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Racism & Senior Living

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By Gwenetta Marshall-Brooks

I recently wrote an article titled “Black Consumers and Senior Living." In an effort to be ethnically sensitive (and not sound either stupid or arrogant) I sent a draft copy to two black friends. One of them, Gwenetta Marshall-Brooks was happy with the article except she felt it was not strong enough, blunt enough . . . direct enough.  

We chatted about how to best make the article better and I suggested that she write an article as a follow-up to mine. Gwenetta is not in the senior living industry but she is the right age to be making senior living decisions for parents. This is a hugely important and powerful perspective on how we are evaluated. -- Steve Moran

Racism in America is nothing new. Some people think it was banished in the 1960s but I'm afraid that is a mistaken idea. The political climate today has brought about a resurgence of its public face in a frightening way. However, we have learned the way to eradicate it is not by governmental force, violence or a martial state. The only way to fight racism is for each of us to examine our own actions and attitudes. Not just from our own viewpoint but from the viewpoint of how we appear to others.

When it comes to Senior Living, the question is what do those who look for Ethnic diversity see in our/your brand?

We really have no way of knowing for sure. However there a few things to keep in mind.

  1. People of color (Black, Brown, Yellow) have a different worldview. Caucasians may not see racism simply because it was never directed at them. However, history has taught people of color, if the advertisements don't show them in the picture, it's probably excluding them.

    This means you may have to rethink how you market your product. If your staff is not diverse, how are your clients to know your product is available to a diverse clientele?

  1. How comfortably you interact with your clients depends on how comfortable you actually are with them. People can feel your fear, mistrust or disinterest before you say a word.

  1. Be aware of stereotypical thinking when you are around unfamiliar people. Make a real effort to be open to those who are different. It's all right to be curious. Sometimes it's better to ask the question than to assume the answer.

So, what am I asking you to do? I am asking you to analyze and rethink your approach to senior living in terms of who seniors are in 2017. They are still individuals and families who need your help. They come from a wide variety of cultures and traditions. Many of them speak English as a second language.

However . . . they all come to you with the same need; a safe, secure, clean & friendly place to live that they can afford. Help them to find that, but do it with finesse, graciousness and openness.

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