what makes innovation challenging

What Makes Innovation Challenging in the Aging Services Industry?

This week we are proud to highlight Nexus Fellow and industry expert, Jay Newton-Small.

In this Nexus video clip, she describes the unique challenges of the aging services industry and why it’s so difficult and complicated to innovate and make a meaningful impact.

“It’s such an inefficient industry and it’s so highly regulated. It’s a very intractable system that requires patience in innovating and ingenuity in innovating that other industries don’t require.”

Challenges for startups coming into the aging services space include selling into healthcare organizations that are under intense pressure due to rampant staffing shortages that have left them in a sustained state of crisis and placed a huge financial burden on them to maintain operations and meet basic regulations. The environment has been one of extreme stress, with little bandwidth or budget to invest in innovation or quality initiatives.

Information security protocols and other legal standards required to access patient data, while critical for protecting patient privacy, are also hard for small companies to meet on limited runways. And current fee-for-service payment models leave little room for innovation in holistic, person-centered care innovations.

“From the get-go, this is regulated in a really intense way, and there’s no way around that. So you have to think through, what is a way that we can innovate here that we can be able to have an impact, but also not harm people, which is a super important thing about health care. And also how can you find a way to make a profit and make your company viable. It’s one of the most challenging areas to innovate in.”

Newton-Small is the CEO of PlanAllies and the CEO and founder of MemoryWell, a tech-enabled patient engagement platform and SaaS that uses Natural Language Processing and “conversational interactions” proven to engage seniors and help Medicare Advantage plans lower churn. Unlike chatbots, MemoryWell uses journalists—or can train callers to interview like journalists using their proprietary software— to create real, effective dialogue with older Americans.

 

As a national journalist, Jay Newton-Small brings a unique perspective to the field of aging, insight into politics and policy, and a media platform. She also brings the heart of a personal-lived experience that led her to found her company, MemoryWell.

 

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Senior friends cooking in kitchen

Longevity in Aging: The Need to Address Healthspan and Wealthspan

People are living longer, and that’s a good thing. It’s not unusual or uncommon for people to live into their 90s. But how is their quality of life? Are they in good health? Can they afford living expenses? As lifespan increases, it is critical we pay attention to healthspan and wealthspan. According to Nexus Fellow Ryan Frederick, CEO of SmartLiving 360, healthspan is “the number of years we live in good health,” and wealthspan is “the number of years we have the financial means to support our desired lifestyle.”

“Advances in longevity create the prospect of longer, healthy lives but will we be purposeful, socially connected, and financially secure over these additional years?” – Ryan Frederick

In part three of the Six Key Drivers Shaping the Future of Senior Living, Nexus Founder and NIC Co-Founder and Strategic Advisor, Bob Kramer, also remarks on the effect longevity will have in terms of where Boomers will choose to live.

“Purposeful longevity means our new customers are determined to thrive,” said Kramer. “They are looking for community and a sense of connection. I call it the ‘engagement’ concept of retirement and aging which focuses on purpose, experience, and enjoyment. Paraphrasing a report by the McKinsey Health Institute, our customers aren’t just looking to add years to their lives but add life to their years.”

So how do we improve the quality of life for older adults?

“Researchers point out that longevity is largely driven by our lifestyle rather than our DNA,” wrote Frederick in a SmartLiving 360 blog post. “By some estimates, lifestyle and our environment account for about 93% of our longevity outcomes. Therefore, we have agency over our longevity. Lifestyle decisions also impact our quality of life.”

Frederick goes on to say, the “key is making sure you are at the right place at your stage in life – and one of the reasons the average person moves a dozen times in their life. An openness to change and the ability to act – however overwhelming it can be – is critical to make sure where you live matches your needs and desires at a given time.”

Read more from Ryan Frederick on the SmartLiving 360 blog.

 

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Dr Bill Thomas 2002 PBS interview

Human Growth and Nursing Homes – a 2002 Interview with Dr. Bill Thomas

What can the United States do to make senior housing and the lives of older adults better? This is a particularly hot topic throughout the nation, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19.

A recent report with seven bold, actionable and important recommendations was recently released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. These recommendations, when implemented, will transform nursing home care, to make it person-centered, transparent, affordable, and create living situations that are good for residents, families, and staff.

Where did these revolutionary ideas come from? Let’s turn our calendar back a few decades and spotlight Dr. Bill Thomas, a physician specializing in geriatrics and a visionary ahead of his time. Thomas founded The Eden Alternative, The Green House Project, Minka and is currently the Chief Independence Officer for Lifespark as well as a Nexus Fellow. He has long been a driving force behind the vision that is transforming care for seniors. And he has been putting his vision into practice, piloting his ideas to demonstrate that nursing homes can be places for elders to thrive. We are delighted to have him on-board as a Fellow for Nexus Insights.

In a PBS interview that aired 20 years ago, Thomas said, “There has to be a commitment to ongoing growth…Even the frailest, most demented, most feeble elder can grow…And those words, human growth, nursing home, they’ve never gone together before.”

Thomas explained the inspiration for his ideas. “In the early 1990’s I took a job as a physician at a nursing home…and I fell in love with the work. And I fell in love with the people. And I came to detest the environment in which that care was being provided. The nursing home takes good loving, caring people and plugs them into an institutional factory-like arrangement. And it’s no good. I believe that, when we make a place that’s worthy of our elders, we make a place that enriches all of our lives, caregiver, family member and elder alike.”

“He was right and ahead of his time 20 years ago. He’s still right today. Unfortunately, the tragedy of COVID has revealed how much we devalue the lives of our older adults,” said Bob Kramer, Founder and Fellow at Nexus Insights.

“We need to be concrete about it. If we want to improve life for everybody in our society, one of the very best places to begin is changing how we think about, care for and honor our elders,” said Thomas.

Read the full interview.
See a clip from the PBS 2002 broadcast.

 

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solo aging and urgent call to action

Solo Aging and Senior Living’s Urgent Call to Action!

For the last 12 years, Sara Zeff Geber, author of Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers, and a Nexus Fellow, has been studying what she calls “solo aging.” It’s a concept that came to her when she realized that all around her, Baby Boomers were taking care of their aging parents, running errands, moving them into senior living communities, helping them with doctors appointments and insurance, and spending a great deal of time helping them navigate their lives as they aged. She began to think about herself and the many others without children, “Who is going to do that for us?”

“At least 70% of people are going to need some kind of assistance as they get older,” she explained, but solo agers won’t have adult children to help them with it. “We have a situation coming in 10 or 15 years that is going to take both the senior living industry and the government to help resolve.”

Sara Geber coined the term “Solo Ager.” She is the foremost thought leader in solo aging and is passionate about creating change in senior housing. More than anything, Sara wants to drag baby boomers out of their denial of aging and point them toward positive planning. Learn more about Sara Zeff Geber at Nexus Insights.

 

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Bringing together different perspectives with a common passon

Bringing Together Different Perspectives with a Common Passion

Nexus Insights is a think tank comprised of a diverse group of thought leaders and stakeholders in aging and health care (Nexus Fellows) with a shared vision to advance the well-being of older adults through innovative models of housing, community and health care. The goal of Nexus Insights is to affect change by sharing innovation across traditional silos, convening leaders from different perspectives in our Nexus Voices salons, and bringing positive, life-affirming ideas into the public domain.

What makes Nexus Insights truly unique is the diversity of our Fellows. We bring together different perspectives and different backgrounds, leaders with expertise in academic research, government policy, private sector startups, and successful businesses serving older adults. It’s the diversity of perspectives, together with the common passion, that drive the disruptive thinking within Nexus.

Bob Kramer is broadly recognized as one of senior living’s most influential and high-profile thought leaders and connectors. With over 35 years of industry leadership, he has earned the reputation of “agent provocateur” in the seniors housing and care industry and aging services field. He has been described as an ice-cutter and scout in identifying industries and trends that will disrupt the future of seniors housing, aging services, and aging more broadly. Learn more about Bob Kramer at Nexus Insights.

 

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Aging in Place to Aging in Community

From Aging in Place to Aging in Community: A 2020 Virtual Talk by Dr. Sara Zeff Geber

Aging in place can be a recipe for isolation and loneliness, according to solo aging expert and Nexus Fellow, Sara Zeff Geber, PhD. In a 2020 virtual presentation, she explains the risks, which include cognitive decline, depression, high blood pressure and more. The result? A decreased quality of life.

According to Geber, there are three types of loneliness:

  • Intimate/Emotional: Longing for a close confidante or intimate partner;
  • Relational/Social: Yearning for quality friendships and social companionship;
  • Collective: Hunger for a network or community of people who share a sense of purpose and interests.

In her presentation, Geber also explains:

  • What makes us happy in later life;
  • The importance of relationships and where they come from;
  • Opportunities to build community;
  • How building community can lead you to the right place to age.

Watch the full presentation:

The event was co-sponsored by Newton Free Library, 2Life Communities, Temple Shalom, and Newton Department of Senior Services.

 

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aging in place baby boomers

Why Boomers May (or May Not) Want to Age in Place

There are so many options between aging-in-place and a nursing home. Open-minded baby boomers should explore them all.

While many people plan to “age in place” and remain in their homes, it isn’t always the best plan, the best location, or the best house. It may not even be an option in later years when unexpected health or mobility issues, or even loneliness, play a factor. Does that mean the only other option is a skilled nursing facility? Absolutely not. According to an op-ed written in the Sun-Sentinel by Nexus Fellows Ryan Frederick and Sara Zeff Geber, PhD, other options include “age-friendly apartments, active adult communities, independent living senior communities, home-sharing, co-housing and accessible dwelling units (ADUs).”

What makes a place the right place, or the best place, when it comes to a happy life? Purpose, engagement, and social connection, according to findings from the Rush Memory and Aging Project. Frederick and Geber go on to explain how policymakers can support this, and how Boomers can make the right choice for their “bonus” years, the 21 years beyond retirement.

Read the full piece, ‘Aging in Place’ is not a plan. It’s denial – and it ignores an opportunity.

Ryan Frederick and Sara Zeff Geber are fellows of Nexus Insights, a think tank advancing the well-being of older adults through innovative models of housing and healthcare. Frederick is the author of “Right Place, Right Time: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Home for the Second Half of Life (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021). Geber is the author of “Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers: A Retirement and Aging Roadmap for Single and Childless Adults” (Mango, 2018).

 

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Cost of Ageism in the United States

The Cost of Ageism in the United States

Ageism is not only painful for those it disadvantages, it’s also costly – an estimated $63 billion per year. Furthermore, it contributes to mental health issues and is the leading cause of suicide in older adults. At a time when people are living longer, healthier and more productive lives, the rest of society persists in seeing older people as obsolete. This is according to an article published in Seniors Matter.

Dr. Bill Thomas, a geriatrician and a Nexus Fellow, points out ageism in the United States in the documentary film The Roots and Consequences of Ageism in America. “Society holds up very young and inexperienced people as being the paragons of virtue and strength and idealizes them while setting aside real elders with real lived experience making them virtually invisible.”

“Ageism is common, but it doesn’t need to be inevitable,” says Erica Harrison, the author of the article, and expands on what can be done by individuals to change the narrative.

  • Be inclusive
  • Don’t make assumptions
  • Avoid ageist language
  • Call out ageism

Read the whole piece: Seniors Matter.

 

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The Increase of Solo Agers in America and What that Means for the Caregiving Industry

In a Forbes.com article written by solo aging expert and Nexus Fellow Sara Zeff Geber, we learn that childlessness has nearly doubled since the silent generation–and it’s compounding some existing problems. Geber discusses the various reasons why many more people of childbearing age in the 1970s decided against having children. In addition, she points out that many baby boomers approaching retirement age will lack the family caregiving options that previous generations had. 

Read the full article at Forbes

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A New Wrinkle on Aging – Jill Vitale-Aussem

In a recent blog post, Jill Vitale-Aussem, President & CEO of Christian Living Communities, describes how many women feel about aging–and it’s not good. Most times we focus on the negatives: the wrinkles, the aches and pains, the doctor appointments and so on. Fortunately, she has a more positive message to share, asking “what’s awesome about aging?” 

It turns out that while there are challenges that come with aging, there are also many upsides. Most older people agree that their lived experience makes them wiser than they used to be. There’s some evidence that older people are better able to see things from different perspectives than their younger counterparts and better able to find compromises. Studies also show that in our later years we are often just plain happier and have better well-being than when we were younger. 

Finally Vitale-Aussem reminds us that maintaining an attitude of gratitude is key. After all, she points out, “aging is just another word for living.” And living will be much more rewarding if we can focus on the positive aspects of life. 

Read the full article: https://www.christianlivingcommunities.org/blog/a-new-wrinkle-on-aging/ 

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