Senior Living Non-Profit CEO Is Remaking
the Senior Housing ExperienceWith 10,000 boomers turning 65 each day, the need for senior living is growing at a drastic rate, and the aging-services field has been hard at work preparing for this slue of new customers. Current practices aim to bring the kind of comfort and amenities enjoyed at hotels and resorts to the settings we create for older adults to live in. But is this healthy for older adults? Should seniors be pampered in this style ...every day?
Jill Vitale-Aussem, details how a shift in perspective and practices can help us create vibrant cultures of possibility and growth. A veteran of the senior living field, Vitale-Aussem ran nonprofit and for-profit senior living communities and is now president and CEO of the Eden Alternative, a global, innovative nonprofit dedicated to establishing a high quality of life for older people and their care partners.
During her career, Ms. Vitale-Aussem learned some unfortunate perspectives on the seniors living industry. She finds that we do really well caring for medical needs. But we focus on residents’ decline and do everything for them. We fall into the trap of believing that older people don't have anything to give back and are just consumers of services. We take away what we know people need, what science has shown we need: a reason to get up in the morning.
Instead of doing everything for residents, we should ask: “What gifts do you have? What do you want to learn? What do you want to give back?”
I think there will always be people who want to be waited on. But the current model assumes that's what everybody wants, what everybody needs. People age well where they have a purpose, a role in their community.
We need to recognize they have years of experience and knowledge and have the right to make decisions.
Sometimes people get so wowed by appearances. Rather than “Oh, here's the beautiful dining room; here's the garden,” find out what the community is really about, what they believe in, how residents experience well-being.
Jill Vitale-Aussem, 50, is president and CEO of The Eden Alternative and author of AARP's Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift. Story by Jodi Lipson