Experiencing Senior Living from The Inside Out
I’ve always been interested in trying my client’s products and services for a first-hand experience. At a younger age, I opened bank accounts at Wells Fargo when I worked there during my college days, tasted Yami Yogurt when I wrote radio commercials for their San Francisco ad agency, and started wearing Wrinkle-Free Dockers after introducing their men’s clothing line to the retail trade. More recently, I’ve attended the Grand Opening ceremonies at a new senior living community in the Central Valley, toiled as a bartender at another opening for a Southern California small beach town community, and tested hearing aids designed and manufactured by a local start-up. So, I was intrigued to read a story in a recent AARP Bulletin about an administrator who admitted herself into a senior community to fully experience life there as a resident.
One Woman’s Lifelong Mission
Jill Vitale-Aussem is a trailblazer for new ideas in senior care. She thought, “How can you run a community where you don’t know what it’s like being on the receiving end?” What she learned became a gut-wrenching experience. Pretending to be a resident, she thought, “You’re not in control of your life. There was constant noise and no privacy… They helped me get dressed, rolled me out into the hallway and I waited. Staff walked by, busy. It’s almost like I didn’t exist.” She went home, cried, and had an epiphany, “If I felt like that after 24 hours, how do you survive it for years?”
Changes Based on Her Experience
Rather than focusing on residents’ decline, we should focus on asking “What gifts do you have? What do you want to learn? What do you want to give back?”
In other words, empower the residents to be proactive in their care and to help fulfill their needs. After all, “People age well when they have a purpose, a role in their community.”
Look Beyond the Amenities
“Sometimes,” she continued, “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.” Visitors should ask, “How do residents have choice and voice in the community? How are they engaged here? Do people wake up when they want, eat breakfast when they want? Are they encouraged to offer suggestions and help each other as we all do our best to cope with this outbreak that has particularly affected senior living and nursing care? How does the community adapt to their rhythm of life?” Finally, she recommends “finding the right place, where people are continuing to grow, challenge themselves, support each other. For example, a resident at one of our clients’ communities was a farmer who actually grew crops on the land where the property was developed. When he started growing vegetables at this assisted living and memory care community, we developed this “Mario’s Garden” story so visitors could see how vibrant the residents were. Ms. Vitale-Aussem is author of “Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift”, as well as President and CEO of The Eden Alternative.
SGD is a San Francisco Bay Area advertising, marketing and branding agency specializing in the senior and boomer markets. We’ve successfully positioned, branded and rebranded companies that market to seniors, weaving traditional and online tactics to create compelling stories that drive response. About the Author Gil Zeimer is a Partner at SGD Advertising.