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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…

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June 24, 2016

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

Bridging Business & Emotional Intelligence

Bridging Business & Emotional Intelligence

If you have personal experience with Horses and the evolving field of Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL), you are aware of a powerful truism: animals, nature and the non-verbal skills they represent breed an accelerated path toward gaining confidence, patience & knowledge in caregiving.

When our education is tied to verbal language (as it nearly always is), our potential to share and absorb information is limited.  Having completed the Master’s Program of the Erickson School’s Management of Aging Services, I can attest to the intellectual and experiential capacities of Dean Judah Ronch and his Faculty, but even the best of academia would agree that the pinnacle of teaching – when hearts and minds are transformed by information sharing – can’t be planned for – sometimes it happens in spite of our best efforts. Interestingly, it did happen recently at the 3rd Annual Memory Care Summit and can be relayed best by highlighting the book ends of an experience that was shared by all at the South Seas Island Resort in Captiva, FL. We may have traveled to a Summit  titled, “Breaking Away from the Pack,” but the outcome of our time together triggered an alternative thought – What would it mean for our Senior Living Industry if we became a Herd instead of a Pack?

Power Outage – the First Book End

If it is true that “words matter”, then Blind Pass on Captiva Island is living up to its name. Over 700 vacationers and residents were without power for almost 12 hours after an alleged intoxicated driver struck a utility pole on Captiva Drive. The South Seas Island Resort was darkened and without power until 7AM on Tuesday – an hour before the Conference was to begin.  It’s pretty common to get a Maslow reference at a conference event no matter what industry is represented. The “hierarchy of needs” is timeless for obvious reasons – and the survival state that a power outage conjures reminds us that our collective consciousness shifts 180 degrees when our environment dramatically changes.


As I settled in with my morning coffee, I began the Conference ritual of scanning the room for friends and colleagues as they meandered into to the lobby. When I heard attendee Bob Oriol (CEO of Oriol Healthcare) say something to his neighbor about “self-awareness”, a calm fell over me. I accepted that this might not be a typical “business” conference with empty keywords or hashtags.  Bob caught my attention again mid-morning when he asked an important question: “How do we (or should we) differentiate between Dementia problems vs. Thinking problems?” The answer to this admittedly quasi-rhetorical question is much less important than the spirit of the inquiry. If there was a single theme that was about to emerge from the Conference, it was simply that we all need reserves of patience and education in order to prevent and treat what we might want to call a memory spectrum. While the 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s provide important cues for a diagnosis, there is a silver-ling on the preventative side of the equation – Active Aging and the dimensions of wellness that it proffers hold the key(s) to better health for old and young alike irrespective of a clinical code or label.

In a healthcare system that has been dominated historically by “specialization”, we are reminded that a disease like Alzheimer’s is becoming so pervasive that it will require us to work together not only across multiple disciplines but also more deeply – at a universal (human) level. It is easy to be complacent about some of the other top ten leading causes of death either because we feel more empowered to prevent them or because the emotional impact of the symptoms and caregiving requirements are perceived as having a different scale and quality. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, friends and family of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care in 2014 and an estimated 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease as of 2015.

When John Erickson, industry pioneer and founder of the Erickson Companies, took the podium for introductory remarks, I was further comforted to hear him proclaim that “aging-in-place” is not a good solution for what ails us. This is of course the challenge that we have charged ourselves with. On the one-hand, we know that we are building properties (need-driven) having limited lifestyle appeal (whether they have memory programs or not) and on the other hand we recognize that the home and community-based setting is poorly suited for aging services “in-place”.

Memory Care Landscape

As CEO of the National Investment Center, Bob Kramer is in a unique position for sharing data metrics as well as his anecdotal personal insights in witnessing the evolution of the Seniors Housing & Care Industry – and notably its cycles surrounding arguably “payer driven” products and services. After sharing some of the emerging trends pertinent to Memory Care as a property-type, Bob stepped away from the NICMAP data to offer his personal observations and to suggest there are three general provider characteristics differentiating new entrants to the emerging Memory Care sector.

  1. New Business Opportunities – entrants principally driven by recognition of the market demand absent specialized programming (the “danger zone”);
  2. Comfort/Safety/Cleanliness – entrants equally alert to the market opportunity and promoting basic services yet absent specialized care capabilities (the “comfort zone”)  –  and
  3. Ongoing Intense Commitment – entrants representing the genuine attributes of customized quality care, progressive program development and customized environments (the “real deal”).

If there was a single soundbite to use as an umbrella takeaway for the 2016 Summit it would be to charge ahead as group three by focusing on

  1. Education and Training of Staff;
  2. Attention to the Physical Environment;
  3. Investment in Changing Ideas/Culture, and
  4. Engaging residents, families and caregivers in a personal way.

Interestingly, when Ryan Novaczyk and Bill Holman shared their own provider experiences with entering the Memory Care market (representing New Perspective Senior Living and Sagepoint Senior Living, respectively) both relayed how the four point process referenced above has expanded beyond the walls of their planned neighborhoods. In summary, the attributes of great care are universal to all populations.  Both Ryan and Bill represent genuine passion driven providers to learn from and to be emulated – the “real-deal”.

Living with ALZ – the Second Book End

Linda MacCallum and her boyfriend Paul Larson joined Dr. Peter Rabins as guests for our final session.  Linda had suffered multiple concussions throughout her life and began to experience severe memory loss in her late forties.  She was subsequently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease before she was fifty years old. As we listened to her heart wrenching story and she relayed her experiences and emotions, the air became magnetic. After three days of sitting in a confined venue with over fifty other heads, the feeling of a single heart emerged. As I listened to Linda and Paul, my mind’s eye traveled back to comments and questions that I might have made in prior sessions: they all seemed so inconsequential when juxtaposed with her real life story. The survival state that our power outage had conjured may have passed quickly but the human narrative that Linda shared reminded us why were on the island to begin with. I wondered how we would prioritize our daily actions if the spell of these moments lingered. More importantly, what did Linda relay that is actionable for each of us? She needs to have patience, purpose and peace of mind so that she is not a burden to family and friends. She does not want to be reminded of her symptoms and she increasingly wants decisions to be made for her. Perhaps most dramatically, she views the products we provide as being worse than a death sentence.  We need products and solutions that are valued and embraced by individuals like Linda – rather than feared.

Pack vs Herd

Hearing Linda’s emotional story reinforced thinking about why we are in the business we are in and who we really serve.  It ignited the key points presented by Scott Townsley (Industry Professional and Faculty Member) surrounding new Business Models and strategic business directions.  It is clearly a new day for the Senior Living Industry where the traditional product and services approach is being dramatically redefined and redirected by a changing landscape – where who we serve rather than who pays for it drives such change.  We are now well engulfed in the era of the operator who defines our future while the payer influences become subordinate to recognizing and rewarding success.  As we confront these new directions, the “real-deal” providers alert to new ideas, innovation and progressive business development will prevail.  Only by avoiding the “danger zone” and reaching beyond the “comfort zone” will we collectively attain the genuine branding of quality services and compassionate care we strive for.  In coming together, collaboration must displace competition among the “real-deal” constituents to our world.

If collaboration is the driver for marshaling and managing our change landscape, then new technologies and innovation are undoubtedly the fuel sources to fire the engine.  Breaking away from the Pack breeds isolation while cultivating like-minded Herds fosters collaboration and expectedly acceleration.

The most obvious literal distinction between Pack and Herd dynamics is understood by emphasizing the non-predatory and cooperative nature of grazing animals. Of course, the simple contrast of hunting and grazing should be enough to complete the metaphor! When you consider the depth of expertise represented by a Conference like this and couple it with the prescriptive nature of the clear take-away, it becomes evident that we need better distribution channels for knowledge. Summits like this and programs offered by the Erickson School provide an important next step.

A Case for Convergence

A Case for Convergence

The future of what we now call the Senior Living Industry needs to be forged by a more collective voice. We are all familiar with Miles’ Law which states that “where you stand depends upon where you sit.” If you apply this thinking to our own Industry, an important question emerges. Does this future of aging rely upon attributes that are unique to any single age cohort? The clear answer is no. There are a myriad of consumer personas characterized by the tidal wave of baby boomers alone. The Senior Living Industry should represent what constitutes quality housing, care and connectivity for everyone. This requires us to learn from and incorporate what is happening in adjacent spaces. If we learn to rise above the market silos we have created, we will better honor our shared journey as a community. Aging begins at birth and the future belongs to all of us.

Senior Living

Progressive Senior Living providers are now focused on battling ageism and promoting more community connectivity. They recognize that lifestyle and personal preferences beyond supportive services alone must be sourced and delivered. To compete with an expressed preferences to “age in place” at home, it is necessary to offer an equivalent alternative – with broader programming. The unspoken issue is that freestanding homes do not offer an ideal setting for any age group either – they are only superior to the loss of independence that senior housing options conjure in our psyche. Even the allure of suburbia is fading because of a preference for quality over quantity in life and we are starting to question our role (and responsibility) in creating the built environments we share.

​When we leverage technology and economies of scale we get more value out of products and services. Increased consumer education reflects a market force that is not unique to seniors or boomers alone. Information access is the common thread disrupting all of our business models and worldviews. We want more, better, faster and we know now that it is possible.

Urban living / Coworking

Coliving and Coworking environments are being created in revitalized urban settings with growing prevalence. The same principles apply – exhibiting trends of community connection catering to lifestyle preferences. There is a coworking space in Syracuse, NY. that recently published a post titled, The Case for Micro-units. The author John Talaric relays that, “Coworking spaces supply these independents with a rich working environment where they can meet, make business connections, and be more productive than outside of home offices and cafes.” Is this not analogous to challenges confronting the Senior Living Industry? Community spaces supply isolated people and organizations with a rich environment where they can meet, make social connections, and be more productive than they can be from inside of their independent homes.

Common Threads

The example above is obvious and trite, but the argument for more integrated community development is simple – our world is changing and we need more customized property development that responds to evolving needs and preferences. The future of aging is not about our elders alone. It is a future that we need to imagine for everyone. We need better Cities and Towns cultivating connectivity rather than fostering fragmentation.

Knowledge Notes #002

Knowledge Notes #002

CCA’s “Knowledge Notes” covers varied perspectives on trends and best practices in the Senior Living Industry together with news about our practice, clients and associates. We want to help create a better future for aging by supporting professionals whose main capital is knowledge.

Read and Share:

July 28, 2015

Knowledge Notes #001

Knowledge Notes #001

CCA’s “Knowledge Notes” covers varied perspectives on trends and best practices in the Senior Living Industry together with news about our practice, clients and associates. We want to help create a better future for aging by supporting professionals whose main capital is knowledge.

Read and Share Issue #001:

July 27, 2015