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Gail Jones

Baby Boomers says “No thanks” to the traditional Long Term Care Community Model

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Have you ever heard the term “walkable urbanism?” If you’re like me then the answer is No. The concept stems from the changing paradigm in senior generations. Seniors from the “silent” generation (born during the World War I era) sought to spend their senior years in communities that provided them with a sense of security. That generation placed a premium on living in a community that provided a sense of belonging. They believed that there is strength in numbers, and thought that they would have a peace of mind in living out their senior years in traditional long term care facilities.

Unlike the silent generation, the baby boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964) values very different communities and lifestyles. This generation demands access to so much more-hence the emergence of the walkable urbanism communities – communities that provide its residents with choices; that recognize the need for flexibility and therefore provide a variety of experiences for its residents. Some may feel like a hotel, while others embrace a very integrated multi-generational setting. Gone are the days when seniors settled for living out their years in a Long-Term Care facility environment. This generation wants variety and freedom in dining, shopping, entertainment and housing.

Boomers would much prefer to dine in a food court that offers variety in dining experiences, than in the same formal dining room every day. In a Huff Post article I read recently, Jared Green wrote, “Imagine an apartment complex in a highly walkable environment, open to the surrounding neighborhood, with ground floor shops, cafes, and restaurants, and close to multi-modal transit opportunities, parks, plazas, self-storage facilities, and co-working spaces.” New Senior Living Model Needed to Satisfy Aging Boomers | HuffPost. This is the environment in which boomers would rather spend their later years.

So how are we, as senior care providers, meeting the needs of boomers, who demand individualized living experiences? Well we’ve seen a marked increase in home-care providers in the last decade, we have also seen innovative changes in what used to be “facility” care. One such innovation is The Green House Project. These are freestanding buildings where 10 people live and receive skilled nursing level care, in a financially viable home setting, that meets the social and healthcare needs of boomers at the same time.

In this setting the nursing station, medicine carts and dining rooms, are icons of a past era. In its place are storage closets designed to look like furniture, nursing areas that are small alcoves inserted into the design of the home. Medicine is stored in individual room closets, which are locked for safety, but close enough in proximity for the resident.

A model that is my personal favorite, that truly allows the senior to age in their home, is the intentionally elder-friendly community. This is the creation or renovation of whole communities that are intentionally designed to support seniors. These communities are designed to meet the social, physical and mental needs of seniors in close proximity to their homes. These integrated communities adjust their surroundings to include seniors; compensating for their frailties and disabilities and promoting social and civic engagement.

Design principles critical to an elder-friendly community, is integrated throughout the renovation or creation of these communities.

There is a variety of easily accessible transportation systems; business and housing is in walk-able distance; bathroom, kitchens and bedrooms are on the main level, and of course the doorways are wide enough for a wheelchair to access. Community centers and businesses are built with the needs of the young and old in mind. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of such communities located in the US. So while 82% of Americans would prefer to age in their own homes, senior care providers are behind on accommodating their wishes.

Having communities that are designed with all of its population in mind would transform how we live out our senior years, and as I often tell my children, if we live long enough, we’ll all be a senior person one day; so wouldn’t it be great to have choices when that day is now?

Happy Thanksgiving

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If life was a rollercoaster, then 2016 would be my personal Kingda Ka. So on this Thanksgiving Day, I must give Thanks for the ride and riders of 2016. And what better way to give thanks than with a List? And since I could never get past 10 things on any list, I’ll limit my gratitude list to 10 😊.  The 10 things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving Day are….

  1. Family and friends – Expressing gratitude for these relationships often becomes perfunctory. But when I remember the many who has an empty seat at their table this year – public figures, colleagues and friends  – I feel a deeper sense of gratitude for my family and friends.  For their love, support, loyalty – and for just being present. I am so thankful for all of you.

  2. Seniors – to our clients who entrust us with their care – THANK YOU. This year our first client passed away. We had cared for him for 8 years. Every Thanksgiving He give us poinsettias. He was generous, kind, engaging, and had a gift for making the stranger feel like a friend. I am thankful for the many lessons we learned from caring for him over the years.

  3. Our staff – I am grateful for the dedication of the men and women, who chose to serve seniors. For the compassion and 100% dedication you give to our clients – THANK YOU. You make our sphere of service a better place.

  4. God – specifically, His grace, protection, provision and love.  His grace and love sustained me through the lows of this year, and His provision and protection are the only reasons for the highpoints of this ride of my life. I am thankful to God.

  5. Caramel Almond Clusters – I know, I probably should think of something more profound to follow God’s grace, but have you had a caramel cluster? Well when you do, you’ll understand that this bite of utter goodness is worthy of making a gratitude list😉.

  6. Growth – this year, more than any other, I have learned to be slow to judge others. To pause as I form an opinion, and look for the panoramic view, rather than snapshots of a person’s life.  To be slow to judge and even slower to act on judgments formed, is a kindness I cherish when afforded,  and therefore should be willing to pay it forward.

  7. Election is over. I know, you’re thankful too!

  8. Laughter – it really is a good medicine. And because I’m thankful that you took the time to read my list, I’ll pass along an app my son loaded on my phone-ifunny – download the app and lol.

  9. Bolt – my 5 year old Shih Tzu. He is love and acceptance wrapped up in a 12 lb package of fluffiness. I am so thankful for him!

  10. Perspective – sometimes I’ve gotten this with time, other times from talking a situation out with another person – this year I gained perspective through life’s experience. I am thankful that I’m alive, that God is gracious, that friends are kind, that life goes on, that growth is possible, and that I thought of this list!

William Arthur Ward said that, feeling gratitude and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it, Ditto that!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Election 2016-SENIORS MATTER!

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One of the questions we ask when interviewing new applicants is, what do you think seniors contribute to society?

The answers has varied from the legacy of war heroes and nation builders, to free babysitters, to the cringe worthy – Nothing.

Why do we ask this question? Simple. It helps us determine if the applicant is interested in the population she is seeking to serve – or if she barely thinks about the senior person, outside of her duties as a caregiver.

In this election season, most of what we hear about the senior population, is related to healthcare cost, Medicare and social security and the financial strain of senior citizens. But did you know that seniors make more charitable donations per capita than any other age group? 69% of the $143.6 billion charitable donations made in 2015, were made by boomers and mature adults over the age of 68 years old.

So why do we often struggle to see the continue contributions of seniors to our society?

Could it be the rhetoric of the media, that chooses to focus on social security and Medicare cost, as a senior problem? Or could it be that we, as younger Americans, choose not to see the many ways seniors give to our society? Or maybe a little of both, external rhetoric and internal blinders?

bigstock-Group-Of-Mature-People-Playing-4732264I’ve written before about ways seniors contribute to our society ( this post is meant to be a gentle reminder as we prepare to vote, that our elected officials should have a perspective that our seniors matters. The issues of their care matters. The fact that they continue to give generously to our society matters. They are not just our past, they are a vital, generous contributor to our future.

Happy Independence Day! When I’m free and you’re free, there really is no better way to be!

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Happy Independence Day! What does Independence Day mean to you? So much of what I write about, is drawn from my everyday interactions. I love to sit and talk with our senior clients. I had the pleasure of spending time with one of our 90 year old clients last week. She shared with me, that in the 1940s, she worked for a major corporation,  a job she quiet enjoyed, but had to leave when she got married. In the 40s – when a woman got married – she was not allowed to continue to work. The company’s director would inform the female employee, that her employment was no longer necessary! As a woman in my 40’s, that is hard to imagine.

I would dare say that many of the women who lost their jobs, probably needed to contribute financially to their new family, not to mention, many, like my client, loved their job; to a woman of that generation, independence may mean freedom to work, as long as she desire; freedom to continue in a profession she enjoyed, and freedom to decide to marry and work.

Many of our clients, comes to us because their ability to care for themselves, have been impacted by an illness or aging. For them, independence means continuing to live in their own home, surrounded by all that is familiar –  aging in the place, they always envisioned they would.

For me independence means, autonomy; freedom to make choices about who I live for, who I live with, and what I do with the life I’ve been gifted. For more reasons that one, I am grateful for the timing of my birth. Unlike the generations of women before me, I get the freedom to choose to work and marry; to be educated; to start my own business, or work for an employer; to drive; to vote.

So this Independence Day, as we celebrate America’s independence – what does independence mean to you? Enjoy it, and remember the many, on whose shoulders we all stand.