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Ageism and Ableism

The Pandemic is Exposing Ageism and Ableism — and that’s a good thing

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the nation’s older population. In the process, it has also brought ageism and ableism — discrimination on the basis of physical and cognitive function — into the spotlight. Writer and activist Ashton Applewhite, the author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, argues that this presents us with a unique opportunity to educate people about these two intertwined forms of bias, and to mobilize against them. 

Media coverage of anything aging-related has long been characterized by alarmist hand-wringing, the most egregious example being the gray tsunami metaphor. Coverage of the pandemic is no exception, given that some three quarters of COVID19-related deaths are of people over age 65, many occurring in nursing homes where the virus has run largely unchecked. Typical headlines read, “Ageism on the rise” and “Pandemic making ageism worse!” Don’t make the same mistake.

The pandemic isn’t generating more prejudice, it’s glaringly exposing the ageism and ableism that have been all around us all along. Because ageism is so unexamined, the pandemic is bringing it to many people’s attention for the first time. It’s not ageist and ableist attitudes and behaviors that are on the rise, it’s public awareness and outrage about this type of stigma and discrimination. That’s what’s new and here’s what makes it so exciting: we have a historic opportunity to build on that awareness.

Yes, there’s been awfulness, but there’s also been swift, fierce pushback: against the Telegraph journalist who suggested the virus could benefit the economy by “culling” older Britons; against the Boomer Remover nickname, the handiwork of clueless trolls; against the Texas Lieutenant Governor’s grotesque proposal that grandparents sacrifice themselves for the good of the economy. Supporting this kind of grassroots activism means framing the pandemic, in all its terror and uncertainty, as an unprecedented opportunity to join forces across age, race, and class and create a more equitable post-pandemic society.

The author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, Ashton Applewhite is a leading spokesperson for the emerging movement to raise awareness of ageism and to dismantle it. Ashton has been recognized by the New York Times, the New Yorker, National Public Radio, and the American Society on Aging as an expert on ageism. She blogs at This Chair Rocks and is the voice of Yo, Is This Ageist?  Ashton speaks widely at venues that have ranged from the United Nations to the TED mainstage, has written for Harper’s, the Guardian, and the New York Times, and is a co-founder of the Old School Anti-Ageism Clearinghouse.

This post first appeared on Ashton’s This Chair Rocks blog. 

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Bob Kramer speaks on senior living post-covid at Living Well

Bob Kramer Speaks on Aging and Senior Living Post-COVID-19 at Living Well

“We’ve all learned lessons, painfully, during this pandemic,” said Bob Kramer, Founder & Fellow for Nexus Insights, and Co-founder and Strategic Advisor at NIC. “Let’s seize the opportunity from the crisis so we can say we learned from it, and we won’t be here a year or two from now saying that nothing is different.”

Kramer was speaking as part of a panel at Living Well, a forum to advance important aging-related issues that is hosted annually by A.G. Rhodes. This year’s event, which was held virtually for the first time, addressed the topic Aging and Senior Living Post-COVID-19. A.G. Rhodes is a top nursing home provider of senior rehab services and long-term care in Atlanta and Marietta, and one of Atlanta’s oldest nonprofit organizations.

Kramer was joined on the panel by Becky Kurtz, Director of the Atlanta Area Agency on Aging, Elise Eplan, Founder & Principal of The Eplan Group, and Deke Cateau, CEO of A.G. Rhodes. The panel was moderated by Jocelyn Dorsey, Former WSB-TV Broadcast Manager and Member of the A.G. Rhodes Board of Directors.

The discussion addressed a number of important issues facing senior living administrators today, including the role of leaders in managing the crisis, response to issues of safety and social isolation and how to balance the two, the challenges of aging infrastructure for infection prevention in skilled nursing facilities, as well as the importance of transparency in addressing problems spotlighted by the pandemic.

The discussion also highlighted some of the silver linings from the pandemic, such as the impact of vaccines, and the new spotlight on the issue of loneliness. “One benefit of this horrible pandemic is that it has brought empathy to the issue of social isolation and loneliness for older adults. I can now talk to any college student and they will get it, because they too miss getting together with their friends,” Kramer observed.

View the discussion:

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Five Predictions for Senior Living Trends authors

5 Predictions for Senior Living Trends in 2021

In 2020, COVID-19 slammed many industries, but the hardest hit was definitely senior living.

But 2021 offers leaders in this industry several unique opportunities to turn the corner. An immediate need is to prevent additional infections and make communities safer, in part through effective distribution of vaccines. However, even as senior living executives manage the ongoing crisis, they must build towards the future. The pandemic didn’t create many of the problems that are now being spotlighted as glaring issues in the senior housing world. We are now at a crossroads, a perfect opportunity to renew the mission of senior living.

We predict five trends will be critical to Senior Living in 2021. Will your organization seize the moment or miss the boat?

1 – Digital Transformation

Prediction 1 - Digital Transformation

Our industry has lagged behind most when it comes to technology. This is no longer an option. The COVID crisis showed that assisted living properties, independent living communities, and skilled nursing facilities must have cutting-edge digital systems for three purposes:

  • Peace of Mind – Residents must be able to communicate from their rooms with facility staff and with family members, even amid lockdowns. Not just audio connections, but video links that prove loved ones are OK.
  • Care Delivery – What used to be “way out there” has become normal. Doctors and other health professionals can use videoconferencing and other tools to diagnose and monitor residents. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is not only paying for telehealth – CMS is encouraging it.
  • Connection – COVID taught us that physical distancing cannot become social isolation. When disease outbreaks require residents to remain in their rooms, digital activities must replace in-person gatherings. The alternative is depression, aggravated health conditions and rapid decline.

2 – Onsite Healthcare Delivery – With Partners

Prediction 2 - Onsite Healthcare Delivery - with Partners

Healthcare at many senior living communities has long amounted to a van shuttling residents to the doctor’s office or an ambulance ferrying sick residents to the hospital. But this approach caused fear during COVID, given the risks of contracting the disease in hospital settings.

Residents and families will not stand for such physical outsourcing of care anymore. And there is another way. Healthcare services can be delivered onsite where seniors live.

The key is partnerships. During the pandemic, many senior living organizations forged relationships with local providers, who sent healthcare professionals into assisted living and independent living communities. Those same providers can offer remote, digital care to residents as technology systems improve.

3 – Trust Through Transparency – and Data

Prediction 3 - Trust through transparency - and data

Besides elderly Americans dying by the tens of thousands, another casualty of COVID has been trust in senior living organizations. The industry’s black eye isn’t entirely fair. COVID is most lethal to those over 75 with underlying health conditions, which describes the overwhelming majority of senior living residents. What’s more, the media sometimes lumps together outdated and overwhelmed nursing homes with upscale independent living companies.

Still, leading senior living providers will proactively rebuild confidence among residents, family members and the public. Transparency is key.

Any company with a congregate living setting has to be willing to publish real-time information on such matters as COVID infection rates, and deaths, risk mitigation protocols, employee vaccination practices and staffing policies.

4 – Workplace Culture and Servant Leadership – at the Fore

Prediction 4 - Workplace culture and servant leadership - at the Fore

Too many companies in the industry treat workplace culture as a “soft” “nice to have.” That’s a risky approach today. Data from Activated Insights and Great Place to Work shows that the Best Workplaces in Aging Services have lower turnover rates and better care outcomes.

During the COVID pandemic, reliable staffing and sound care have been more critical then ever. Not only to get sick residents needed treatment, but to avoid instances of neglect that ruin reputations.

A great culture is one where staff members feel pride, experience camaraderie and trust leaders. To cultivate that trust, managers and executives must practice “servant leadership” – seeing yourself not as the “superior” but the kidn of boss who will step in to serve meals and unclog toilets as well as to address the family concerns staff often bring with them to work. Humility is the new superpower.

5 – A New Story for Senior Living – and Society Overall

Prediction 5 - A New Story for Senior Living - and Society Overall

In recent decades, our industry has gravitated to a message focused on caregiving. We’ve lost our aspirational north star – that residents in our communities have much to contribute and can feel deeply alive in their later years. COVID gives us a chance to reframe our value proposition and mission.

The new story for senior living has to be about meaning, human connection and community in addition to care. This means redefining our activity directors as “purpose matchmakers,” breaking down the walls that make our complexes a form of “senior apartheid” and looking for language that moves us away from the “declinist” narrative of old-age.

We can turn outside our industry for help. Even as COVID devastated many of our senior communities, it caused you people to empathize in new ways with their older neighbors. And elders are a vital resources to help America recover from COVID – already, they are serving as tutors to help close education gaps that have widened during the pandemic.

The Five Predictions Infographic

Five Predictions for Senior Living Trends 2021

Click to download as pdf

 

Dr. Jacquelyn Kung is CEO of Activated Insights, the senior care partner of workplace culture authority Great Place to Work. Robert G. Kramer is founder of think tank Nexus Insights and former CEO of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), a resource for data and analytics for the senior housing and care industry. Ed Frauenheim is co-author of several books on workplace culture, including A Great Place to Work for All

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Dallas Morning News Senior Living and COVID

Nexus Insights Fellows offer 5-point plan for fixing the post-COVID senior living industry

“COVID-19 gave the senior living industry a black eye.”

That is the opening statement of a provocative op-ed piece in The Dallas Morning News by Jacquelyn Kung, CEO of Senior Care Group at Activated Insights and a Nexus Insights Fellow, with Nexus Insights Founder and Fellow Robert G. Kramer and author Ed Frauenheim.

“Few industries have been as wounded by COVID-19 as the senior housing and care sector,” the article claims. It goes on to say, “The statistics are eye-popping. ‘Residents of long-term care facilities constitute less than 1% of the U.S. population, yet 43% of all COVID-19 deaths through June occurred in those places,’ AARP Bulletin reported in December. ‘The number has changed little since.’”

But the op-ed, entitled, “How the senior living industry can heal itself and all of us” provides both hope and a game plan for helping the industry recover.

The authors, all veteran observers of the senior living industry, offer five practical solutions for “repairing and renewing the industry.”

Read the full article here.

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Bob Kramer Challenges Traditional Aging Models - Eden Alternative Live

Nexus Insights’ Bob Kramer Will Challenge Traditional Aging Models in an Online Eden Alternative Live Presentation

Nexus Insights President Bob Kramer will be challenging traditional approaches to aging and aging services in a live, online event hosted by The Eden Alternative. The event, which is free to attend, will stream live on Facebook and YouTube on May 6th at 3:30PM Eastern Time.

Kramer will be joined by Jill Vitale-Aussem, President and CEO of The Eden Alternative, for a discussion on ‘Rethinking Aging and Aging Services.’ Kramer and Vitale-Aussem, who recently joined Nexus Insights in the role of Advisor, will share insights on how COVID has impacted the senior living industry, reflecting on both the permanent changes and the opportunities that might result both in and out of the field of aging and aging services.

Vitale-Aussem describes Kramer, the founder and former CEO of The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), as “one of senior living’s most influential thought leaders.” She says, “We’re thrilled to have Bob Kramer join us on our Eden Alternative Live show. Bob’s voice and vision are perfectly aligned with the Eden Alternative’s work to disrupt the traditional framework of aging services, and drive empowered cultures of purpose, growth, meaning and belonging.”

Less than a month ago, amidst the virus chaos and coverage, serial entrepreneur Kramer recognized a terrific failing for the underserved senior population, which spurred the creation of Nexus Insights. The company leverages industry thought leaders and experts to help organizations think about, plan for and engage staff for their role in the future of our older adults and the world in which they thrive.

“The latent and blatant ageism portrayed in response to COVID-19 was a clear signal that we need to think differently about aging and the role of older adults,” says Kramer. “Nexus will lead organizations through the development of actionable, person-centered models which will reflect equally how we engage with older adults and how they engage with us.”

The Eden Alternative is an international, non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to creating quality of life for Elders and their care partners, wherever they may live. Their mission is to improve the lives of the Elder and their Care Partners by transforming the communities where they live and work.

The live event is free to attend and will be broadcast live to Facebook and YouTube. These platforms allow people to join and watch in real time, engage in real time dialogue and ask questions during the event. Those unable to join during the event can view a recording later, and will still have the opportunity to comment and ask questions. 

Bob Kramer Challenges Traditional Aging Models - Eden Alternative Live May 6

Rethinking Aging and Aging Services
Wednesday, May 6th, 3:30pm ET/12:30pm PT
Event link: https://bit.ly/2L0J1f7

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