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An unforgettable experience

Book cover: Aging with Grace: What the Nun Study teaches us about leading longer, healthier, and more meaningful lives. Author: David Snowdon, PhD

Given the importance of Alzheimer’s within the health care field, Dr. Kristen Abbott-Anderson, a professor with the College of Allied Health & Nursing at Minnesota State University (MNSU), Mankato, Minnesota, continues to utilize “Aging with Grace: What the Nun Study Teaches Us About Leading Longer, Healthier, and More Meaningful Lives” by Dr. David Snowdon. Dr. Snowdon’s unique study of 678 Catholic sisters from the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) looked specifically at the aging process and the effects of Alzheimer’s disease within a controlled population. Dr. Kristen's course, Families in Transition 2, looks at families living in the context of chronic illness and end-of-life situations. The course also includes pairing sisters and students together for the semester, which allows the students a chance to meet, ask questions and discuss “Aging with Grace” with the sisters of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Mankato. Below are a few reflections from students who have completed the class.

Dr. Kristen Abbott-Anderson, Assistant Professor with the College of Allied Health & Nursing at Minnesota State University (MNSU), Mankato, continues to utilize “Aging with Grace” by Dr. David Snowdon, in her Families in Transition 2 course work. Dr. Snow


Sisters will open up to you

By Emily Stai

The experience I had with Sister Cecile Schueller was better than I could have imagined. It was so incredibly rewarding to get to know such an amazing person and be a part of her life. There were so many parts of this experience that just came naturally. At first, I was very nervous about meeting the sisters. I did not know if the conversation would be forced or if it would come easy for us. However, after meeting Sister Cecile, I knew that all of the conversations we would have would come naturally. She is genuinely such a great and caring person who wanted to know all about my life and I wanted to know the same of her.

The most challenging part of this experience was getting through all of the questions that I was required to ask her throughout our meetings. This was because our conversations flowed so naturally, we were continuously being led astray. It was hard to get back on track because we both had so much to talk about. I will remember so much about this experience, but the thing I will remember most is how devoted all of the sisters are to serving others. It is so incredible to me that these women have dedicated their entire lives to serve God and the communities in which they are living. It is truly inspirational, and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to meet multiple sisters. Sister Cecile Schueller and Minnesota State University student, Emily Stai, meet as part of a class assignment to learn more about "Aging with Grace." Going into this experience, I had no understanding of what sisters’ lives consisted of, the process they had to go through, the things they sacrificed or the community that they built with each other. For me, “Aging with Grace” provided me with a basic knowledge of how devoted these women are to serving others and what the sisterhood meant to all of them. One quote from the book that specifically stood out to me, “They will open up to you…but only if you give of yourself first” (Snowdon, 2001, pg. 16). This helped me when first meeting the sisters, because I knew that if I wanted to make a connection with Sister Cecile, I would need to open up to her and give of myself, so that she could give to me. I think that following this idea really helped me to establish an immediate connection with her and I am so thankful for that.


I was very comfortable with sisters

By Brielle Holm

When I heard that we were going to be required to meet with sisters, I was extremely nervous. I had no idea what to expect. I was not familiar with sisters or their lifestyle, other than what I had seen in movies like, “The Sound of Music.” This movie’s representation of sisters may have been correct for the time period, but a lot has changed and my assumptions were extremely wrong. I was able to build a wonderful relationship with Sister Bernelle Taube, as I learned all about her life and how she ended up where she is today. It was always easy talking with her and getting stories about her life. I was very comfortable with her and excited to see her each time I went to Our Lady of Good Counsel.

The only challenge I experienced was when I had to leave, I always felt so bad and knew we could talk all day, if only I was able to. It was an incredible experience to be able to hear stories of her life and how she has lived in a completely different way than I have. We may have different values, but we still want the same things out of life. At the end of the day, it was heartwarming to see how welcoming the sisters were to every one of us, no matter what our beliefs were, and the sisters thought everything we were doing in life was amazing. They made us feel good about ourselves and the paths we were taking. I feel as though my relationship with Sister Bernelle will continue beyond class, as she is someone I can go talk to whenever I am free.


I learned how selfless sisters are

By Connor Peterson

Dr. Kristen Abbott-Anderson, Assistant Professor with the College of Allied Health & Nursing at Minnesota State University (MNSU), Mankato, continues to utilize “Aging with Grace” by Dr. David Snowdon, in her Families in Transition 2 course work. Dr. Snow

Words cannot explain how grateful I am to have met Sister LoriAnn Stanton and to have had the opportunity to develop a quality relationship with her over the course of the semester. Recently, she has been invested in learning about her own health due to some health concerns. However, even while dealing with her own health, she still had the time to meet with me to complete my semester project, as well as to ask questions about my health and future plans. I have learned how selfless sisters can be, especially Sister LoriAnn. Perhaps the most important lesson I took away from the book and this experience was, “Alzheimer’s disease is not an inevitable consequence of aging” (Snowdon, 2001, p. 100). Overall, the semester provided me with an unforgettable experience.


Read additional articles

Snowdon, D. (2001). “Aging with Grace: What the Nun study teaches us about leading longer, healthier, and more meaningful lives.” New York, NY: Bantam Books.

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