Allison Boulware – Bridging the Generational Gap in Senior Living

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Allison Boulware - Bridging the Generational Gap in Senior Living
Allison Boulware – Bridging the Generational Gap in Senior Living

The generation gap is real. And it poses challenges for leaders in the workplace, especially when working with different age groups of employees who have very different perspectives on how to approach their careers and responsibilities at work.

This is particularly true for senior living communities.

Bridging the generational gap in senior living is necessary for society to thrive. Often, generations feel segregated by age and miss out on precious opportunities that come with being connected across different eras of life experiences.

We need connections between our elders as well as young adults because they are both integral parts who contribute greatly towards shaping America into what it will be tomorrow.

We believe in the power of relationships, and we know that when people from different generations come together, they can create something truly special.

Join me in conversation today is Allison Boulware.
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Bio:

SVP and Chief Wellness Officer at Bridge Senior Living; Allison Boulware is a Clinical Strategist with a fierce passion to change the dialogue in senior living.

An innovative thinker is eager to solve complex challenges, execute plans and implement technology to transform healthcare. Engagement-focused leader working to set a culture of kindness, innovation, and collaboration.

Find Allison on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/allisonboulware/

Transcript:

Hanh:
Hello, I’m Hanh Brown. Thanks for tuning in. Whether you’re watching or listening to this, appreciate the opportunity to share some in very important topics that we’re passionate about. The generation gap is real, and it poses challenges for leaders in the workplace, especially working with different age groups of employees who have very different perspectives and how to approach their careers and responsibilities at work. This is particularly true for senior living community. Bridging the generational gap in senior living is necessary for society to thrive. Often generations feel segregated by age and miss out on precious opportunities that come with being connected across different areas of life experiences. We need connections between our elders as well as young adult because they are both integral parts who contribute greatly towards shaping. America into what it will be tomorrow. So we believe in the power of relationship and we know that when people from different generations come together, they can create something truly special. So join me today in conversation is Allison Boulware. She’s a senior vice president, of Chief Wellness officer at Bridge Senior Living. She is a clinical strategist with a fierce passion to change the dialogue and senior living. She’s an innovative thinker, eager to solve complex challenges, execute plans, and implement technology to transform health care. She’s also engagement focus leader, working to set a culture of kindness, innovation, and collaboration. So Allison, welcome to the show.

Allison:
Good morning. Thank you so much for having me. So excited to be here.

Hanh:
Great. Great. Thank you. Thank you so much. Well, Hey, I know personal side. Can you share with us something about yourself?

Allison:
Sure. You know, I’ve been a nurse, gosh, going on 25 years here for a little girl that got in trouble every single day of her life in school for talking too much. I was so excited to wake up this morning because I thought, man, today I get to talk all I want. And like there literally, like I got invited to do this, so this is truly just kind of a dream come true for somebody that’s spent the last, almost 20 years, really in senior living in some form or fashion. So, you know, and talking about these topics about changing the dialogue and senior living, something I’m very passionate about. Bridging the generational gaps, something I try to work on every day in some form or fashion as a mom of a 15 year old, who often feels like we speak a different language. You know, I try to learn from her and I try to, speak her language too. And I really have found that, that, really flows over a whale in senior living because there is, often the resonance that we support and take care of and our younger staff members, you know, there’s we say the same words, but they have different meanings and trying to kind of bridge that and make sure we’re all, we’re all getting to the end result that we won’t need. It’s a full-time job.

Hanh:
Well, thank you. Thank you so much. And we’re very blessed to have you in the industry with your passion to serve. So now, what, do you think is the biggest generational difference between the staff and the resident?

Allison:
I really think it’s technology. I think that the younger people that are working are very reliant on technology for communication. And that’s an extreme difference, from our seniors who talked, they, they did a lot of, phone conversations, a lot of in, personal face to face interactions. And they did a lot of written communication as far as letters and poetry and, thinking about several of the veterans that live with us and, the letters from home that they got from their girlfriend or wife or families. It’s very

Allison:
Different than the communication that, that we do today. And trying to find ways to kind of meet the needs of our staff and technology. And also meet the needs of our residents sometimes, that, that that takes a lot sometimes. So, it can be a huge challenge, but it can also be so fun because we, learn from each other. They learn from us. We learn from them. I’m kind of in that middle generation to where I’m a little bit more familiar with technology than say my parents are, but I’m not nearly as comfortable as the really young, college kids in the new workforce that are coming into our communities.

Hanh:
That’s very true. I still appreciate a phone call. I understand texting is main stream and, there are certain things requires more than just a phrase, right. Or even one or two words. So I’m with you I’m right in the middle.

Allison:
I love a good, I love a good card in the mail. Like I love handwritten card. Like some of the things. That I used to look forward to so much to go to the, go to the mailbox and have something in there. We don’t really see anymore, but our, residents and those we support that is what that is their normal. And so a lot of times it’s our job to really go to them. Because they can’t always come to us. And so just going back to just good old fashioned, basic communication, handwritten notes, you know, sliding a little sweet little sticky note under the door to say, have a great day. You’re I hope you feel better. Those are truly heartfelt things that, that we all can do. Whether it’s technology like a text or not, so I agree.

Hanh:
Okay, so let’s see. So how can we better understand each other? And do you think there are generational gaps in communication or is just an interpretation issue?

Allison:
Probably both. You know, I think there are some, gaps just with the age because the younger generations are much more comfortable. And I think the older we get the more resistant to any kind of change we are. Now, I will say that during COVID. I think when we went into lockdown mode, I think one gap that was really bridged really quickly was I think our seniors who are not very, not all of them are technology savvy. And our young staff really came together and created a bond. Because it was our young staff who were using their phones and their iPads to. FaceTime family members or to help the residents talk to their families or see their grandchildren and children, and that’s a story, really a really positive story that comes out of COVID. That’s not really told very much, but that was one of the best. I think stories of bridging the gaps because we took people who weren’t accustomed to it. And we took the people that were, and then just really in the blink of an eye. They were together and they became really good friends. We had staff who really bonded with, residents that maybe normally they wouldn’t have had as much in common. It’s like, bring me your phone. Can you bring me that off pad? Can you bring me your computer? And so those conversations started happening and, we were teaching them and they were teaching us. And it was just a great story to tell and so, you know, as, as much as COVID changed our world, that was in my mind a really positive thing. And that was something for our staff to really bond with the residents. And it’s like the residents look forward to the time during the day when that staff was going to come and give them the iPad and let them, do the visit with their family or, when they, talk through the windows or the doors of the communities when we were truly in early lockdown. That brought so much joy to not only our staff, because they could provide that avenue of communication, but also to the residents, because it was like they had a whole new world, literally like a whole new world opened up to them with communication and it’s we built upon that, and that has really, that’s really become really a fun thing to watch.

Hanh:
That’s great. Sometimes folks who let’s say are isolated and they may feel like they’re a burden, for someone to take care of them and so forth. But it’s wonderful that the younger folks can make this whole passes, fun and also empower them. I think the word is empower the seniors to know, Hey, I can do this. I can learn. I can take advantage of all the opportunities of technology. So that word, empowerment, freedom.

Allison:
Freedom and independence. I mean, it gives them a whole new level of independence that maybe before they didn’t even know existed. And so that, like you said, it’s really empowering them. And then that led to, oh, I can play solitaire on this little thing, or, oh, I can do a crossword puzzles on here. I can play bingo or I can text with the lady downstairs. I mean, it opened up truly just a whole new avenue and a whole new universe of communication and really kind of showed them things really aren’t that different between the generations. We may have had a different tool. Like we may have had a true, though fish card game that we played or, Rummy or whatever, but those things are still there. It’s just on that. It’s on that device now. So, I think it really kind of opens the eyes of the older generation and our younger generation to go, oh, we just have different avenues to kind of get to the same result. And, that is kind

Allison:
Of eye opening sometimes because a lot of times it’s much easier to see how unlike we are and not how really, truly alike we are. And I think that, that’s an opportunity that we have daily to really challenge us and to explore them.

Hanh:
You know, there’ll come a day when let’s say the millennials right now, years from now, their children might even say what’s Linkedln, what’s Facebook,

Allison:
I can’t I can’t wait to, I can’t wait to have those conversations because, they just, like a landlord, I hear my daughter say a landlord, what is that? You won’t believe this, but there used to be actually attached to a cord that went around the house. And so, it’s going to be very funny and those are great conversations that I love sometimes, in our memory care units and so forth. We, we try to have things that remind our residents about their life and tell their story. And I love seeing their military uniforms, their nursing uniforms, their, you know, postal service, uniforms, whatever in their life that, that tells their story. And then hearing the story. And a lot of times seeing those, maybe what the young people would call relics that is truly the story of the resident. And they get to really have conversations about that and that sparks memories. That maybe they had forgotten about, and that opens so many opportunities for dialogue and for learning, for, for all of us really. And so, those are some of the untold stories and the joys that we see on a day-to-day basis, that really, maybe other areas of healthcare, or maybe even other businesses, they don’t get the opportunity to kind of take a trip down memory lane every day. And that’s fun. I mean, that’s really fun. And, you learn something new every day.

Hanh:
I think also, as you were saying that I just realized, a lot of time, perhaps even you and I, can speak to that. Sometimes we see ourselves where we are, let’s say an older adult who now has limited abilities, cognition, and so forth. And it’s hard for them to even reminisce what they were 30 years ago, because this is what they know. And somehow they identify themselves with their limitation and not true. Right. It’s easy to do. And I think as parents, we do that too, right. I mean, I’m a new empty-nester. So I still see myself adjusting to that new place and we don’t see as ourself, what we potentially can become, but just like where we are in sometime, it’s very limiting. When you think like that, and it’s easy for seniors to think like that too.

Allison:
It is easy, and I think we can, our job as senior living providers is to give them those subtle little reminders of all. They still have, all the opportunities that are out there, all the new adventures that are still yet to come, where we constantly do things with second wind dreams. To where you know, the most recent thing that’s popping into my mind is like, one of our residents had always wanted to ride a motorcycle and so, got her on there, wind in her face and it told what a great story. And so I think in senior living a lot of times, the story doesn’t stop the day they move into our community. And if, I can really just tell the world. The really positives of senior living. Like the opportunities are endless. When they move into a community, they have a new set of friends. They have a new avenue of adventures. You know, they, are able to share not only their story, but, their previous chapters, they’re writing new chapters, one day at a time. And a lot of times they get to maybe interact with people in their day to day life. You know what I mean? I look, think about touring. Some of our communities, we have, you know, we have military folks, we have nurses, doctors, engineers, we have horticulturist, and so literally they can go to the dining room and it’s a whole new world. You know, just when they get to interact and talk with each other, then you add all the staff that are there and all the different things that they bring to the table and experiences that they share. We have gardening clubs, and I see some of the staff sometimes, like, I didn’t even know what a garden was and these residents have taught me that, we garden, we have the woodworking, opportunities. We do yoga. There’s, water aerobics for our communities that have swimming pools, like things that maybe on a day to day basis, these residents would have never thought about like they’re literally living their mess life, you know, while they’re in these communities and, we need to really focus on those things that we need to also say that just because there are generational differences, that doesn’t mean that there’s not all kinds of common ground that we can buy.

Hanh:
Very true. Very true. I look at it as senior living is about living, but then it’s multiplied even further because now, you don’t have kids to worry about you have all this amenities right in front of you and what a blessing.

Allison:
What a blessing, I mean, walk right out your door, down to a dining room or, on a shopping adventure and excursion. You know, to the swimming pool, to, to happy hour, to, there’s a full gym for yoga, for line dancing for, anything like that, ballroom dancing, the possibilities are endless. And when you put all these really, really. Talented residents and staff together, the things that they come up with, the journeys, they take, the joys that they constantly bring. It just brings an absolute smile to my face. Because when you really think about living, it’s like, wow, like, that’s that’s the way to really, really focus on your, wellness on your health. And really. Just change lives every day. And not only are we changing their lives, sometimes they’re changing ours. I mean, I think they give us as staff so much more than we ever feel like we give them, yes, we helped take care of them and we help support them, but they give us so much knowledge. They give us encouragement, they give us, calm words. And so it’s such a reciprocal relationship that it’s. No, we’re all really blessed. It’s really nice to get up in the mornings and just wonder what today’s going to bring. And, it’ll always have its challenges, but then you’d laugh and smile and think, Hmm. Okay. Like I didn’t expect this today. And, you know, it’s just a really, really cool aspect of healthcare that, sometimes in more of an acute setting, we don’t always get to do because we really get to hear the story of their life.

Hanh:
Great. Great. So now what has been the hardest generational difference for staff to over come?

Allison:
Oh, you know, I’d go back to technology only because I think that, with a new Alexa enabled everything, it tends to sometimes not always, sometimes cause confusion, especially when, you have a resident in a room and all of a sudden they say something and this strange voice says, would you like me to turn the TV on? And that’s not anything they’re accustomed to, and it can cause some confusion. I think that’s it. And I think sometimes technology, although we think we are doing something really good because we have the cameras and we have these Alexa enabled, items. I still think sometimes the hardest thing to overcome is they still want somebody to come and check on them. Like they, they don’t realize that, Hey, I asked them to come in, they’re working on it. They just want to see a face. They want that human interaction. And so that is something I think all of us, struggle with because we’re all trying to work smarter. But sometimes the residents’ perception of that is like, well, I haven’t seen anybody all day. They don’t realize there’s a camera. Like we’ve seen them all day, but they haven’t seen us all day. So I think sometimes it’s just that human interaction, which we all need, I think COVID really showed us that too. We need interaction. We need people we need, they face to face, human touch, we need to hug, we need to handshake. We need those things. So I think sometimes that’s one of the, one of the hardest things, not only with technology, but with COVID, that’s difficult to overcome and everybody’s perception of that is a little bit different, but, especially our elderly, which are in our, our seniors, because that’s what they grew up with. So it’s hard to. Make them understand, trying to, protect you. Therefore I’m not hugging you today. And the technology is there to really protect you and to remind us. But that doesn’t mean we’re not always here to give you a little hug or a pat on the back. So I think that’s hard.

Hanh:
That’s true. I mean, I see the innovations of technologies it’s expodential, up to here. And I see the adaption is like, it’s like this, and my guess is that it’s not because the seniors are illiterate. Absolutely not just like you say, they’re adopting, but at the same time, they’re probably thinking. How much of this, do I really need, or, I’m still, like you say, old school, I really liked that face-to-face one-on-one conversation. I want somebody to come in and check up on me, give me a block, and that kind of thing. So I think technology is great, but I guess that could be mindful not to think of it in terms of removing the human factor.

Allison:
Exactly. And when you think about, our seniors, a lot of them have, limited sight. They have limited hearing. You know, so some times, even though we think that’s no big deal to them, it’s a big deal. When Alexa, who was a strange voice. Comes into them and it can be very confusing, it can be overwhelming. And so a lot of times I think we don’t always try to put ourself in their position with that. So it’s great for us and it helps us with monitoring,

Hanh:
Right.

Allison:
We need, we’re keeping them safe. We’re keeping the, in our minds, we’re doing so much to help them, but if they don’t perceive it as that, then we have. We have to alter that sometimes. And we still have to remember that they just want to see somebody or hear somebody or touch somebody and, at least check on them. So, heart still matters no matter how technology helps us. Heart still needs to be in there all day every day. And I think that’s probably what everybody needs and wants is just to feel cared about, and to feel care. And, so I think we have to do a really good job of differentiating the technology versus the touch or the feeling of the touch.

Hanh:
Right, right.

Allison:
So, you know, and, that, that can be challenged and sometimes I may get that. That’s how hard but.

Hanh:
Yeah, I think that’s another key components too, is that understanding their emotional needs right. Being respectful and mindful in with that heart and compassion to know where they’re coming from. It’s really important. So technology is never going to replace that. It is instrumental and keeping them safe and allowing them to live at home and so forth, which is, spot on. But I agree with you. None of that will ever replace the heart factor.

Allison:
No people want to, they want to feel and they want to be, you know, they want us to make them feel. Safe, insecure. And although, like I said, it with the technology in our minds, we are, we are watching you, we are monitoring, we have alarms on the doors. We have all these great tools, but, that still at the end of the day, our job is to make them feel safe and secure and feel loved and feel, that we’re, we’re watching out for their business interest. And so that, that’s a tough, with technology. Sometimes that’s tough to really articulate to the technology, to the touch, to the feeling. So, You know, it’s, a challenge and, as technology gets better and better, it will be very interesting to see kind of what, you know, how that happens and, how we, how we evolve into the feeling of technical.

Hanh:
Very true. Now I know we touched on this, but I just want to go a little bit deeper. So are there ways that senior living providers need to change the dialogue to change the attitudes and thoughts of the general public towards senior living community?

Allison:
Oh, wow. Great question. And the answer is yes. How do we change that dialogue? I think, is different. I, for one really appreciate when people come into senior living from other businesses. So, sales and marketing. When we have executive chefs in our communities who like make the very best food, you talk about making you feel good and feel loved. They cook these amazing meals and they’re just fantastic, that bringing in all of those different perspectives, because I think the general public. I think that senior living, they always classify us as a nursing home or a mini hospital. And I think that perception is so far from the truth. And, and I have a perfect example. We just recently partnered with the university of central Florida and they are using one of our communities down in Orlando as a clinical rotation site for nursing students. And so they are coming, through, that you’re coming to our community. And working with the residents and providing nursing care. And it’s been phenomenal. You talk about bridging the generational gaps. We have these senior living residents who love these students who are just thrilled every day to see them come in and to know that they’re going to come, but to see those students walk in and see the community and they say, wow, I feel like I’m on a cruise ship or, wow, I feel like I’m in a really nice hotel and it immediately. They’re like, this is really cool. And so we changed the dialogue immediately because then that fresh, eager nursing student goes back and tells people, Hey, this is, there’s a swimming pool when the senior living community, like th there’s a gym, that’s nice as the college gym, there’s all these wonderful things. And so I think, I think that’s telling a story, but I think it’s also, as we bring other people into senior living out of, from other avenues, hospitality, hotel management, those things, we all learn from each other. And we all really say, yes, this is a, the senior living community does have healthcare needs, but we also have wellness needs. And so it’s not just, everybody’s sick and goes there. That’s not the case at all. They go there for, for community. They go there for compassion. They go there for fun. They go there for interaction. And so I think that’s one thing that the general public maybe doesn’t realize or understand about senior living and it’s our job to really change that dialogue. In general, we’ve got to be telling our story that, there are so many opportunities for wellness and for engagement in senior living that we often don’t advertise. And so I think we’re all doing a better job with technology, of course, to get, to get the word out there. But I think that we have, as we continue to create very strategic partnerships, I think that’s going to kind of change on its own or at least I’m hopeful that it’s going to change, because it needs to change. You know what I mean? W we are, so we’re, they’re living, we’re living every day and we’re living out dreams and we’re living out hopes. And so I hope as we continue to change that dialogue. That we go about the business of senior living, but we do it with different thoughts and minds and different approaches. And we take wellness and staying well and not just avoiding sickness. I hope we start taking that into account.

Hanh:
I think what I’m hearing is that for every person that walks into that front door, Or person that you’re on the phone with or on social media and anyone that you come in contact that engaging in senior living, you have an opportunity to make a positive impact in sharing the world. That it’s about living. It’s about extending life. It’s living to the fullest, that whatever capacity that you are in, right. Cause. I guess I’m not to take into account that some will have limited abilities, cognition and so and that’s fine. And we’ll all, we’ll be there at some point.

Allison:
Yes, we’ll all be there at some point. That’s an excellent point. So.

Hanh:
In the meantime, I would say, be respectful, mindful, and also encourage them to live to the fullest and whatever capacity that they’re in. And I hope somebody will do that to me. What, let’s say nineties, and not be reminded of my limitations. And telling me what I can’t do anymore, so there’s a very healthy, positive spin to continue to live at whatever capacity and age you’re in.

Allison:
I agree. I think health care in general. I think we, we need to be focused on that, that we’re living, and doing things

Allison:
Early to keep us well longer. You’re exactly right. Everybody will come to a point where we can’t do what we used to do,

Allison:
But that doesn’t mean we can’t stop doing that just means that we’re limited and maybe what we used to do, but that means we have opportunities to find new things to do. And that’s part of our challenge. That’s part of what our lifestyles teams work on. And we all learn from each other and that’s the really good part of the diversity in senior living is you’ve got these residents and staff who may be. Would have thought to be very diverse initially, but they have a lot of things in common. And when you put those two things together opportunities, just keep opening doors, keep opening windows, keep openings, fire exits, keep openings. I mean, they just

Allison:
Keep going on and on. And so that’s something I wish we could really emphasize to the general public that the opportunities are endless. And if you know the volunteer opportunities. You know, I would love to go out and find like ROTC students in high schools who would love to come and kind of mentor and work with our veterans, where they

Allison:
Come into our communities and they hear

Allison:
Their stories and they tell them, and they help them. That’s creating a relationship and building a bond between

Allison:
Generations that, that we need we need to do that. We need to be opening up those ooportunities. As we can with. COVID and all the regulations

Allison:
That we’re under, but there are still so many opportunities for those kinds of things bringing in. Yeah, I’m working right now to try to bring in some of the technology students in high school to help our seniors

Allison:
With technology, just help them program their remote, help them program their Alexa, to remind them that, dinners at

Allison:
430 and to remind me, because those

Allison:
Are the things generationally to. That we need to work on. So trying to find those strategic partnerships that are beneficial for both, I think is really, really important. And finding those other industries that can really help and support senior living and vice versa. You know, not just technology, but any of those out there. I think it’s really important for us to really think about that and be strategic and really go look for those opportunities a partnership.

Hanh:
Thank you. So now what are some of the challenges faced by senior living industry, when they recruit staff from backgrounds or different social groups? Well, I mean,

Allison:
Realistically right now the whole world is short-staffed. We are certainly not we are not any different in that. You know, I think as far as staffing, I think that we need a servant heart. Backgrounds, I think matter. But if people care about people, regardless of whether maybe two months ago, they might’ve been a mechanic or a heating and air specialist, I think if they care about people, I think we can find a way to put them to work. There are so many opportunities. That they can come into senior living and some of them

Allison:
May say, oh, I’m not good

Allison:
With helping people, or I don’t want to help somebody go to the bathroom. You know? I mean, all the excuses

Allison:
That they say our opportunities are endless. We have, like

Allison:
I said, earlier, shifts, we have cooks, we have servers. We have so many opportunities. If you just want to interact with people to come be a server, we have concierge, you sit at our front desk and answer the phone and greet everybody that walks in. You know, they are literally the heartbeat of our community because they know

Allison:
Everything. I call them the encyclopedia because you go up to the concierge and they know who, where, what, why they know it all. You know, there’s business office, there’s sales and marketing, there’s lifestyles, there’s engagement, of course there’s nurses. And I’ll take all of those that we can find. Please find me. I will find a job for you. But really there’s not anything that sits in your living. That’s not in every other job out there. If you care about people, you have a good heart, you just wanna, make people

Allison:
Feel good, comedians, I mean, anything

Allison:
Like that, we can find a place for them. So I think if anything, as far as changing the dialogue and bringing in people from other. From other

Allison:
Occupations I think we can find a place. We just have to have the conversation and really figure out what are you looking for? What are you like unless let’s plug you in. And if that doesn’t work, guess what? There’s a million other little opportunities. You know, we need housekeepers. We need people to do activities with residents. We need people to help with garden club. We need woodworkers to help them woodshop. We need landscapers. I mean, there’s not anything that we can’t that we can find a job for somebody. So if people are really looking we can find it, we can add something for them. I mean, call me, I will put you to work if you want to work and you need a job and I will find a place to put you. So I just hope we encourage it and we’re having to be creative. I mean, right now the market is very it’s hard, I mean, to

Allison:
Try to find incentives that motivate people, it’s hard to find people who will stay. But they’re out there. They’re really, really good people out there. And we’re going to keep trying, till we find something, my hope with

Allison:
Partnering with the university of central Florida is that some of those nursing students decide, I love this. I want to be a nurse in senior living. I hope they come work for us as nursing assistants. I hope they come to work for us as nurses. I hope they say, oh, I want to go back and be an administrator. I think that just the more opportunities we have to open people’s eyes and ears and especially their hearts, I think we’re going to continue to get better and better people in senior living. And that’s what

Allison:
Keeps me going every day and makes me get out of bed because I’m like, we are changing

Allison:
Lives sometimes we don’t feel like it, but it’s the people that matter. It’s the humans, the heart, the touch, the feeling that’s what really, really makes the biggest diffrence.

Hanh:
Well, I appreciate your passion, I can see that.

Allison:
Yeah, I love it. Can you tell, I get excited and then my Southern voice gets more Southern, so I’m sorry.

Hanh:
No. No, it’s great. Thank you. All right. So let’s do a little deeper dive on the misconceptions okay. Of senior living. So, so have you gotten feedback or have you even felt that senior living communities are too expensive or maybe too far away? And also this notion that it perhaps be a prison where people are locked up with rigid schedule, how do you respond to that? And what message.

Hanh:
Do you want to give to them media?

Allison:
To the media, I would love to invite them to come do a day in the life. You know, I think it

Allison:
Was very true during COVID that a lot of the media attention was on the number of losses

Allison:
That we had in senior living and so forth and which really wasn’t fair. You know, and yes, those

Allison:
Occurred. But also I think it really told the story of isolation. And where the people who were living alone at home, the losses

Allison:
Were just as great. So I think a lot of the misconceptions are that there’s not all these opportunities. I think that the general public doesn’t realize that we have activities all day long every day that we do have an executive chef making three balance, phenomenal meals that I can personally tell you. I’m never able to cook in my house or even think about those are the things that I invite people to come and tour. If they’re not comfortable coming into orange, check out the website, now we have

Allison:
Virtual tours, which another positive that came out of COVID that people could come into our lives and see what we do, or the opportunity might not have existed before. I think most people just need to check it out. You know, come ask for a visit, come to a volunteer session, and once they

Allison:
See it’s usually live within about 30 or 45 seconds, you can just see like their eyes light up. This isn’t at all, what I thought it was going to be just like those nursing students, just like most of the

Allison:
People that tour our communities who were thinking about moving in. I think they see it like, oh, I get my own apartment. I get my own independence, but I have a lock on my door. I can control, Here’s the

Allison:
Schedule of a meal. I can go if I choose, I don’t have two years, one dinner Ailes. If I don’t choose to do that, I have ala cart options. So I think a lot of times it’s just like anything. Once they get in and see. A lot of the perceptions change instantly but you’re

Allison:
Exactly right. A lot of times people have a misconception or one idea of what they think senior living looks like, and it’s really so different. And that certainly depends on where you’re at. You know, as far as expensive, that’s certainly

Allison:
A conversation that most people don’t want to have, but really when you think about the safety. The security that a senior living community gives, I know my

Allison:
Parents who are still living and who were independent in their own homes, I’m constantly worried. Like if somebody goes in, I wouldn’t know, at least in

Allison:
Our communities, we have concierge at the front desk. They’re passcode. You have to have locks and keys. There are so many extra measures in place that the routine home maybe doesn’t have. And I, even though I know it looks expensive, but when you kind of think it’s all inclusive and it’s, all the opportunities

Allison:
Around the clock clinical oversight. So, there’s a

Allison:
Lot of added benefits. And I wish we looked at the advantages and the benefits and the value versus the, actually the dollar amount. But, you know, again, we’re all evolving in those conversations and we are evolving into focusing on wellness, but, realistically,

Allison:
If people truly, if they want

Allison:
To have those conversations, I invite them to go take a tour. I invite them to come meet our residents. Most of the time, we don’t have to say the minute a resident walks, CNCS another resident and they have an instant connection and they say come live

Allison:
With us. You know, come join

Allison:
The fun. This our part, as far as trying to convince hymns over, because once they feel like they have found a family of people and they feel safe and secure, Then those other conversations about the finance and all those things, they typically go in the background. Not always, but a lot of times that happens. So most of the time, if they’ll just come, just come see us, just come spend a day

Allison:
With us come. You know, it’s like a what would

Allison:
We used to call it when my daughter used to go have a play date, come out of a play date with us you know, and see what we do and see. And I, I feel sure that there’s going to be something that they connect with or someone, whether it be another resident or staff. And it’s going to make them feel like, gosh, this really could be my home. I can, this

Allison:
Can be my day-to-day life. I could be sitting in this rocking chair on the front porch, having conversations or playing bridge. And so, you know,

Allison:
I think those are the misconceptions that the general public don’t know that, that I wish we could show them. And, you know, we’re gonna

Allison:
Find better ways to do that. Technology is going to help us with that.

Hanh:
Sure. Sure, right now, just come,

Allison:
Hang out with us. Come have a play date with us. Sure, sure. And then here’s.

Hanh:
One way that you and I are having this candid conversations that will be pushed out to various social media platforms, including tik-tok, which I plan to somehow squeeze little clips, out there. So, in, in all platforms, as you know,

Hanh:
Baby boomers, parents and grandparents of them, they’re out there. On those social media platforms. So I think it’s important to project that message and do it consistently and do it exponentially so that the media and the parents and grandparents will have a better understanding. Now here’s the other angle of this. We know. I mean, we talked about wellness and the positive of moving into a senior living. But here’s the other angle I want to, I guess, put it out there is. So how can we change the culture perception of aging to make life better for seniors? And when I say aging, that’s like you and I that’s everybody. Right? So how do we, as a culture, just want to know your thought, protect this image that we’re need to embrace aging, whatever number that we’re at, particularly when they are eighties and above. So what’s your advice?

Allison:
Oh, wow. Well, you know, we don’t have a lot of choice in the matter. I mean, all of us are aging. And I think it’s all in perspective, I think that

Allison:
A lot of times we tend to focus on loss and not what we gain think about. As we get older, we gained so much knowledge. We gain confidence in things that we conquer. We gain friendships that you know,

Allison:
Give us things that we never know. We’ve got all these wonderful experiences. And I think as a culture, we need to really think about as we age, all that we learn and all that we get from aging. And instead of focusing on what we’re losing, I think we need to focus on what we’re gaining. We’re gaining the opportunity to let the next generation know and learn from our mistakes. We’re gaining the fact that. We’ve conquered, job maybe Concord might not be the right word, but we’ve worked.

Allison:
We’ve overcome all sorts of obstacles. And instead of focusing on what we don’t have, look at what we do have, we have a lot of ability to really influence those around us. We have a lot of ability to really focus on what matters to us. And I think as all of us age, our priorities change. And I think we realized that wow not only do I want to feel good, but I want to be around people and places that make me feel good. And so I think that’s probably the part of society and it’s going to be part as a culture to look at it that way. And social media helps us do that a little bit because you know, the tik toks and all the fun things are always showing the best part of our lives. They’re showing

Allison:
Everybody smiling and everybody getting along and everything being great. But I think as we age we gain the

Allison:
Knowledge to know that yes, there are good times, there’s hard times and in how we hit

Allison:
Those hard times and how we face those challenges helps us and gives us strength and gives us all kinds of things that we gain. And so I think just as a culture, if we focus on what we’re gaining and not what lossing and just change our perspective, a little bit. I think the rest kind of works itself out.

Hanh:
Bless you. I love it. I love that. I love that attitude. You know, and also as.

Hanh:
Our body ages there’s two.

Hanh:
Things I don’t think need to age. That’s your heart and your attitude, right.

Allison:
That’s right.

Hanh:
That doesn’t have to be cry.

Allison:
It doesn’t, in that again,

Allison:
I’ll say how we make people feel is the differentiator. You know,

Allison:
And one thing I think is consistent across dealing with seniors is, they are always

Allison:
Really good at making you feel special, oh, I love

Allison:
To see you come in or, they always

Allison:
Want to give you something and, and I think

Allison:
They’re, they’ve come to the part of their life where they really do focus on the good, and that’s a great reminder to all of us, Yes. They

Allison:
Might have arthritis. Yes. They may need a Walker. Yes. They may not see as well as they used to with their heart still good, you know, in their,

Allison:
Their minds still good. And they still can love no matter it doesn’t matter what the condition, the love is still there. And they have all of that to show. And we’re really blessed, I think in senior living because that heart and feeling and passion. Of those really resonates. And then a lot of other occupations, I don’t know that they can say that maybe they can. I mean, I don’t know anything different, but I think we’re really blessed sometimes, because like you said, regardless of how old the heart gets it still,

Allison:
It still shares love and compassion and kindness and teaches us a thing or two as we go along.

Hanh:
You know, I want to add a personal story. My daughter, when she was an undergraduate she’s in medical school right now, but when she was an undergraduate, she volunteered at Michigan geriatric and the hospice on a Friday night and Saturday night. And then I would often ask her don’t you have anything else to do on a weekend? Know, but you know what she said, no, she enjoys being around. People, this is in.

Hanh:
A later part of life that especially hospice, because they’re waiting for loved ones to come and see them in the final stages and so forth. But she was just.

Hanh:
Really fascinated the stories and the fact that they what’s the right word, emotionally need someone to be there. And she was just thrilled to be there, so I think.

Hanh:
It’s wonderful. And that’s another opportunity for. Bridging the gap between college students, like you say, with the seniors, because you know age, twenties and so forth, there are so navigating, still figuring out life. And it’s good to be next to someone who’s lived life. And, and I had

Allison:
A resident one time tell me, I said, when

Allison:
You get up in the morning, like, what are you trying to do? And she said, well, I’m no spring

Allison:
Chicken, but I try to think when I’m gone, what will my eulogy say? And she said, it won’t say

Allison:
That I was a senior vice-president, it will say

Allison:
That I was kind, that I was compassionate, that I was a good wife. I was a good mother. So She said, she said, by the time

Allison:
I hit 70, I just started thinking, you know what, that’s what I’m going to focus on. I’m really gonna focus on what people will say about me when I’m gone. And she said, and if we all did that, then it would be better. And that really has always stuck with me that, how you make

Allison:
People feel and you don’t know it in the moment. Like you have no idea when you meet somebody, what struggle they’re facing. What battle they’re battling, but how they make you feel can change all the D that makes the biggest difference in the world. Because if they feel like either one you’re beside them, you’re walking

Allison:
Hand in hand with them or you’re there to pick them up when they fall or that you care and you just cared enough to check on them. That’s what they remember, and that’s

Allison:
What we as seniors living people in senior living, whether we’re nurses or healthcare or marketing. So regardless of what our job title is or are the part we play, it’s really how we make people feel. And, that’s something,

Allison:
That’s the story of bridging the gaps of not only generation, but the cultural gaps the gaps between different

Allison:
Sectors of business and healthcare and engineering and all the things

Allison:
That we do, it’s really how we make people feel. And that goes truly back to the good old you know, good old thing of customer service, take good

Allison:
Care of people and they’ll take good care of you. And so I think that’s important for us, not only to take care of our residents as employers, it’s important for us to take care of our employees. It’s important for us to take care of our health and our wellness. I mean, all that is kind of very related, and those are always really good reminders to all of us, regardless of what occupation or profession or, what, where

Allison:
We are. That’s something we all need to be reminded about something.

Hanh:
Awesome. All right. So what would you do differently if senior living let me rephrase that. So what would you do differently with senior living if there were no expectations of success?

Allison:
Oh, well, we should have started talking about this first. I would have, you would have never gotten another word.

Hanh:
Did you know, we’re not even halfway done, but we’re at the tail end. It’s almost an hour it up that’s no.

Hanh:
Problem, but there’s a lot to talk about.

Allison:
There there were no expectations.

Hanh:
Yeah.

Allison:
You know, I think the possibilities are endless. God, that’s such a good question. I think I would try to have people, if I think I would try to have senior living be much more open, like I’ll partner. And like I said, with. But not just for clinical, I would be going to these college campuses and I would be saying, Hey, come work in senior living. If your sales and marketing, if you’re it, if you’re an executive director doing a business degree if you want to be in some sort of maintenance capacity, like tech schools, I would be, and I am, I’m

Allison:
Desperately seeking strategic partnerships like that because we need to have other genre of people in businesses and senior living to learn from. And I think I would be opening the doors wide open and I would be in every college that would have me and I would be taking students for rotations internships, anything like that in every form and fashion I can find. Research. Not just healthcare, but anything. I think if there were no expectations, that’s what I would be doing because I think most people stumble into senior living kind of as an afterthought or after a loved one or a family member has been there and they’re like, oh, wow. I didn’t know this existed. And these people are driving by our communities every day. So if I, there was no expectation whatsoever. I would be standing on the front door of every college campus saying, bring your students. Like I need their money. They’re smart brains. I need their, their

Allison:
Passion. I need their thoughts. I need to change the dialogue that we currently have. So I think probably right off the bat, that would be what I would do. That might not have been what you expected. But that’s just the first thing that really hit me as far as like really bringing, opening up the eyes, the ears, the hearts of people to see that the possibilities really are endless.

Hanh:
I think you mentioned a great opportunity and I speak to it because I know when my daughter was an undergraduate over at Michigan, she was student director of all the student activities at the school. And they were very active setting out these college students, not only in public health, but other sectors, but the was looking at is public health. Two different.

Hanh:
In-home care or even like hospice, all sorts.

Hanh:
To volunteer. And many schools are very active in doing that. So connecting with colleges, I think nationwide, I guess, wherever, whoever the people are listening in, I highly recommend to work in partnership with the universities like you are there are some great opportunities.

Allison:
The opportunities are endless, and you know,

Allison:
Mine is mainly focused on the nursing students, but we ought to be looking at the social work students. You know, any, has anybody kind of a culinary program, anybody that has a business program? I mean, because senior living as a business, we don’t think

Allison:
About it like that sometimes, but it very much is there’s financial implications. So, there’s CPAs

Allison:
And there’s all these other things don’t granted as a nurse, I think like a nurse and that’s always where I go to first, but the technology you know, we ought to be doing public health majors. We ought to be. Partnering together because we are part of public health in overall

Allison:
Senior living is part of wellness. We ought to be partnering with these colleges. We ought to be partnering with wellness, institutions and gyms and all these other things, to try to

Allison:
Bridge the generational gaps and to bring people into our industry with all this knowledge. And just because we haven’t done it before in senior living doesn’t mean we can’t, you know, we. Oh, we.

Hanh:
Must. Should

Allison:
Be saying, wow, we should

Allison:
Be listening. We should be opening our doors. We should be blowing off the doors. You know, trying to really promote senior living. And I’m trying to do that a little bit at a time, and keeping

Allison:
People safe and well and stay in regulatory compliant and all the other good stuff that we get to do. But those are the kinds of things I think is if we really think about innovation and we really look at strategic partnerships, that’s a great start because this young people especially have really good ideas. And they look at the things that we do. And I think about that with my 15 year old all the time, she was like, mom, why are you doing it this way? Just do it this way. And to her, it’s so simple. And I’m thinking, why didn’t I think of that? So we need to be using that those you yes, there’s sweet little children. We need to be, we need to be tapping into that. And that also really gives them the opportunity to kind of showcase their talent. So it’s a win-win I mean, there’s really

Allison:
No downside to that.

Hanh:
I love it. I’m with you 200% and that there’s more and more just exponential doing what you do describe.

Allison:
Well, good. Well, and if anybody’s listening, please find me and you want a partnership. I will I will make the time I will. I will do what I can, I’m so grateful,

Allison:
Especially to UCF. Cause that’s where it kind of started just by accident. We had a nursing student who was working in our community. Hey, would you talk to my professor? I think we want to do some more a rotation here and I’m like, absolutely. So it was a conversation just like this. And so I hope today really opens up that dialogue for other colleges or different things that maybe they’ve not thought about that we can really you know, we can really partner together and change the dialogue and that’s all it takes. We, we have to start the conversation before the change can happen. So,

Hanh:
I love it. I Love it. So we’ve went.

Hanh:
Through a lot of the questions, but we’ll have.

Hanh:
To come back to do

Allison:
Yup.

Hanh:
Now. Also one last question with regards to helping seniors live independently. What do you think that, I guess, do you think that technology will one day allow seniors to live independently with the help of robotics? Yeah, sure. I really do. You know,

Allison:
We have a Timmy robot currently deployed in two of our communities that, that you know, is awesome. It’s fun. It it’s kind

Allison:
Of become like the Like the warrior for the communities.

Allison:
And they love it, that helps

Allison:
And gives reminders and goes in and reminds people, I think technology

Allison:
Certainly is going to help us. It’s never going. That’s not going away. I do think probably robotics and the reminders

Allison:
That they give and, the Alexa

Allison:
Medication reminders, all those

Allison:
Things are coming. And it’s going to change the way we do business, but at the end of the day, I truly believe. That we are still going to need that human heart and that human touch for people to really feel good. But there’s no doubt that the technology’s changing. You know, there’s companies everywhere that are working smarter and you know, the refrigerator, your refrigerator

Allison:
Now, I think can even tell you like what’s in there and what you need for the Leah. So those things are, they’re going to continue to keep people more independent. Which is fantastic, but there

Allison:
Are going to be limitations as people age and have, do, start to lose some of their mobility and things like that to where you know, senior living is always going to play a vital part, but we definitely,

Allison:
Even if you live in a senior living community, you don’t lose your independence. And I think that’s another misconception. I think they think that they’re going to go in there and we’re going to tell them when to eat, when to drink and when to take their medicine. And it’s not like that at all. You know, it’s more

Allison:
Like we might remind you or we may say, but technology’s definitely. It’s helping us help them and to maintain

Allison:
Their independence, whether they’re in their own home or whether they’re with us and assisted living memory care or independent living. All of those

Allison:
Things are still very crucial and vital.

Hanh:
Wow. That’s great. I appreciate this opportunity to talk in. I very thankful for you being in the industry. And I’m so thankful for your passion. And I just love it.

Allison:
Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity. Like I said, I was so excited when I get up this morning to get to talk. I’m like, wow. What a, what an exciting opportunity. And so, and I hope, maybe I’ve

Allison:
Started the conversation maybe as. The dialogue

Allison:
To start changing, maybe a sparked other minds to, you know,

Allison:
To other ideas. Cause I think that’s how change really occurs when we start thinking and we talking and we ideas share. You know,

Allison:
I think great things come out of that. So I truly appreciate the opportunity to be able to have the conversation I look forward to more. You know,

Allison:
It’s been, gosh, I can’t believe an hour’s gone by already. So it’s been

Allison:
So much fun and I really appreciate you taking the time you know,

Allison:
To have these conversations about senior living and to have these good, honest, heartfelt Dialogue

Allison:
About what’s happening and what should happen and what can happen because that’s amazing.

Allison:
And I really appreciate it.

Hanh:
Absolutely. Thank you so much.

Allison:
You’re so welcome.

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Episode 134

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