetfulness care, carepartners and interns practice an attitude of curiosity and acceptance when they work with elders’ attempt to remember, find their room, walk the hallway, search for contact, do activities or engage in the many different forms of communication and relating. In expressive arts therapies, interns, staff lovingly follow community members’ many diverse attempts in being creative and expressive. In our spiritual care program residents encounter a safe place where they can express their struggle for meaning and their search for the transpersonal aspects of life. In our memory improvement, interns in training work patiently and lovingly with elders’ desire to remember and to stay cognitively active. In hospice care, elders find acceptance in the way they are and need to be as they move through their process of dying.

Once the attitudinal shift to a loving curiosity and acceptance of the other – whether the other be community members, family members, or carepartners, staff, and interns – has been made, the above programs meld into one. This means that whether we do expressive arts, memory training or assisted living care, the basic attitude with which we undertake each program always follows the process of the elder moment to moment.

A Different Model of Doing Business

At AgeSong we try to walk the talk. The way we care for our organization, for people and things ought to reflect the way we would like to care for community members. This is what we mean by staying aware of the Circle of Care – as I do to do, you will do to others, to yourself. This circle of care extends not only to the people who work with AgeSong, but includes the community and environment, the larger world in which our organization lives. As such, our organization desires to stay aware of this interrelationship by paying attention to how it cares for and relates to this world. Concretely, we try to remember that there are different bottom lines, that return on investment does not only refer to a monetary return but also to what we return to our workers and our community, near and far.
For additional reading and study, please view:

Process Work on the Arni and Amy Mindell website.

From Mindell:
What is Processwork?
“Processwork is the art, science, and the psychology of following the nature of individuals, communities, and eco-systems.
What is this nature exactly? It appears in the descriptions or self- descriptions of nature and people, as well as the subtler often missed signals and deep experiences of everyone and everything involved. Following this nature is often a great help for everyone involved. Following nature often gives meaning and necessary change.
Processwork, also called process-oriented psychology, is a multicultural, multi-leveled awareness practice including people and their natural environment. It is an evolving, trans-disciplinary approach supporting individuals, relationships and organizations to discover themselves.
Processwork uses awareness to track psychological and physical processes that illuminate and possibly resolve inner, relationship, organizational, and world issues. Processwork theories and methods, skills and metaskills are available for anyone to experience and can be tested.
Processwork Applications:
Processwork can be used to help people in all states of consciousness, that is in so called normal awareness states, or in altered states such as psychotic or extreme states, comatose and near-death states. It can be applied to psychological problems, body symptoms, groups, organizations, governments, and has been used for very young and very old people.”

More Info on Processwork

Read more about What is Process Work?

Books by Arnold Mindell:

City Shadows: Psychological Interventions in Psychiatry 

The Quantum Mind and Healing: How to Listen and Respond to Your Body’s Symptoms

The Shaman’s Body: A New Shamanism for Transforming Health, Relationships, and the Community

Dance of the Ancient One

The Deep Democracy of Open Forums: Practical Steps to Conflict Prevention and Resolution for the Family, Workplace, and World



AgeSong Vision Training Video with Nader Shabahangi & AgeSong Trainees

In this AgeSong Vision Training video we join Nader Shabahangi, CEO of AgeSong, speaking with AgeSong trainees about the AgeSong Vision during the AgeSong Orientation and Training in August of 2015. This AgeSong Vision Training video is a great introduction to the inner workings of AgeSong and how the AgeSong Vision fosters the AgeSong Exceptional Assisted Living experience for both residents and staff.

An Introduction to the AgeSong Vision

Nader introduces the AgeSong Vision and discusses some differences between AgeSong residential communities and the “standard” assisted living residential model.

One of the main differences is in approach to resident life. AgeSong treats their residents as Elders; Elders are thought of as teachers who are giving to their community and to those working in the community. This is in contrast to the passive role residents experience in a more mainstream assisted living residence where the workers exert more control over the residents.

AgeSong Vision Training: Emphasis on Relationships

AgeSong Vision promotes relationships and relational care within the communities. As an example of relational care in an AgeSong residential community, Nader sets up a role play with the trainees where he plays a resident who does not want to put one of his shoes on.

One version of the role play really shows the “relational” approach used at AgeSong.
In this role play Vincent, in the role of Care Partner, did not make the shoe the most important point of contact when he realized the resident was having an issue with everyone wanting the resident to put on his shoe. Vincent made the “individual” more important; he made the relationship important. He asked the resident to put his shoe on and when the resident refused, Vincent asked if he could sit with the resident. By doing this, by sitting with the resident on an even level and having a short chat a connection was made and the goal was accomplished through “relationship” vs through controlling the resident.

The AgeSong Vision gives Control to Residents

Residents are given as much control in daily life as is safely possible. AgeSong works to increase an elders choices in daily life. Also there is a constant evaluation to try to find ways to increase residents choices to give them aspects they can control.

The AgeSong Vision is About Respect for the Resident and the Relationship

Respect for the resident as individual is important in the AgeSong Vision. Take entering a residents room. Build the relationship by showing respect to the resident when entering a residents home. Knock, introduce yourself, say the resident’s name before entering. If the resident does not answer, please announce yourself and inform them if you will be entering, giving them the opportunity to respond. The AgeSong Vision is to emphasize respect and relationship in all aspects of care and contact.

The AgeSong Vision Views the Residents and Elders who are Teachers

In AgeSong Assisted Living Communities we look at the residents as Elders; people who have things to give to us, they teach us, they are our school. AgeSong is like a university almost, a place to learn.

What can Elders teach us? They can teach us values: like Kindness, Patience, Love, Empathy and more. Elders are “related,” and are very interested in those around them. At AgeSong we can learn from them the values they have learned over a lifetime lived. We incorporate those into our working life at AgeSong.

The AgeSong Vision Promotes Mindfulness and Being Present

Elders teach us “Mindfulness.” Being present, be in the moment. You can show that by respect and consideration in our daily routine. How can we be ‘present’ in the moment? Come in leave our phone aside, engage and develop relationships.

At AgeSong we use “Forgetfulness” Instead of “Dementia”

AgeSong does not call changing cognition “dementia.” At AgeSong these conditions are referred to as “forgetfulness.” Why doesn’t AgeSong use the term “dementia”? There are numerous reasons to refrain from using the word dementia.

One reason is “the individual is not the disease” and the idividual is not a problem. We do not want to focus on a “problem” we want to focus on the whole individual.
Secondly there is stigma associated with dementia, it is a negative term that provokes negative responses and alienates that person from others.

Also if you say someone has dementia then you are actually saying that they are “different and separate” from everyone else. Using the term forgetfulness helps us stay related to one another. We are related to those who are forgetful as we all experience forgetfulness.

AgeSong Communities in the Bay Area

Nader discusses the structure of AgeSong and the emphasis on Community. In San Francisco, there is AgeSong Hayes Valley, AgeSong Laguna Grove, and AgeSong University Care. The Oakland community is AgeSong WoodPark.

AgeSong is not just a Job it is an Opportunity for Growth

Working at AgeSong is a paycheck but in some ways it is also like a Spiritual practice. You are growing as a person. Coming to work and learning. Everyday AgeSong employees come in and are working with vulnerable people, frail people, and people who teach them. Everyday they are coming to a class, they are coming to learn.

The Origins of AgeSong

Nader also walks through the origins of the word “AgeSong.” AgeSong: Meditations for our Later Years is a book written by Elizabeth Bugental after the loss of her best friend. She was reflecting on how one’s elder years can give us the opportunity to decide how we would really like to live the final phase of our life. How in our elder years we can have the courage to do life “our way;” freeing ourselves from the artificial restrictions that we accept in our younger years.

Find out More!

Explore more videos in the AgeSong Video Library

AgeSong Guru Week Video: Conversation on Forgetfulness Care vs Dementia/Alzheimer’s

The Guru Project brings together Dr. Allen Power, Dr. Richard Taylor, Stephanie Rothhman and Dr. Nader Shabahangi for a Guru Project Discussion About Forgetfulness. This recording, AgeSong Guru Week Video: Conversation on Forgetfulness Care vs Dementia/Alzheimer’s, shows the recent AgeSong Guru Project round table conversation on forgetfulness care vs. dementia/Alzheimer’s that took place on February 20th, 2015. The talk covers forgetfulness, stigma and how to humanize care for people with changing cognition.

A Conversation on Forgetfulness Care vs Dementia/Alzheimer’s

Some Highlights from this Guru Week conversation: In this talk and in the Guru Project as a whole we are looking at this phenomena called dementia and how it is becoming more medicalized and more stigmatized. We are also looking at how we can humanize the phenomena, reduce stigma and create better care environments. At AgeSong the emphasis is less on the biomedical diagnosis and more on recognizing human differences and individual needs when it comes to caring for those with “forgetfulness.”

The thesis of the Guru Project is to challenge current narratives regarding changing cognition. Contrary to popular belief, people who are living with changing congnition are not gone or fading away. They are actually the key to teaching the rest of us how to support people who’s cognition is changing. This is counter to the current narrative in our society where people with changing cognition are shut up in what are called “Alzheimer’s Units” of assisted living residences.

Dr Taylor expresses concern with the closing up of people with these conditions, with reducing stimuli and reducing their opportunity to enjoy their elder years.

Dr Power speaks to the stigma and suggests how offensive is it to generalize that all people with this label need to be keep all together and be treated the same way. The labels also predetermine a bias that can interfere with caring for the person as an individual. Diagnosis does not create a common denominator. From a care perspective this does not tell us about the individual and what their support needs are.

The systems that we have created to deal with individuals that are different are fundamentally “anti-humanity.” Dr Power suggests that perhaps the bigger upcoming problem is not that there will be more people dealing with changing cognition but the way we deal with them is the problem. The crisis is not that we will have “x” many people dealing with changing cognition in the next 20 years…the crisis is that we have such a dysfunctional way of seeing them and supporting them.

The idea that someone with dementia cannot have a life that is not full of tragedy and suffering sets us up for views and practices that actually make the suffering much worse than it needs to be.

This video of the Guru Project includes discussions on stigmatizing and integration vs segregation. Dr Power, Dr Taylor, Stephanie Rothman and Dr Shabahangi talk about how creating an environment that fosters relationship, encourages diversity of the individual, a tolerance for differences and promotes “Aging in Place” can reduce stigma and create better cultures of care for people with Forgetfulness.

Find out More!

Read more stories about the AgeSong Guru Project

Explore more videos in the AgeSong Video Library

AgeSong Guru Project with visiting guests Dr. Allen Power & Dr. Richard Taylor

The AgeSong Guru Project
The AgeSong Guru Project is a one-year initiative that will focus on comprehensive care partnerships with elders to understand need-driven behaviors and minimize risky use of psychotropic medication.  To complete this project AgeSong has engaged in a partnership with Psychiatrist and Pacific Institute board member Dr. Richard Patel, Geriatrician Dr. Allen Power, and Psychologist Dr. Richard Taylor.

AgeSong Visiting Guests Dr. Allen Power & Dr. Richard Taylor
Psychiatrist and Pacific Institute board member Dr. Richard Patel welcomes geriatrician Dr. Allen Power (Dementia Beyond Drugs) and psychologist Dr. Richard Taylor (Alzheimer’s from the Inside Out) to San Francisco and Oakland for a series of lectures, discussions, and workshops inspired by the wisdom in changes associated with aging and forgetting. Dr. Taylor has been living with forgetfulness (diagnosed dementia) for over ten years. He will give the audience a revealing account of his experience. Beyond Labeling: Exploring the Elephant is a forum for sharing the vision of the AgeSong Guru Project and celebrating the mystery and richness of being human.

Biomedical Convention

Dr. Power, Dr. Taylor, with Dr. Patel
Tuesday, February 17th, 11:30am – 1:00pm
AgeSong Laguna Grove, Laguna Grove Terrace
624 Laguna Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Guru Launch Gala

Dr. Power, Dr. Taylor, with Dr. Shabahangi
Friday, February 20th, 5:00pm – 8:00pm
AgeSong University, University Chapel
350 University Street, San Francisco, CA 94134 guru


Find out More!

Read more stories about the AgeSong Guru Project


Dr Allen Power’s 2011 Presentations on Dementia at AgeSong

These 16 videos on dementia and dementia care are taken from Dr Allen Power’s 2011 presentations at AgeSong. In these short videos he touches on many points including what is dementia?, on approaching dementia care with an experiential focus, on decoding distress, on changing the paradigm of care-giver to care-partner and more.

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Dr. Allen Power Visits AgeSong



Dr. Allen Power, MD,  visits AgeSong SF and AgeSong at University Mound. Dr. Power is Eden Mentor at St. John’s Home in Rochester, NY, and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester. He is a board certified internist and geriatrician, and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians / American Society for Internal Medicine. Dr. Power is a Certified Eden Alternative® Educator and a member of the Eden Alternative board of directors. He has lectured on dementia and other elder care topics throughout the US and Canada, the UK, Denmark, Singapore and Malta. Following is his schedule:

October 29, 5:30 pm – :30 pm
The New Paradigm of Long Term Care
LGC Rooftop

October 30, Noon – 1 pm
Dementia Beyond Drugs
AgeSong Gerowellness Program
Laguna Grove Care

October 30, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
The Key to Reducing Antipsychotic Drugs
AgeSong Academy/Elders Academy
Forget-Me-Not Cafe

October 31, 9:30 am – 11:30 am
AgeSong at University Mound
Presentation for family members and staff