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.
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.
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.
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:
“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?”
“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.
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
BeON – BeON Home light bulb system senses the health and safety of your loved ones without compromising their dignity.
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.
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:
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:
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:
Provide evidence-based care and show strong outcomes
Educate both payers and traditional clinical providers that they (you) are a meaningful part of the solution
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.