How Does Aging Services Get Back to The Future?

Image credit:  Sue Misiorski and Joanne Rader

I attended the most extraordinary virtual symposium with my AGE-u-cate colleague, Laura Ellen Christian.  Hosted by Penny Cook and her team at The Pioneer Network, the day was entitled "Envisioning the Future:  Finding Meaning & Purpose."  Both of our heads were spinning all day as we furiously chatted via Teams our take-a-ways and ideas. 

The bottom line:  Aging Services simply must return to a future that includes a resident-directed and citizenship culture, for if we don't, it will hurt our industry.  What is a "citizenship" culture?  We were struck by that phrase as well.  Defined by a resident living in a residential community, Citizenship Culture is "when residents have influence on the community, they are problem solvers, share responsibility for each other and are expected to contribute.  The organization and staff support residents to exercise autonomy, connection and wellbeing; and work to remove systematic barriers."  Esteemed speakers  Kelly Lund, and Joe Carella, gently reminded leaders to "get out of the way" and break down barriers that inhibit elder engagement.  

Yes, the pandemic and all the challenges with it were acknowledged and discussed by elders who live in a residential community.  They also shared the incredible opportunities provided by their communities to remain active and engaged.  We also heard from inspirational leaders who are transcending the pandemic trauma and crisis by focusing on the basics:  the quality of life of their residents and staff.  Simply put, putting people first!

Elders who live in an environment that helps them reclaim meaning and purpose in life, and who were engaged in Pioneer Network's symposium, described their feelings this way:

  • It makes me feel complete
  • It feels like you're worth living
  • They brought me back up
  • We may be in these wheelchairs but that doesn't hold us back

Again, wow!  Straight from the mouths of the people this industry was built for. The full continuum of aging services should be rich with opportunities to help those they serve reclaim their meaning and purpose.  The work isn't easy, and there is a lot of trial and error, but not trying can no longer be an option.

Is this raising the hairs on your arms as much as it did for us?  Join the conversation!  Leave a comment below or reach out to learn how you can join AGE-u-cate on our mission of getting back to the basics by putting people first.  

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We must not let this foundation crumble.  Without people at the core and providing staff the right balance of training and support to not only connect with residents, but find and keep their meaning and purpose alive as well, our services will be left behind and become obsolete. 

Authored by:  Julie Boggess and Laura Ellen Christian.