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10 Challenges from the Environments for Aging Conference

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By Steve Moran

Roger Landry, President of Masterpiece Living and author of Live Long Die Short, gave the opening keynote speech at the 2017 Environments for Aging Conference. His talk, also called “Live Young, Die Short”, walked us through how we have a brand new paradigm of aging that provides decades of “retirement” where we can live well or spend those decades dying.

He offered 10 questions or challenges to those of us in the senior living sector who are serious about helping residents live their lives with abundance:

  1. How do you stimulate growth over decline?  --  The big idea here is that retirement, which in itself is a relatively new concept, was originally conceived as a period of decline. This does not have to be the case. He even suggested that often senior living falls into this trap. His proposition is that our post-60, 70, 80 and even 90 year time on this earth represents huge potential for growth.

  1. How do we promote movement?  --  The data is clear that the more we move the healthier we are. Too often this is balanced against the risk of falling or doing harm. He suggests that we need to embrace the dignity of risk.

  1. How do we engage brains? --  It is not automatically true that as we age our brains get weaker. Like muscles in our body, the more they are exercised the better they work. It is often true that 80-year-old brains function (or can function) very much like 30- year-old brains.

  1. How do we encourage connection? --  This is an area that senior living is already pretty good at. And while it is clear that for healthy living everyone needs some connection, the amount of connection and types of connections that work well, vary a lot from person to person. Making sure this works right for each resident is a huge opportunity.

  1. How do we make acting your own age a bad thing?  --  When you see me wandering around a senior living conference this year, you will notice that I have a pair of red or blue Chuck Taylor tennis shoes on my feet (or a pair of black and white “Chucks” if I am speaking). I always get lots of comments about them because it doesn’t fit for my age. We need to make not acting our own age a good thing.

  1. Can we promote mindfulness and reduce stress?  --  In some sense this is the big idea behind senior living, except that when we end up telling folks they are living a luxury lifestyle where everything will be taken care of, all they have to worry about is when they will die and how they will die. This is a huge opportunity.

  1.  Can we promote purpose and meaning?  --  We know when people live with purpose they live longer, healthier and require less staff intervention. It goes against the grain of doing everything for them, but serves residents better and improves the bottom line.

  1. Why do you get out of bed?  --  Very similar to number 7, but it is a great question. Why do your residents get out of bed in the morning? What is their adventure for the day?

  1. Where are the kids?  --  Many communities create some opportunity for kids to interact with elders, but living intergenerational lives is more natural and good for residents and those who are younger.

  1. What about fun?  --  Fun is not the same as pastimes and much of what we do are pastime activities. What about creating opportunities for fun, silly, crazy stuff?

I find myself thinking these would make great discussion starters for leadership meetings. Which of these questions resonates with you?

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