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Don’t worry about feeling sad: on the benefits of a blue period

Don’t worry about feeling sad: on the benefits of a blue period

In a Twitter account called So Sad Today, the American writer Melissa Broder has been sending out snippets of her daily inner life since 2012. Broder writes about mundane sadness – ‘waking up today was a disappointment’ or ‘what you call a nervous breakdown i call oops, accidentally saw things as they are’– and she is brutally honest about her own shortcomings (‘whoops, hurt myself conforming to socially accepted standards of beauty that i know are false but still feel compelled to fit into’ or ‘just felt a flicker of self-esteem and was like what the fuck is this’). The account has become a sensation, winning her more than 675,000 followers, and Broder’s book of personal essays about her mental-health battles, also named So Sad Today, appeared in 2016. 

It’s startling that Broder’s unabashed expression of sadness – and all the shitty emotions – has struck such a nerve in a world where people’s social media profiles are immaculately curated to show their happiest selves. But clearly the growing rates of depression worldwide mean that we are struggling to be happy. Are we doing something wrong? Broder’s popularity should compel us to cast a new look at sadness and its cousins. Perhaps we should consider realigning ourselves with the Romantics, who as a group found solace in freely expressing emotions in poetry. In his ‘Ode on Melancholy’ (1820), for example, John Keats wrote: ‘Ay, in the very temple of Delight, / Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine’. Pain and joy are two sides of the same coin – both are necessary for a fully lived life.

Keats might have had Robert Burton in mind here, the 17th-century priest and scholar whose hefty volume The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) described how sadness might go into overdrive (something we’ve come to understand as clinical depression) and how to cope with it. Or various self-help books from the 16th century, which, according to Tiffany Watt Smith, a research fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London, ‘try to encourage sadness in readers by giving them lists of reasons to be disappointed’. Could it be that the path leading to true happiness goes via sadness?

Recent research suggests that experiencing not-so-happy feelings actually promotes psychological wellbeing. A study published in the journal Emotion in 2016 took 365 German participants aged 14 to 88. For three weeks, they were handed a smartphone that put them through six daily quizzes on their emotional health. The researchers checked in on their feelings – be they negative or positive moods – as well as how they perceived their physical health in a given moment.

Prior to these three weeks, the participants had been interviewed about their emotional health (the extent to which they felt irritable or anxious; how they perceived negative moods), their physical health and their habits of social integration (did they have strong relationships with people in their lives?) After the smartphone task was over, they were quizzed about their life satisfaction.

The team found that the link between negative mental states and poor emotional and physical health was weaker in individuals who considered negative moods as useful. Indeed, negative moods correlated with low life satisfaction only in people who did not perceive adverse feelings as helpful or pleasant.

These results resonate with the experience of clinicians. ‘It is often not one’s initial response to a situation (the primary emotion) that is problematic, but their reaction to that response (the secondary emotion) that tends to be the most difficult,’ says Sophie Lazarus, a psychologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. ‘This is because we are often sent messages that we shouldn’t feel negative emotions, so people are highly conditioned to want to change or get rid of their emotions, which leads to suppression, rumination, and/or avoidance.’

According to Brock Bastian, author of The Other Side of Happiness: Embracing a More Fearless Approach to Living (2018) and a psychologist at the University of Melbourne in Australia, the problem is partly cultural: a person living in a Western country is four to 10 times more likely to experience clinical depression or anxiety in a lifetime than an individual living in an Eastern culture. In China and Japan, both negative and positive emotions are considered an essential part of life. Sadness is not a hindrance to experiencing positive emotions and – unlike in Western society – there isn’t a constant pressure to be joyful.

This thinking could be rooted in religious upbringing. For example, Indo-Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, which has been extensively studied by Western psychologists such as Paul Ekman, calls for recognising emotions and embracing pain as part of the human condition. It places emphasis on understanding the nature of pain and the reasons that lead to it. Many modern psychological practices such as dialectical behaviour therapy now employ this approach of recognising and naming emotions in treating depression and anxiety.

In a study published in 2017, Bastian and his colleagues conducted two experiments examining how this societal expectation to seek happiness affects people, especially when they face failure. In the first study, 116 college students were divided into three groups to perform an anagram task. Many of the anagrams were impossible to solve. The test was designed for everyone to fail, but only one of the three groups was told to expect failure. Another group was in a ‘happy room’ whose walls were affixed with motivational posters and cheerful Post-it notes and they were provided with wellness literature, while the final group was given a neutral room.

After completing the task, all the participants took a worry test that measured their responses to failing the anagram task, and filled out a questionnaire designed to evaluate whether societal expectations to be happy affected how they processed negative emotions. They also took a test about their emotional state at that time. Bastian and his team found that people in the ‘happy room’ worried a lot more about their failure than the people in the other two rooms. ‘The idea is that when people find themselves in a context (in this case a room, but generally in cultural context) where happiness is highly valued, it sets up a sense of pressure that they should feel that way,’ Bastian told me. Then, when they experience failure, they ‘ruminate about why they are not feeling the way they think they should be feeling’. The rumination, the researchers found, worsened their state of mind.

In the second experiment, 202 people filled out two questionnaires online. The first one asked how often and how intensely they experienced sadness, anxiety, depression and stress. The second – in which people were asked to rate sentences such as: ‘I think society accepts people who feel depressed or anxious’ – measured to what extent societal expectations to seek positive feelings and inhibit negative ones affected their emotional state. As it turns out, people who thought that society expects them to always be cheerful and never sad experienced negative emotional states of stress, anxiety, depression and sadness more often.

Painful times confer other benefits that make us happier over the long term. It is during adversity that we connect most closely with people, Bastian points out. Experiencing adversity also builds resilience. ‘Psychologically, you can’t become tough if you don’t have to deal with tough things in life,’ he told me. At the same time, he warns that the recent findings shouldn’t be misunderstood. ‘The point is not that we should try and be sadder in life,’ he says. ‘The point is that when we try and avoid sadness, see it as a problem, and strive for endless happiness, we are in fact not very happy and, therefore, cannot enjoy the benefits of true happiness.’Aeon counter – do not remove

Dinsa Sachan

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

A Fireside Chat with Dr. Joseph Coughlin of the MIT AgeLab – “The Infrastructure of Wellness”

A Fireside Chat with Dr. Joseph Coughlin of the MIT AgeLab – “The Infrastructure of Wellness”

CBS reporter Harry Butcher coined the phrase “fireside chat” to capture the informal and conversational tone of President Roosevelt’s speeches during the Great Depression. History reminds us that the President wanted to speak plainly to as many Americans as possible. At that time in the 1930’s, nearly 90% of the country owned a radio and this medium offered an unprecedented forum for reaching the masses. During the opening remarks of Aging2.0 Boston’s Fireside Chat, Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs Alice Bonner honored the tradition of speaking simply by soliciting a commitment from the audience. She recognized that while we were all gathered at District Hall to celebrate the promise and opportunity for a shifting vision of old age, retirement and enabling technology, there was a more pressing priority for us to seize together. IF we recognize that aging is about families and community more than it is about “old people” alone THEN, we are quickly reminded that kindness and relationship-building represent the greatest investment of “human” capital into our shared future. More literally, we were asked to make eye contact and say hello to the people we encounter in our daily lives – especially seniors seemingly alone.

With that segue in mind, the event’s Moderator, Boston Globe reporter Robert Weisman, guided an inquiry into the many insights offered by Dr Joseph Coughlin and his AgeLab team in his newly published book,  “The Longevity Economy.” At the surface level, it is a book that encourages business leaders to think differently about how to position for a demographic certainty that almost “defies description.” At a deeper, more functional level, Dr. Coughlin and his team have leveraged their own brand identity and intellect to help change the conversation about aging and old age. As contextual history emerged through the fireside conversation it became clear that AgeLab has a broad and active charge – to help create an “infrastructure of wellness.” MIT is uniquely positioned to support delivery of a wellness framework to communities given that they stand at the crossroads of so many industry constituents. None among them can offer wellness alone – this outcome will only be achieved through active collaboration and convergence fostered by all champions of change.

Driverless thinking

At one point in the evening’s Q&A session, an individual asked about the promise of the Autonomous Vehicle (AV) industry. The AgeLab doesn’t just have a front row seat for observing this trend – they are actively working with Toyota (among others) to advance an understanding of how drivers respond to the increasing complexity of our modern “operating” environment. But wait – here is the rub – in response, Dr. Coughlin emphasized that in spite of all the deep learning and research underway, no one is focused (to his knowledge) on “the 20 foot” challenge. In other words, while billions of dollars have been invested in this trending technology, the functional issue of getting a person with limited mobility into or out of a vehicle has not yet been fully addressed! This single insight serves as a metaphor to the shortcomings of mainstream marketing and product development strategies. When you go the extra mile and think about the problems that you are aiming to solve from multiple perspectives, you will naturally uncover a deficit that leads to greater opportunity. To echo Secretary Bonner’s insight – let’s be sure we are investing resources into the “right” opportunities.

Hubs

The “PieterExplainsTech” YouTube channel offers a variety of tech inspired explainer videos. In Hub, Switch or Router, the viewer is introduced to three network devices (as titled) and the way in which they connect to each other. When we think of the phrase “Hub” from a layman’s perspective, it conjures the spirit of scale and connection. Imagine the wooden wheel from tinker toy sets that empowered us to make a thousand iterations of ultimately the same thing. It is not surprising that coworking studios, or other Victor Hwangenthusiasts, would gravitate to this “hub” language when seeding their own role in a burgeoning innovation ecosystem. True to form, real insights require deep thinking – a natural extension of the consumer-centric, systemic design thinking that the AgeLab represents. From a literal perspective, Hubs in a network do not distinguish or direct signals intelligently – they only replicate and push data through the network while increasing the bandwidth of our systems in the process. Switches and Routers on the other hand, make it possible to direct information more purposefully.

Switching and Routing

We are living in a time where every industry sector touts (often with their own unique sound bites) the merits of integrative or interdisciplinary thinking and yet even a cursory inventory of these vertical spaces reveal gross intellectual redundancies. We borrow thought leaders and pass them through our conference circuits but we do not always stop to consider the efficacy of our economy, business models or community landscape. The “city” historically has been a mechanism for creating and distributing goods and services and it accomplishes this monumental feat by consuming our human scale. Absent progressively planned community infrastructure (let alone serious inner-engineering), we cannot even begin to think about achieving and distributing the dimensions of wellness at scale.

We could not dismiss the subtle irony of sitting in District Hall – an incredible public innovation space that is literally dwarfed by the Boston Seaport cityscape – while sharing sentiments about an altered future state. Our western culture is so highly fragmented because our economic landscape requires it to be so. The appealing catchphrase “infrastructure of wellness” implies that there is (or should be) a dynamic delivery system supporting the attainment of well-being. Dr Coughlin and others focused on “longevity” always ask (appropriately) if we want to just live long or live well. It seems as though we will always fall short of this latter goal if we continue to commoditize and externalize our health and the attainment of wellness while still developing communities for cars and commerce rather than for people and relationships.

A Silver-Lining for “Senior” Living

There are literally hundreds of thousands of industry constituents focusing on the same problems. If we learn to share our language and outcomes, we will begin to close the gaps in our learning very quickly. Organizations like the MIT AgeLab offer the promise of integrative thinking fueled by collaboration – enhanced by the authority and influence they represent. If we don’t know who we are meeting on the sidewalk – there is something wrong with the city or town we are living in. This is our 20 foot problem!  Living alone together breeds lost opportunities for truly redefining and redirecting the future of aging where we can live long AND well!.

It is not likely that conventional cities or towns can be repurposed overnight.  Nonetheless, The Senior Living Industry is uniquely positioned to influence this change landscape – dismantling the senior silos of traditional real estate development and introducing planned communities that are more purposefully connected to the broader community.   Thought leaders like Dr. Joseph Coughlin and his team remind us that the future has not yet been built. The infrastructure of wellness represents a future scenario that might organize itself with greater clarity of purpose with a shared vision.

Forget Memory – it’s about relationships

Forget Memory – it’s about relationships

Like most of you, we have attended a lot of conferences, workshops and seminars since entering the “Senior Living” sector. As repeat attendees of The Annual Memory Care Summit and representing a graduate of The Erickson School, we have one single expectation from the UMBC Aging brand and team – delivery of academic and person-centered content that can “excite and delight” business as usual. We use that phrase intentionally because our own team has just finished a group read (on Audible – our go to “employee training” app) of Joseph Coughlin’sLongevity Economy.” Coughlin, introduces – among several other things – the concept of “transcendent” design where we focus on developing consumer products that will excite and delight all ages and not seniors alone. He encourages all of us to embrace what we would consider a “strengths-based” approach – where we design products for ability and inclusive opportunity rather than trying to solve problems that only highlight deficits in the targeted end-user. This kind of thinking should apply equally to our planned communities and programming.

“Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards – the things we live by and teach our children – are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings”   

Walt Disney

American entrepreneur, The Walt Disney Company

We are entering (or perhaps returning to) a new chapter in our Industry and culture where the curse of knowledge (in business and clinically) is being replaced by an emphasis on the fundamentals of imagination and relationship-building. What kind of future would we imagine, and then build, if we focused more exclusively on engaging across generations and sharing stories, experience and knowledge to that universal end?

Imagination vs  Experience

If last year was about creating magical moments, and fine tuning company culture for sustained results, this year offered the charge to advance our Iconoclast Quotient (IQ) in recognition that while “Logic will take you from A to B, Imagination will take you anywhere.” Ideas and Interests are converging at an accelerated pace. If we want to offer health and wellness services to family, staff and residents, we will be required to meet our customers (all of them) wherever they are – and it will take the whole village to support their wants and needs effectively. In the past we have relied upon experience to light our path. In the immediate future we all need to be trailblazers of some degree.

Heroism and Incrementalism

In typical Erickson School fashion (this is the academic influence) a series of “pre-reading” materials were circulated via Dropbox to attendees  – among these was a link from Bob  Kramer of NIC to a recent New Yorker piece entitled “ The Heroism of Incremental Care” In the article, Atul Gawande shares an interesting metaphor surrounding the collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967:

“The collapse signaled the need for a new strategy. Although much of the United States’ highway system was still relatively new, hundreds of bridges were more than forty years old and had been designed, like the Silver Bridge, for Model T traffic. Our system was entering middle age, and we didn’t have a plan for it.”

In this essay, emphasis was tied largely to the dichotomy of surgeons (heroes) and primary care physicians (incrementalists). For our purposes here, the relationship between outdated transportation infrastructure and our own bricks and mortar in Senior Living is key. We all know that we are developing products that are designed around realities/constraints and beliefs that are no longer relevant – like the Model T – and yet we still charge on without reconsidering the viability of our footings. It is worth emphasizing that EVERY time a guest speaker has joined the stage (we have been to four of the six events) they are emphatic about not wanting our “products or services.” We clearly need visionaries and iconoclasts to chart new courses for our Industry where we focus on engagement instead of behavior management alone.

5 Leadership Lessons from The Disney Institute

As leaders in the “Imagination” department,  Mark Matheis offered the Disney Company’s’ perspective on how best to execute your plans once imagined:

  1. Leaders establish, operationalize, and sustain the values and vision by which their organizations  thrive.
  2. Great leaders proactively establish values.
  3. The more a vision can be expressed in a vivid, imaginative way, the more it will motivate people to action in the present.
  4. Storytelling is an essential strategy for the communication of new ideas; people are more engaged and inspired by information presented through compelling narratives
  5. The best legacy is not one that is fondly remembered, but one that is actively emulated

Value is created when Silos Break down

In “What the Smart Money Wants from You,” Robert Kramer, Founder & Strategic Advisor to The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, shared Industry Data and offered his own insight toward three drivers that are influencing our vision and narrative for the future:

  1. The Longevity Revolution (Silver Tsunami)
  2. Data, Robotics and Mass Customization
  3. Healthcare Payment & Delivery Reform
“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years…and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten”

Bill Gates

American business magnate, Microsoft Corporation

In his engaging presentation, Bob Kramer offered his invaluable insight (replete with data metrics of course!) into the future of aging, how it is being redefined by emerging trends and the anticipated impact of “new retirees”. The later will be represented by “transitions” to encore professions as opposed to traditional retirement. Bob’s own circumstances are illustrative of this occurrence.  Having been recognized as the CEO leader breeding the remarkable success of NIC as the premier research, educational and data source for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry, Bob now transitions to Chief Strategist for NIC.  Undoubtedly he, like numerous other industry veterans, including the likes of John Erickson and Dr, Judah Ronch representing the Summit, will continue to influence and shape the future of aging.  These are not declinists but rather industry treasures to engage and leverage.

The Declinist view of Retirement where seniors unplugged to enjoy their golden years is clearly outdated (like the Silver Bridge) and being replaced by a new emphasis on engagement where residents will want to be become integrated with the communities they choose in an intentional and productive way. As the “diaspora” of healthcare continues and senior services become “uberized,” it will become increasingly difficult to compete with the demand for full service and retail “life management” solutions.  Lifestyle coupled with the presence of supportive care proving more intergenerational and “connected” will give rise to the trends of desire trumping needs. Where will we plug in to the new value equation as developers, operators, caregivers?   Imagine a future of aging where business constituents are more “collaborative” than “competitive”.  These trends are the leading indicators of integrative thinking (points from Dr. Ronch) and more integrated business models that emulate the real world.

Imagine a Cure for Alzheimer’s, Then What?

Scott Townsley’s session was centered around the assumption of a cure for Alzheimer’s. Whether or not a cure is on a horizon, this kind of open-ended / creative thinking enables us to focus on the survivable (or missing) attributes of our business and its offerings. Ironically, these attributes or amenities might actually define our core because they are likely “transcendent.”

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole”  

Theodore Levitt

American economist and professor , Harvard Business School

The traps of quality and superiority were addressed where the former represents the sentiment that well established organizations don’t need to change (until it is too late) and the latter assumes that a premium offering will also maintain its hegemony – except that customers ultimately crave simpler, cheaper incumbents. The final ¼” drill trap presented echoed the detriments of Marketing Myopia where we forget that we are selling solutions not widgets. If we are struggling to identify our own value proposition as an organization, this exercise creates an opportunity to highlight (and work to close) the gap between what we think we are selling (i.e. memory care) and what the market wants to purchase for themselves or loved ones (valued relationships and engagement).

 

Awe – using art to create relationships

If you are not aware, The Erickson School strategically front-ends the program with business and academic content and reserves the final book-end for local guest speakers that can help to ground and synthesize our thinking (by tempering it) with the raw emotional reality of people and their own first-person caregiving stories. Just before these guests arrived, we were primed for the transition through Anne Basting and a re-telling of her incredible work. She relayed how her experience of introducing the transformational power of theatre to people with memory care issues enabled them to engage instead of being alone together.

“The arts are a way of being in relationship, of seeing and shaping the world. My work brings the tools of imagination and creative expression to care relationships and systems in order to foster healing through community building. We cannot heal without story”

Anne Bastings

Artist, Scholar, Teacher, UWM Center on Age & Community; Founder, TimeSlips

It should not be surprising that an entertainment giant like Disney would proffer the same insights garnered from improvisational arts. Storytelling creates a safe space for everyone through abstraction – when you create an open environment, expression naturally fills the vacuum. What does this look like in the built environment? Or is architecture just a shell if it is filled with genuinely human activities? In any case, the challenge is not just how do we create a better physical space for Memory Care but rather, how can we establish a broader network of engaging human activities? We need life centers where everyone can thrive.

Short Circuits

To echo Atul Gawande’s essay once more, “Our ability to use information to understand and reshape the future is accelerating in multiple ways.” He continues to describe that “we have at least four major data inputs that reflect our health and wellness over time, (1) information about the state of your internal systems (from your imaging and lab-test results, your genome sequencing); (2) the state of your living conditions (your housing, community, economic, and environmental circumstances); (3) the state of the care you receive (what your practitioners have done and how well they did it, what medications and other treatments they have provided); and (4) the state of your behaviors (your patterns of sleep, exercise, stress, eating, sexual activity, adherence to treatments).”

When you consider the scope of these inputs, it becomes clear that we will need more bandwidth to capture all of this data and make use of it in a meaningful way. It is unlikely that a sole “hero” provider will venture off into the forest and return with a miracle solution for Alzheimer’s or any other dis-ease. Of course, if you have eyes to see and ears to hear, we might already be the miracle we are searching for.

“Remember, creative power will not operate itself. Knowing what to do is not enough. You, imagination’s operant power, must be willing to assume that things are as you desire them to be before they can ever come to pass.”

Neville Goddard

Author and Teacher

In this sixth year of the summit, we were all called to cultivate our iconoclastic quotient (IQ) so that the future we imagine is built on solid ground instead of crumbling foundations. We were also reminded that if engagement is the ultimate prescription, then we cannot succeed in isolation. Let’s take inventory of our respective strengths so that we can catalog and distribute the dimensional inputs of health and wellness together as due-diligence only. The shared moon-shot is to leverage the data and best practices to craft a new story about how we can age more actively and remain engaged together.

Technologies Promising Connectivity and Care

Technologies Promising Connectivity and Care

Aging & Caregiving Digital Health Reverse Pitches

Hosted by The Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI) in partnership with Aging 2.0

MeHI has been working closely with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) and the Baker administration to advance the digital health ecosystem and explore how these new technologies can improve healthcare in the Commonwealth. Last week’s Reverse Pitch event was a first of its kind event for Aging 2.0 Boston. Under the leadership of Tim Driver, our chapter’s new Ambassador and 2017 Influencer in Aging, our planning committee sought to co-organize a uniquely themed event that might pave the way toward a protypical networking experience focused on casting a wide net and solving real world challenges.

What have we learned? Savvy business leaders are beginning to realize that much of the scaffolding for innovation has already been built by digital giants and the entrepreneurial community.  Connectivity to these resources is lost absent more integrative thinking that rescues one from a siloed context. Mobile technologies in particular are seemingly ubiquitous and often designed for a broad array of user personas – not just boomers or seniors. There is an obvious silver lining here when we step outside of our aging services vertical – and allow ourselves to be informed by what we see in app stores, Kickstarter, Indiegogo and directories like Product Hunt. – we are reminded that many so-called industry-related problems are really just universal human problems in disguise. More importantly, many of these challenges are already being solved (or at least addressed) in adjacent spaces that are unencumbered by the concept of age cohorts.    

How might we better connect the dots and foster more integrative solutions? Herein lies the opportunity contemplated by the Aging 2.0 Boston Reverse Pitch event where provider constituents in the field of Aging Services engaged in discussing how “new” repurposed tools and services might be responsive to distinct problems and challenges confronting the so-called Future of Aging. The Panel Participants were charged with identifying “passionate problems” in their own enterprise that are ripe for innovative solutions and offering them up to designers and entrepreneurs in the audience who might have an idea about how to accelerate a solution to market. Through the intersection of organizations like Aging 2.0, MeHI and Continuum Innovation, we now have a relatively captive audience for the most coveted resources of (1) designers that can create and/or reimagine tools, and (2) providers representing users that can test them.

The Reverse Pitches

The following presents “Passionate Problem” statements shared by each of the Provider panelists:

PAUL ADAMS
Senior Director of Connected Health at Phillips Home Monitoring

“We want technology that provides better guidance, information and interaction between seniors and their family caregivers in the home.”

KATE GRANIGAN
CEO, LifeCare Advocates

“We want to create an interactive dashboard to look at the whole person’s needs (financial, legal, housing, health) that they or we could tweak or update as their situation changes.”

MARGARET HOGAN
CEO, Boston Senior Home Care

Currently, most existing care coordination technology is designed for clinicians. What if we designed for consumers and caregivers?

VERONICA BARNER, LNHA, ED.D
Senior Vice President of Human Capital, Benchmark Senior Living

“People with dementia often don’t have the ability to communicate their physical and emotional needs. What if there were a way to make family and professional caregivers aware of those needs as they were happening?”

CHRISTOPHER SINTROS

President and CEO, Deaconess Abundant Life Communities

“We need technology that will liberate our workforce from managing information and deliver real time wearable data on a resident’s preferences, conditions and care plans as soon as they enter the resident’s home.”

Where do we go from here?

While topics of discussion were diverse, two broad elements of commonality seemed to emerge to constitute a “theme” of the event – or at least the “takeaway” challenge. First, connectivity inasmuch as technology is breeding a smaller world with real time access to one another and critical information. Second, the growing need for personalization of technologies that can be customized to individual needs and preferences. In the realm of Aging Services, opportunities abound where connectivity coupled with personalization will breed valued technology solutions. Beyond healthcare providers, primary family caregivers require better information access to monitor the well-being and needs of their loved ones – and to guide their own sense of oversight and intervention. As Christoper Sintros noted in his remarks, “we need to learn how to better leverage technology so that our cargivers are 100% focused on caregiving.” He added parenthetically that “our frontline caregivers – our front-line staff – have not benefitted from technology.”

In spite of all the accelerator groups that have emerged and are multiplying – and the c-suites that proudly wave the banner of innovation – our collective efforts are still somehow off the mark. In order to truly Change Aging, we should focus on the simple things first. The future is already here as they say – it is just not evenly distributed! Of course, we are not suggesting that all of the solutions we are seeking exist already or that they are in a turn-key state. Rather, our insight is just that there are so many parrallel activities present that our key actionable attention should be laser-focused on (1) awareness of what has been done already and (2) the desire to connect with the right people.  We are all standing on the shoulders of giant. It would be a critical mistep to move forward in in our care business with blinders on.

Here is one example lead…

Sentio Solutions has created Feel, the first wristband to monitor emotional wellness, track feelings and manage stress. The integrated wristband sensors measure and track biosignals throughout the day, including galvanic skin response, blood volume pulse and skin temperature, to show individuals how their mood is affected by factors such as activity, the people they meet and environmental conditions. Through Bluetooth enabled communication, the Feel app visualizes the results and provides personalized recommendations to improve emotional health. Co-founded by George Eleftheriou and Haris Tsirbas, Feel is helping individuals manage their emotional health and improve their overall well-being. For more information visit www.myfeel.co.

Source: Feel at Make in LA Demo Day

Lets try to connect people, products and organizations actively together

This is an unprecedented time in our history because we are now  often able to use the metaphor of an existing tool to describe modest innovations that established organizations are seeking. For example, in Veronica Barner’s pitch she expanded upon her problem statement by describing how caregivers could benefit from a Fitbit or Apple Watch type of device adapted to monitor mood variations and detecting the onset of depression or other behavioral indicators. Does the feel wearable represent a possible outlet for this problem/opportunity? You never now what the outcome of a chance encounter might be. Why not leverage our collective knowledge to broker these interactions?

Undoubtedly there are people and products waiting for a connection…

Please share any ideas that you have in the form below. People, Products, SDKs – all shareable information has potential value. We will make sure you get connected and follow-up with you.

Who do you want to connect with?

8 + 1 =

As technologies evolve, an emerging challenge is to source solutions that promote better aggregation of intelligence and eliminate redundancies of data collection and monitoring. Single source outlets are required that meet the customized needs and expectations of all constituents. Technologies need to be more fully integrated to provide real-time awareness of circumstances – providing timely detection of individual needs and preferences. Consequently, all constituents are aligned and informed such that healthcare providers and allied advocates present a seamless consortium of resources to foster the optimal support system for wellness and care.

Thanks to our Sponsors

We are proud to support and participate on the planning committee for the Local Boston Chapter of Aging 2.0. Events like these would not be possible without the support of our corporate sponsors. Thank you for your valued and recurring participation!

PREMIERE

GENERAL

Global Startup Search 2017 – Boston Chapter

Global Startup Search 2017 – Boston Chapter

BOSTON – Local startups, Industry Professionals and Aging Services supporters converged last Thursday evening at the Boston office of Nixon Peabody. The focus of the event was to select winners from a series of 4 minute pitches that would go on to represent Boston in the 2017 Global Startup Search (GSS).

Capital Care Associates, LLC (CCA) was proud to be actively engaged in the planning and execution of the Boston Chapter Event while sourcing and securing event sponsors. Nearly twenty corporate sponsors representing a wide range of senior healthcare providers and service professionals participated in the program. “While emerging technologies prove disruptive to the future of aging, these new entrepreneurs amplify the opportunities represented by innovations surrounding person-centered care and quality outcomes.” cites Joe McCarron, Principal of CCA.

Allen Lynch, who hosted the event at his firm’s office, observed that, “the common denominator among the (participating) entrepreneurs was not just a passion for their product, but an often deeply personal reason for wanting to improve the lives of seniors.” Continued active support for the Boston Chapter from the existing professional and emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems prove that we are all invested in changing the way we age and how health care and wellness services are delivered in our homes and communities-at-large. Local events like these offer further proof  that “Providers and ‘Enablers’ should come together in Senior Living.”

About GSS

The Aging2.0 Global Startup Search is an annual program designed to search the world for the best aging-focused startups. The competition kicks off with a series of pitch events in Chapter cities around the world – hundreds of startups apply to compete and local teams carefully select participants and judges for each event. The winning startup from each local pitch event moves forward to an online voting round, where the general public and panel of expert judges evaluate and contribute to the selection of finalists.

The final pitch event will take place during the Aging2.0 OPTIMIZE Conference in San Francisco November 14-15, 2017. This program is supported by Google for Entrepreneurs.

Local Chapter Updates

In his opening remarks, Tom Grape, Chairman and CEO of Benchmark Senior Living relayed to newcomers that the Boston Chapter is an arm of the global Aging2.0 organization, and that “our mission is to accelerate innovation to improve the lives of older adults here in Boston and around the world”.

Tom, who has served as the Ambassador of the Boston Chapter since it was established in 2015 introduced a new Chapter Ambassador, Tim Driver to attendees. Tim founded his company Mature Caregivers in 2006 with the aim of helping families to get better in-home care for their loved ones and to help people over 50 to find jobs that they love.  It is a sister business to RetirementJobs.com, that administers the ‘Certified Age Friendly Employer‘ program, recognized by AARP and Consumer Reports, and the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging.

Seven Pitches representing Boston

In preparing for this year’s event, the volunteer planning committee was charged with vetting applicants. The following seven were chosen to represent the City of Boston and surrounding New England cities and towns:

  1. LifeJourney Books – LifeJourney Books’ innovative and simple-to-navigate system rescues and preserves each Lifestory, an engaging and enjoyable process which strengthens generational bonds, and creates a Lasting Legacy.
  2. Nebula Industries – Nebula Industries is solving the problem of medical adhesive related injuries for those with fragile skin, particularly older people, using innovative approaches developed at MIT/Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
  3. Senter – Senter combines the latest IoT & AI technologies with a heavy focus on thoughtful user experience to make the home healthier and safer for aging individuals.
  4. CareNav – CareNav is a digital health solution offering patient navigation services. Their scalable platform matches patients with experienced nurses for 1:1 virtual consultations, pre and post doctor’s visit, to empower and facilitate their healthcare experience.
  5. BeON – BeON Home light bulb system senses the health and safety of your loved ones without compromising their dignity.
  6. GreyMatters – GreyMatters is an interactive life storybook app for the tablet that aims to improve quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers.
  7. SilverBills – Using technology, we receive, scrutinize and ensure that our clients’ bills are paid accurately and on-time. Our clients no longer need to write checks or remember due dates.

The pitch event was emceed by Alice Bonner, Secretary of the Executive Office of Elder Affairs in the Commonwealth and the following industry experts served as the Judging panel:

Winners

Congratulations to all the winners and Nebula Industries who will be moving on to present in the Fall:

  • 1st Place – Nebula Industries – $2,000
  • 2nd Place –CareNav – $1,500
  • 3rd Place –BeON Home – $1,000
  • Audience Favorite (based on viability) – SilverBills  –  $500

Five ways to learn more and get engaged…

  1. Find your Local Chapter and get involved
  2. Follow links included in this post to learn more about our participants, corporate sponsors and winners
  3. Learn more about the 2016 Finalists
  4. Register for the 2017 Optimize Conference
  5. Preview highlights from the 2016 Conference below:

 

A New Message – Providers and “Enablers” should come together in Senior Living

A New Message – Providers and “Enablers” should come together in Senior Living

SAN DIEGO – In Messaging New Directions we relayed the general theme for the NIC 2016 National conference – that cost, value and messaging need data, analysis and connections if a clear narrative is to emerge for Senior Living. As expected, there was a newly crafted narrative shared at this year’s NIC 2017 Spring Forum and it was  informed by the confluence of data, analysis and some new connections. NIC engaged Anne Tumlinson to research the Board inspired thesis of creating value by intentionally coordinating bricks and mortar with emerging soft resources coined as “Enablers.” These findings became the framework for the NIC 2017 Spring Forum entitled “Unlocking New Value Through Senior Care Collaboration.”

Innovating Senior Care

The following NIC webinar provides a comprehensive introduction to many of the talking points that were expanded upon at the NIC Spring Conference:

NIC Webinar: Innovating Senior Care from National Investment Center on Vimeo.

Of note, Bob Kramer, CEO of NIC summarizes that, “Healthcare providers and payers are beginning to realize that if you are serious about delivering better health outcomes and controlling costs, housing as well as socialization matters, and in fact, without them you won’t achieve good outcomes.” There is a symbiotic opportunity represented by coupling asset-based providers with the care capabilities of so-called “enablers” and the captive customers they already represent – and can share strategically  – in order to scale together. Kramer noted a remark from CEO of Kaiser, Bernard Tyson  at the J.P. Morgan healthcare conference, that “40% of an individual’s health is driven by personal behaviors outside of the healthcare environment”. Recognizing the influence that non-real estate based providers of technology and services will have on the Senior Living sector is the first step toward breaking down silos of care.

Enabling by Example

Kelsey Mellard represented Honor at the event where they were the unofficial poster children for the disruptive (enabling) innovation our industry is being charged to embrace. Co-founder Sandy Jen’s brief TEDMED talk below captures their view on the impact non-medical caregiving can have on the cost and value of healthcare:

Jen describes how “unskilled home-care has always orbited outside of the traditional healthcare system of nurses doctors and hospitals and more and more, people are realizing that the home part of hospital to home is crucial.” She adds that it (home-care) can (1) reduce readmission rates, (2) increase quality of life for patients after discharge and (3) reduce the cost of provider health care to an aging population estimated to reach 84 million by 2050. In a recent Argentum post titled, “7 Innovations Changing the Aging Experience” Aging 2.0 Co-founder Stephen Johnston relayed that, “Emerging technologies have the potential to disrupt the senior healthcare market and thereby nudge service providers to improve their offerings.” If advice from NIC and their expert panels take root, it is likely that we will start to see a groundswell in active partnerships and collaborations.

The New World of Senior Care Collaboration

The Value Based Care (VBC) Revolution

The shift from volume to value in Post-Acute Care (PAC) is not going to be possible outside the broader framework that is mandating a transition from treatment of sickness to promotion of health. It is no longer sufficient to care for someone only when they are under your roof! When you recognize this, it becomes clear why an active focus on population health and wellness is critical. As tools and services that exist in the community become more sophisticated (and even ubiquitous) to consumers of all ages, it is imperative that senior living providers not fall behind. In the Forum’s opening session, leadership from Jupiter Communities, naviHEALTH and Optum relayed the following three key takeaways for success in seniors housing:

  1. Provide evidence-based care and show strong outcomes
  2. Educate both payers and traditional clinical providers that they (you) are a meaningful part of the solution
  3. Collaborate rather than compete with other providers

Referring to the “right” PAC setting will be a critical strategy for VBC since “43% of Medicare patients utilize post-acute care after discharge and there is wide variation in costs across each setting.” As stated previously, 84 million people will be 65 years old or older in the United States alone by 2050. Beth Mace, NIC Chief Economist and Director of Outreach, contextualizes that datapoint further by reminding us that today’s 82 year old resident was born in 1934 and is part of the Silent Generation. With all of the age wave and silver tsunami buzz continuing over the past few years, we are still years shy of the crest that boomers will represent for providers of housing, care and tech-enabled services. Now is the time to begin preparing for that certain demographic future.

Tweeting advice to the Industry

Thursday’s luncheon featured a panel discussion with Senators Tom Daschle and Bill Frist, M.D.

As the clip above reflects, we need to engage in a more active national conversation about our social contracts and the role our government should play in health care. Interestingly, Sen Bill Frist made multiple passive references to the role quality food and nutrition has to play in improving health and reducing the cost of care. Did anyone else hear this? Or was it just wishful thinking on our part? If we want to prove that we believe in breaking down silos, we might consider a 2018 NIC Spring Forum focused on the economic development and health impacts of advancing and deploying local food systems!

Takeaway from a Taxi ride…

Providence offered a clear metaphor for reinforcing the value of collaboration in the experience of my brief taxi ride to the San Diego International Airport. As I stepped onto the Bayfront Hotel porte cochere, I could see that there was a single taxi waiting. The attendant escorted a woman into the back seat and then quickly turned to me and summoned the next car in line. Asking if I was headed to the airport, I confirmed that we both were. Our two, four-door, five passenger taxi sedans began to travel down Harbor Drive on parallel tracks together yet alone. We arrived at the same gate, at the same time, and we both presumably paid the same twenty-dollar fare.

The over-consumption model that this story captures mirrors many of our contemporary business relationships and transactions. In this example, some outreach and collaboration would have created immediate value for the two of us. Moreover, who knows what we might have discussed and explored through the connection of common interests. Do we really choose to consume alone or have we been artfully conditioned to relinquish our collective buying power? We should not consider ourselves to be victims of a broken system – we are active players that can influence the rules of the game.

Interestingly, our industry predicament seemingly proves a microcosm of our world at large. Our communities, industries and nations need to honor a simpler mandate – we must always demand and promote more collective EFFICIENCY every-where and for every-one. These are habits that must be formed and refined if they are to take up permanent residence in our collective psyche. If we identify and optimize what is wrong in these daily details, the broader canvas just might correct itself. There is a clear opportunity attendant to the messages that NIC and others are developing for us. The challenge is to expand the scope of our inquiry and recognize through our actions not just that silos represent lost opportunities for added value creation – but that all of our silos are nested one inside of the other. When we celebrate acceptance of an expanded and more inclusive perspective, we must remind ourselves that their is an ever-widening circle to be informed by.  As in our own business practice, “Combining Capital with Care” seems like the formulary for success.

Suggested further reading

Experiencing the Memory Care Summit

Experiencing the Memory Care Summit

We recently attended The Erickson School’s 5th Annual Memory Care Summit in Orlando, Florida. The Coronado Springs Resort at Disney World proved to be a symbolic venue represented by engaged staff who reminded us in real-time what the ideal customer experience feels like. What better way to explore the facets of Memory Care – and its growing significance for an evolving Senior Living Industry – than with the timeless nature of a Disney “theatre” as backdrop.

SETTING THE STAGE

Best practices proffered by the Walt Disney Company about employee training and brand management almost felt unrealistic. The competitive advantage of being part of a “magical kingdom” seemingly anchors them in a winner’s circle far removed from our own care industry. In the days that followed, it became clear that this apparent advantage just MIGHT be attainable for all. Is it possible that success is as simple as telling stories with lessons that can be shared, recalled and channeled –  to inform the moments we create with residents, staff and families? It is our ideal nature to care and to be cared for. If we don’t seize opportunities to create meaningful relationships that extend beyond routine tasks; we are losing more than just a bottom line.

CULTURE COUNTS

Employee Engagement is the key

The Program launched with a 90 minute presentation by Mark Matheis of the Disney Institute. Sponsored by Integrace and entitled “Disney’s Approach to Employee Engagement,” Mark portrayed Disney’s management excellence while sharing the underpinning of a customer service philosophy where everyone is special and everyone contributes.

Validated by his own 27 year career recall with Disney, his engaging stories exhibited the “real deal” that constitutes and carries the Disney culture. Like our own business, it’s the genuine caring for both employees and customers that fuels success. There is at lease one key attribute required of every Disney employee – you’ve got to be genuinely “nice” to join the team.

Green Side Up

Mark amplified one experience in the opening of Disney World’s Orlando Resort that captured the role storytelling can play in our education, training and engagement activities. Amidst the chaos surrounding opening day, it was the President of Disney who detected that a critical item had been overlooked. The Resort’s Grand Floridian Hotel did not have its grass sod laid – though it was neatly stacked on-site. He immediately dispatched a message to his entire team. All those not engaged in critical business were to report directly to the Floridian for priority assistance required. In the meantime, the President loosened his tie, rolled up his sleeves and began to unload and place squares of sod in front of the building. With beads of sweat emerging, a senior team member approached the President in response to his appeal. With some reservation, the executive, accompanied by others, expressed that he had never done this kind of work and questioned the skill-set required. The President offered a simple response, “It’s easy. Green Side Up.” And so it was that all joined in and the job was done. To this day, every employee knows the mantra of “Green Side Up”. It is a powerful metaphor that informs desired behavior. We work together toward the common goal of delivering a unique customer experience; irrespective of formal titles or job descriptions.

Overmanage for Sustained Results

Mark also relayed that “Disney’s consistent business results are driven by “overmanaging” certain things that most companies undermanage or ignore – and that is a key source of what differentiates us.” In simple terms, they “have learned to be intentional where others are unintentional.”

Sustained Results = Over-managing (1) Culture; (2) Service; (3) Innovation; (4) Brand and (5) Leadership

The example of an intentional act was captured by the deconstruction of a wave from a Disney Princess. The mechanical formulary of “wash the window, wash the window, missed a spot, missed a spot” captures the spirit of how designed experiences that have been broken up into meaningful elemental actions that can be easily shared and sustained as a desired behavior. It is not a huge leap for Animators to dissect micro-motions like this but that is the point of integrative thinking; to seek constantly to reframe problems and opportunities from alternative perspectives that capture every detail. If you do not create a script for your operation, how can you effectively train your team and deliver your brand’s promise?

TRANSFORMING PERSPECTIVES

Our second day began with a presentation from James Hendrix, the Director of Global Science Initiatives at the Alzheimer’s Association, where we were reminded of their three-pronged mission to eliminate the disease through (1) the advancement of research; (2) enhanced care support and (3) the reduction of risk for all dementia sufferers through the promotion of “brain health.”

What is the scope of the problem? 5.4 million Americans of ALL ages will have Alzheimer’s in 2016 at total cost of care of $236 Billion according to the CDC! Interestingly, in a supplemental peer-reviewed journal entry, we learned that “…the Association also believes there is sufficiently strong evidence, from a population-based perspective, to conclude: (1) regular physical activity and management of cardiovascular risk factors (diabetes, obesity, smoking, and hypertension) have been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and may reduce the risk of dementia; and (2) a healthy diet and lifelong learning/cognitive training may also reduce the risk of cognitive
decline.1”

What’s the take-away? In spite of the millions of dollars (and human hours) spent yearly, we are not any closer to a meaningful cure BUT we have evolved considerably on the care front through the medium of Culture Change and Person-Centered Care (PCC) language and practice. Perhaps more importantly, a groundswell of professionals actively recognize that the “job” of Memory Care is not to heal or repair the disease; because we can’t (yet). Rather, our role as caregivers and family members is to relate and under-stand behavior so that we can be more supportive of individual needs as they struggle to mitigate the threat of a changing connection to self.

Ann Wyatt, Manager of Palliative and Residential Care at CaringKind relays that “Behavior is communication: it is not the dementia that causes the behavior, it is the dementia which prevents the person from expressing the cause of their distress.”

This change of perspective is transformative. It is conventional to bundle disease with symptoms in a cause and effect fashion but when you separate the two you become empowered to make a difference. In viewing behavior as form of communication, you are invited to listen more contextually and establish communication based on validation and empathy. This relational strategy is summarized by Validation Therapy’s founder Naomi Feil’s in her TEDx Talk at Amsterdam Women:

BRINGING IT HOME

Without question, the most moving part of this year’s program was the concluding morning presentations of day three. This segment is quickly becoming a promised experience delivered by the Erickson School’s Memory Care Summit; to conclude the series with human narratives that highlight the critical nature of the work we are all doing. Here we witnessed highly personal stories of two individuals confronted with life altering memory care circumstances. These interview presentations were moderated by Dr. Peter Rabins who consistently echoed the truism that our professional credentials do not fully prepare any of us to process the weight of memory loss among our peers and loved ones.

First, “Wearing Two Hats: Providing Care at Home and at Work”. This was the story of Teresa Robinson, VP, Clinical Services of Sagepoint Senior Living. Teresa is a caregiver in her organization as well as a caregiver at home as her husband was diagnosed with young onset Alzheimer’s before the age of 50. Second, “I’m Still Carol”. Carol Poole was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) in 2013 and probable Alzheimer’s disease in 2014 at age 65. Remarkably, these two individuals continue to give beyond their personal burdens – sharing their experiences in hopes that it will advance a cause and help others.

To relay these stories further would not do justice to the love, compassion and caring commitment they represent. Suffice to say, these stories were heart wrenching and inspirational
– proving that Emotional Magic can fuel both the purpose and passion for evolving communities of practice around Memory Care. It certainly did for us.

SHARE YOUR STORY

In reflecting upon the Program Experience, the Disney backdrop certainly has relevance to our business models for Memory Care. We too can deliver those magical moments through intentional best management practices that are informed by our own narrative and brand identity. To be successful, we must support and sustain our own business culture that delivers on our promise of Person Centered Care – recognizing that Memory Care is indeed about validation and empathy. Our employees need to be genuinely engaged in a unified and integrated fashion with intentional purpose of enriching lives in the moment. Similarly, our service environments need to deliver the atmosphere and amenities conducive to comfort and care. Above all, our leadership needs to exercise the integrative thinking attributes that ideally empower, align and motivate our collective efforts by sharing stories that bind our thoughts and actions.

1 Summary of the evidence on modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia: A population-based perspective
Data Integrity ACTIONS

Data Integrity ACTIONS

Data standards and integrity are arguably the two most critical ingredients when you consider achievement at either the (individual) human or (collective) global scale. There is no causation absent data (information) and there is no consequent execution unless it has been purposefully structured and validated for sharing. Healthcare Reform promises innovation in care delivery by increasing the transparency of data and quality metrics but how can you improve on something that doesn’t ideally exist yet?

When the OIG released its report, The Medicare Payment System for Skilled Nursing Facilities Needs To Be Reevaluated, they noted a 29% margin (overpayment) for therapy service reimbursement. Further, Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) increasingly billed for the highest level of therapy even though key beneficiary characteristics remained largely the same. Achieving information access and coordination throughout the “Continuum of Care” requires a call to action for better interoperability and data management practices if we want to be successful in the future value based / bundled payment systems. Common standards for (1) assessment/documentation, (2) secure exchange of EHR/PHI and (3) compliance/accountability across the Continuum of Care (Hospital to Skilled Nursing & Rehab to Home) need to be pioneered further before they can be adopted and enhanced. The Electronic Health Record (EHR) is arguably at the root of this opportunity but all business information has relevancy.

Introducing The 4th Industrial Revolution

As thought leaders on the world stage prepare us for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Web 3.0 (The Semantic Web), we are reminded of the inequity gap that exists between enterprise level organizations, technologists and the remaining 99% of data users. That it to say that if best practices in knowledge management trickled down to Healthcare delivery the marketplace could be transformed very quickly. We get a glimpse of the future of work and mobile health when we watch a TED Talk or purchase a personal device with updated features but when will mainstreet be touched by technology that addresses productivity and information sharing in a more meaningful way?

Senior Living – as a subordinated subset of established industry classification(s) represents a now distinct and emerging asset sector, yet uniquely representing a blend of real estate; healthcare services; and hospitality. Everyone chatters about technology, disruption and innovation but we fail to emphasize two clear imperatives;

  1. Simple, shareable language makes everything technically possible.
  2. Business challenges have frequently been met and overcome in adjacent spaces (as the YouTube clip above intimates) if we only had the eyes to see them.

We must look to other industries to inform data initiatives that drive and define our evolving identity and moonshots. Of all the data we amass, what is more relevant to quality and compliance than the MDS? And how does that documentation relate to an EHR or related Protected Health Information (PHI)?

Stepping out of the Sandbox

There are too many languages in the medical community and they often represent overlapping or redundant concepts. Consider this post’s leading sub-title that suggests how innovation is intrinsically connected to interdisciplinary thinking. For example, IF we operate in a SNF setting and have a Medical Director as part of our Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement (QAPI) Committee but don’t understand either (1) the correlation between Quality Measures on Nursing Home Compare and the corresponding fields on each Minimum Data Set submission, or (2) the relationship between those measures and the 254 quality measures that CMS identified for the PQRS in 2015 (mapping to the U.S. National Quality Standard (NQS) health care quality domains), THEN, it is clear in this one trite example that we really need to rely on each other’s knowledge if we are going to make this work. Is it possible that there is a future scenario on the horizon where a more connected and semantic web will learn how to navigate and connect these complexities for us? The question becomes, how much accountability should we have for understanding and correlating all of these terms and frameworks? Leading from behind is not the sustainable solution.

The Need for Interoperability Standards

You are likely consuming this blog entry on a mobile device that is connected to the Web. The internet works because it operates upon open standards that have been established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). If you are a designer or developer, you understand that you cannot create anything successfully without employing these interoperability standards in your own work product. On the other hand, we business consumers remain steeped online and in conferences with little emphasis on the need for knowledge to transfer.

The following clip references a government commissioned the JASON report that identifies what we have been getting wrong in our industry and prescribes an approach for fixing it:

It is clear that brilliant people endeavor to solve our problems beneath the surface-level chatter of our practice and headlines. They need our insight if the solutions they develop are to be (1) fast-tracked and (2) widely distributed. Our more active and collective engagement and collaboration will help make this happen.

Next Steps?

The challenges we confront in our sector (and frankly the majority of business industries) are downstream of lacking interoperability standards; inadequate reporting capabilities; and too few safeguards to ensure data integrity. The commodity of business intelligence is the new currency
of sustainable business success.

The call to action is simple. We need to be alert to exhibiting trends and become better data managers. We offer the following recipe for ACTIONS:

  • A – ssess and appraise current information systems capabilities.
  • C – orrect conditions of inadequacy, inaccuracy and redundancy of data gathering.
  • T – ransition reporting capabilities to achieve full integration for all users.
  • I – nterpret data intelligence routinely to inform best practice management.
  • O – pen and share data with collaborative partners to promote new prospects.
  • N – urture systems reporting to foster data integrity and build business bridges.
  • S – eek outside resources to develop and maintain data integrity.

Providers in our sector who best capture, manage, share and act upon reliable business data will be the survivors and prosper. New standards like FHIR promise to transform the way we conduct business and deliver quality outcomes but they represent future solutions. Data integrity defines not only your business identity, but importantly, your performance history and ratings in the marketplace. The Five Star Rating system in the skilled nursing sector is a good example of how reported data defines a business brand. Take charge of this information flow; ensure its integrity; and manage it to your advantage now before it is too late. That constitutes leading from the front.

Need guidance with your ACTIONS? Contact us to learn how we can help.

Messaging New Directions

Messaging New Directions

The National Investment Center (NIC) unveiled new branding at its 2016 Fall National Conference at the Marriott Marquis in Washington DC last week. The triumvirate of Data, Analytics and Connections (see image below) emphasizes a renewed focus for the programs and products that define NIC’s status as a leader in the Seniors Housing & Care Industry.

nic-branding

The “Seniors Housing & Care” tagline has been seemingly subordinated in a move that exhibits how the industry is being redefined. Although it was not stated explicitly, the original NIC symbol conjured a capital/institutional sentiment with its currency-inspired graphic whereas the new combination mark reflects a sea change that recognizes how data and its interpretative analysis are paramount to the survival of products and services that are now defining a broader sector – one evolving from “need driven” housing & healthcare services for seniors and now extending to “market driven” wellness and lifestyle delivery – ultimately for everyone.

As business and financial advisors focused on supporting regional providers of the industry, we value the NIC Conferences as an opportunity to step away from the trenches and immerse ourselves in ideas and best practices that represent a “collective IQ”. While we foster new messaging for our industry identity, we are reminded that we are all experiencing dramatic and unprecedented change, ripe with opportunity for those alert to exhibiting trends and signals.

As the NIC tagline suggests, data is of little use absent analysis and connections. In his opening remarks, Former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt relays similarly that “information gathering and making sense of weak signals is critical to success.” In this post, we share takeaways from the opening session together with select NIC Talks featuring Ken Dychtwald, Billie Jean King and Joseph Coughlin. When you synthesize the talking points it becomes clear that cost, value and messaging need data, analysis and connections if a clear narrative is to emerge.

Strategic Aggregators

Mike Leavitt suggested in his opening remarks that the value-based payment system is one of the most significant changes confronting the US Healthcare system and its future remains uncertain. How can we drive the implementation of these changes more quickly and who will take center stage? Senior care providers can respond in three ways; (1) fight and die; (2) go along and have a chance; or (3) lead and prosper. More specifically, he offered that there is an open opportunity to become what he refers to as a “Strategic Aggregator” in our evolving coordinated network. In simple terms, this role could be understood as the “general contractor for medicine,” someone who is able to crack the code of a fee-for-value service world.

Connection, Purpose and Meaning

“Who are the boomers going to be when they get older? If you get that wrong, you’re out.”

As the Founder and CEO of Age Wave, Ken Dychtwald relays that messaging, marketing and communications provide the largest barrier to our industry and that we will likely be challenged to turn market sentiments around. In sharp contrast to the linear model of aging that we are accustomed to, there is a “longevity bonus” on the horizon and we will need to establish a new narrative for how to keep connection; purpose; and meaning at the center of our offerings. Ken proffers that “if you are building your communities, and your marketing and your intelligence is based on the 20th century notion that people will really want to stop work, separate from society and not do much of anything other than relax and socialize and be called seniors, you are going to fail. I don’t want you to fail.”

NIC Talks: Ken Dychtwald from National Investment Center on Vimeo.

What can we do? We need to tell a better story that works to address the core issues of loneliness and peace of mind but emphasizes how we support a reinvention of life so that the prospect of new active aging possibilities are front and center. We need a new narrative that better communicates our offerings – displacing negativity and ignorance about the industry. We need to create on-ramps for reinvented offerings and exit-ramps from the “Fortresses for the Old”.

Relationships, Learning and Problem Solving

Billie Jean King framed her session with recognition that “Sports is a Microcosm of Society.” From an early age she had a purpose and a goal that intentionally leveraged her tennis career to champion social change. As the active aging ambassador for Atria, she shares her insight that inner and outer successes rely upon relationships, learning and problem solving. Atria doesn’t use the word “senior” any longer but Billie highlights the value she has always placed on older people – while admitting that she now feels the influence of ageist stereotypes personally.

NIC Talks: Billie Jean King from National Investment Center on Vimeo.

Elders are a source of wisdom where we can better tap into and leverage the value of life experiences they offer. Stay active, keep learning and recognize that relationships are everything. Personalized engagement is key to promoting well-being and should be fostered through important opportunities for acts of kindness. “Active is happy.”

Excite and delight

We are reminded by Joseph Coughlin of MIT’s Agelab that it is the convergence of technology and the consumer that bring real innovation into the marketplace. He advises us to focus on what we are trying to accomplish first and then try to find technology that will help to accomplish those goals. Technology is the “tool box”. While musing about the impact of “aging in place” technology, he notes that a tech-enabled service that could keep you in your home for an extra six months could have a $34B impact on the industry.

Joseph F. Coughlin from National Investment Center on Vimeo.

The major takeaway? Senior providers have the expertise to hop over the fence and develop relationships with people in the community before they even need your services. Building a pipeline into the Home & Community service realm is critical but we must be reminded to “excite and delight” with our offerings. “Generation Expectation” believes that there is a “product, policy or pill that will enable them to live longer and better” and innovators that can answer the call will be well rewarded. New players will be branded by collaboration in a newly defined sharing economy. Life on demand through apps will continue to emerge with a focus on wants as well as needs. Having it all and owning none of it is the value proposition. Above all, you’ll need a good marketing team to get your messaging right.

Where do we go from here?

Recognize that your are missing out on 90% of the market and focus on strategies for minting new customers (and staff) while reinventing and effectively messaging. Don’t try to guess what the whole market wants/needs.

  • Cultivate your own identity and engage followers wherever they are.
  • Seize opportunities to augment and or integrate your current offerings with community programs and services that are beyond your walls and intergenerational.
  • Find ways to incorporate programs for active aging, longevity and wellness.
  • Promote opportunities for lifelong learning, engagement and problems solving through new relationships and technology that “excites and delights” all ages.
  • Get your messaging right and get it out there effectively.
Knowledge Notes #003

Knowledge Notes #003

This is an important issue because we want to update you on a project that we have been working on for well over a year called Sectour. Issue # 003 will provide you with a quick introduction to the project and also showcase some recommended content (new and old) from CCA and around the web…

Read and Share:

June 24, 2016

A2.0 Global Startup Search – Boston Chapter

A2GSS-BostonSeven entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas on May 26, 2016 at the Aging 2.0 Boston Chapter’s event hosted at the STANLEY Healthcare Experience Center. What an impressive and relevant venue – the 6,500 square foot center offers a hands-on environment for you to evaluate, design and fine-tune their comprehensive portfolio of safety, security and operational efficiency solutions, products and services. In a post Healthcare Reform climate focused on quality of care we are reminded that top-level keywords like “innovation” and “user-centered design” are not new ideas or strategies – companies like STANLEY arguably have a sustainable competitive advantage because they have learned to both inform and be influenced by a complex ecosystem of users; over 5,000 hospital and healthcare system and over 12,000 senior living communities!

A Common Mission

If Aging 2.0 Local Chapters have a unifying mission; it is to help create a host learning environment for startups that aims to approximate the scale and depth of resources available to enterprise level organizations – so that we can collectively fast-track great ideas to the aging services market. Nearly 20 Corporate Sponsors – representing a broad cross-section of professionals active in the business of serving seniors – supported the local event’s goal of vetting the best aging-focused startup for advancement to Aging 2.0’s OPTIMIZE Conference. The winner from each of the (over thirty) local chapters across the world will compete toward gaining a global platform for their business concept in San Francisco next October.

[kleo_grid type=”2″ animation=”yes”][kleo_feature_item] This pitch event was emceed by Susan Wornick, a passionate family caregiver herself and a well-recognized former NewsCenter5 Anchor. Susan did a terrific job keeping the program personally relevant to the challenges confronting family caregivers – citing they only escalate with aging. Susan is the primary caregiver for her mom, now over 100 years old and living at home with her. “Nobody prepares you for this responsibility – where I thought it would be fun reliving the past when we were together at home and I was 18 years old again.”[/kleo_feature_item][kleo_feature_item]

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Summary of Participants

  • Qweepi – A post-acute care coordination company focused on processing daily patient data inputted by staff to analyze acuity trends and report on patients at risk of adverse events.
  • EchoCare – Develops a non-wearable, elderly-care, home monitoring system that automatically alerts safety and emergency situations as falls, stress, sleep apnea.
  • WatchRX– Easy-to-use watch, that’s also a phone and GPS, to help seniors take meds on time, stay connected with family, and live independently in their home.
  • Rendever – Offers a virtual reality platform to improve patient care and experience by reducing rates of depression, cognitive decline and related issues such as comorbidity.
  • Ivy Solutions – Makes Visitry, an application enabling elders to request face to face visits from vetted volunteers and provides management tools to visitor program administrators.
  • Pong Robotics – Robotic products to help the Baby Boomer generation maintain an independent lifestyle at home.
  • Orbita – Orbita is the first modern, digital home care solution designed to engage and empower both patients and their caregivers dealing with age-related or chronic health issues at home.

Judging Criteria

New products and services driven by emerging technologies are dramatically changing the future of aging services! Innovative products are here to enrich lives and improve quality of care. An esteemed panel of five expert judges (Joseph Coughlin; Robert Danziger; Marty Guay; Steve Kraus & Robin Lipson) recognized three of the pitch presentations with cash prizes based upon the following criteria:

  • Idea / Product – quality of overall concept, viability of product or service
  • Team / Business Model – diversity and strength of team, sales record, funding, pipeline, strategic plan
  • Impact on the Aging Experience – potential to improve quality of life for older adults, caregivers, and/or revolutionize the aging services industry.

The Winner – EchoCare Technologies

The ECHO system developed by Co-founders Rafi Zack and Dr. Yossi Kofman is a connected, machine-learning, Advanced-PERS (Personal Emergency Response System) that is focused specifically on fall detection. Falls are the main concern of family caregivers. According to the CDC, 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries each year. This particular solution is especially unique because it is based on an RF sensor that doesn’t compromise privacy. Additionally, it boasts the capability of extracting Position, Posture, Motion and Respiration; essential indicators to help detect and trigger alerts for various other emergency situations.

A Special Thanks to the Event Sponsors

Our thanks to the many corporate sponsors supporting this event as well as to the dedicated volunteers representing the Boston Chapter of Aging 2.0 who helped make this event an engaging success. We look forward to continuing activities of the Chapter to support and promote the pioneers of the future of aging originating from New England!

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GENERAL SPONSORS

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Four ways to learn more

Sixty is the new Sixty

Sixty is the new Sixty

By Christine Benton 

Until recently, society, in general, has regarded aging as a problem. This view on aging has impacted all aspects of life for the older generations, including healthcare, the workplace, housing, and end-of-life issues. However, a change in society’s attitude towards aging is gradually taking shape as people are living longer, healthier lives. The realities of modern-day aging are slowly but surely overcoming the various myths relating to this time of life.

It’s Not About Aging: It’s About Living

American culture has for too long glorified youth, resulting in a society-wide meme that growing older is something to be dreaded. Now, aging people themselves are showing the rest of society that they are not going to be consigned to a rocking chair but instead are fully capable of realizing greater potential and seizing new opportunities to learn and grow. Society is being forced to reach a newer, more life-affirming understanding of what getting older is really all about. It’s definitely the right time to reimagine aging so that seniors are regarded as integral and inspirational assets to be leveraged by our evolving society.

What Older People Can Accomplish

It’s a fact that plenty of people hike the Appalachian Trail after the age of fiftythe oldest thru-hiker was a seventy-four-year-old woman. If we want to disrupt or redefine aging we should focus on and celebrate the amazing feats of others who are defying the stereotypes of aegism. Want to get a sense of what is possible? Here is a list of twenty-five older individuals who did not sit around waiting to get older but went out and accomplished a variety of things that they had always wanted to do – 25 Oldest People To Accomplish Amazing Feats.

Against Ageism

If you want to get a quick pulse on what other thought leaders are saying, an influential book is Ashton Applewhite’s engaging work, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. The book is dedicated to Applewhite’s mentor, the pro-aging activist Dr. Robert Butler. It sets out the case for ending age-based discrimination and Applewhite drives home her points with the use of some trenchant language:

  • “My darkest nightmare was the possibility of ending my days drooling under a bad botanical print in some ghastly institutional hallway.”
  • “Take ‘middle age,’ to which so many cling like flotation cushions, although who knows where the middle lies anymore?”
  • “The Helen Mirrens and Judi Denches of the world are forging a footpath that needs to become a highway.”
  • “I used to think that those [‘senior moments’] quips were self-deprecatingly cute, until it dawned on me that when I lost the car keys in high school, I didn’t call it a ‘junior moment.”
  • Applewhite proudly embraces the role of “Old Person in Training,” stating that the process to become one “acknowledges the inevitability of oldness while relegating it to the future, albeit at an ever-smaller remove. It swaps purpose and intent for dread and denial. It connects us empathically with our future selves.”

Is Sixty Really the New Forty?

What about all those ads proclaiming that “fifty is the new thirty” or “sixty is the new forty”? This is a nice sentiment, but, in reality, people in their fifties or sixties face different challenges than the younger people they are being compared to. Their motivations are shaped by the wisdom they have gained from experiencing the ups and downs of life that younger people still have to find. They don’t necessarily want to be thirty again – they are more purposeful individuals because of what they have experienced in the years between thirty and sixty.

A New Third Age

Today’s older people are a generation of makers and doers who continue to explore their possibilities and to celebrate discovery over decline. Their opportunities are not limited by age, and their experiences have real value. Of course, society needs to ensure that Medicare is strong enough to provide people with access to care and services to enable them to lead long, healthy lives; and that Social Security will provide them with the financial support to match their longer lifespans. As Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP states: “At AARP, we truly believe that age and experience can expand life’s possibilities for every member of our society. When we disrupt aging and embrace it as something to look forward to, we can begin to discover the real possibilities for becoming the person we’ve always wanted to be.”

What Can Older People Learn From All This?

  • Own your age. Be proud of telling people that you are seventy-two because the important thing is who you are, and what you do – not how old you are. Embrace your age and feel good about where you are in life.
  • Just as an individual should not be defined by race or sex, don’t let yourself be defined by age. Don’t let society decide what’s possible or not possible for you because of your age.
  • Look forward to your years ahead instead of looking nostalgically backward.

Society’s concept of aging is changing because seniors themselves are forcing it to evolve. “The possibilities for society of this new third age can hardly be seen now, obscured as they are by misconceptions and prejudices –– age-as-‘problem.’ They have to be seen as the solution and not just the problem for change to be possible. And we have to name our own need to move in society in new ways in age to make it happen.” — Betty Friedan, The Fountain of Age, 1993