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Jacquelyn Kung and Bob Kramer discuss surprises about Senior Living during the pandemic

Foresight TV Recap: The Counterintuitive Way to Attract More Move-Ins

The media has gotten it wrong when it comes to its coverage of senior living, particularly during the pandemic. 

“There’s a stereotype that older adults, especially those living in any type of senior living community, have lost all independent agency. So that feeds the perception, the sense that in the midst of COVID, they’re desperately lonely, desperately afraid,” said Bob Kramer, Founder and Fellow of Nexus Insights. “There’s no common perception that they, too, could rise to a crisis, just like we see other people in society do.” 

Senior Living Foresight publisher Steve Moran hosted Kramer and Jacquelyn Kung, Nexus Fellow and CEO of Activated Insights, in a recent episode of Foresight TV entitled “The Counterintuitive Way to Attract More Move-Ins.” 

“Media tends to write stories that reinforce what journalists feel, or what they believe their audience feels, and add facts to magnify those feelings,” said Kung. 

But it’s more than just the media, according to Kramer, “All of us quickly fall into believing in stereotypes, and parroting them. That narrative doesn’t get it right at all. And that’s what we’re trying to address, with the rich data that Jacquelyn and her team have collected at Activated Insights.”

Activated Insights has been surveying senior living residents and their families since 2018. These surveys provide insights into the actual experiences that residents and their families have with congregate living. Their experiences during the COVID pandemic and shutdown are surprisingly different from the national perception. 

One of the surprising findings: When looking at the incidence of loneliness in congregate settings, specifically senior living, the Activated Insights research found that just under 20% of seniors counted themselves as very lonely. 

“I think the image over the last year-and-a-half is that everyone in a senior living community is feeling trapped and lonely,” reported Kung. “But 4 out of 5 seniors are not feeling like that.”

Even more surprising? Prior to COVID, the incidence of loneliness among senior living residents was 26-27%, higher than what was found during the pandemic shutdown.

“It’s not that we’re saying there aren’t some very lonely and scared seniors in our senior living communities,” Kramer added. “But the perception that all seniors are feeling terrified, trapped and lonely isn’t borne out by what the data show. We’re all quick to jump onto stereotypes, and sometimes those stereotypes miss what’s truly going on. We want to get that contrarian message out.”

“Providers believe they know how their residents feel, because they hear from them every day,” she added. “But do they hear from everybody? No.” – Jacquelyn Kung

According to Kung, prior to the pandemic, resident survey responses frequently focused on “the usual: the food, the seasoning, the staff.” But during the pandemic, “The comments were an outpouring of community and belonging,” as well as gratitude for being in the community, and gratitude for feeling safe. “This isn’t what the media is covering about the pandemic,” she said.

The two pointed out that now, when the industry is particularly stressed, the data provide insights into how to attract people to live in a congregate setting. The important stories to tell are those about the sense of being safe, of belonging, and being part of the community. “It’s contrary to the perception,” said Kung.

“Providers believe they know how their residents feel, because they hear from them every day,” she added. “But do they hear from everybody? No. And providers are often surprised at the results when they finally survey everyone. When you don’t actually ask people, then you may be working on the wrong things. You may not be working on things that actually matter to your customers. How do we delight and provide quality experiences for our customers and their families? It’s by hearing from everyone, and not just a few who come to you.”

Listen to the full episode.

Jacquelyn Kung is the CEO of Activated Insights and a Nexus Insights Fellow. Bob Kramer is the Founder and Fellow of Nexus Insights. He is the co-founder, Strategic Advisor, and former CEO of NIC. Steve Moran is Publisher of Senior Living Foresight.

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Seniors in group living situations are less lonely and more optimistic

Seniors in group living centers are feeling less lonely now and more optimistic

By Jacquelyn Kung, Robert G. Kramer and Ed Frauenheim

Contrary to popular opinion, recent studies show that older adults are not languishing in lonely isolation. “In fact, a large percentage of seniors in our communities are not lonely,” said Robert Kramer, Founder and Fellow of Nexus Insights and Strategic Advisor for NIC. “The common perceptions —  they’re wrong, ageist and miss the hopefulness of seniors in their finding a sense of community, even in the midst of the pandemic.”

In the past, we have seen people come together during national emergencies “to form communities around a common threat and a common need,” Kramer explained. “The one group we don’t expect it from at all are older adults in senior living communities —  but they are, and they are demonstrating it,” Kramer said.

Authors Jacquelyn Kung, Robert Kramer and Ed Frauenheim point to our elders as role models for healing the nation, and showing us how to live more fully than ever, in their recent column in the Dallas Morning News.


Our poor elders.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, and media coverage of seniors, you might think basically all seniors today are traumatized and lonely, right?

Wrong.

The stereotype of isolated, forlorn elders belies recent surveys of older adults in senior living settings.

Just 20% of senior living residents are severely lonely, according to a new 64,000-person survey from software firm Activated Insights. In fact, this survey of seniors in assisted living and other congregate living settings reveals a potential decline in loneliness among elders in retirement communities from before the pandemic. Prior studies before the pandemic of community-dwelling older adults found higher rates of loneliness.

We would argue that we as a country have a biased — and potentially ageist — narrative when it comes to elders living in congregate settings.

In fact, we should learn from the resilience of elders in the face of formidable challenges.

The stereotype of isolated, forlorn elders belies recent surveys of older adults in senior living settings.

Granted, the recent Activated Insights survey does not include most nursing homes, where particularly frail elders live. And the number of older adults in senior living settings overall, roughly 2 million people, is a fraction of the total U.S. senior population.

Still, the new research offers inspiration to the rest of the county as we work to construct our post-COVID reality and battle what some have deemed widespread languishing.

A key lesson from our elders in this moment is the power of community, friendship and gratitude.

Consider Patricia Finick of Dallas, co-author Jacquelyn Kung’s mother-in-law. By any measure, the 81-year-old has been through a lot. Her husband of more than 50 years died in 2019. After sitting in an empty home for half a year, she chose to sell her house in Connecticut, 20 minutes from where she was born, and relocate to Dallas.

In January 2020, she moved into Highland Springs, a senior living community in North Dallas. Finick swapped a 2,200-square-foot home for a 900-square-foot apartment. And then COVID-19 swooped in, isolating her in her new home before she had a chance to meet new friends.

Despite a very difficult year, Finick doesn’t feel beaten down in this moment. No, life is looking more hopeful to her. And she’s excited about engaging in more activities. “As long as my legs will let me, I’m going to go out and do it,” she says. “And if my legs don’t work well, I can get a walker.”

A key lesson from our elders in this moment is the power of community, friendship and gratitude.

One key to her optimism is her Catholic faith. Another is her set of friends, both long-standing phone buddies as well as some new friends she has met at Highland Springs over the past year. She’s part of a breakfast club, a group of residents who gather most mornings. “They’re really, really friendly, and we have a lot of laughs together,” Finick says.

Finick’s contentment is echoed by other residents of senior living settings, according to the Activated Insights survey of residents and family members during the first half of this year.

Many elders in these settings expressed gratitude, both for the sense of belonging they experience and for the caring they received from staff members of their communities.

Consider these survey comments from seniors:

“I’m more than satisfied with life. I feel safe and am especially grateful for the careful response to COVID-19. Gratitude and blessings.”

“(I had) a feeling of safety during a time of great vulnerability. Having the opportunity to make new friends helps a lot.”

These aren’t cherry-picked quotes. Before COVID, when asked for comments about the best thing about the senior living community, 20% or fewer responses were about belonging, community, appreciating the staff and being safe. This year, though, 60% to 70% of “best thing” comments mentioned those themes.

As a nation, America could use a booster shot of resilience. Observers note a kind of COVID hangover, or apathy.

Seniors in congregate settings, who in some ways bore the brunt of the pandemic, offer guidance for a brighter path forward. These older adults may be more willing than younger Americans to acknowledge our interdependence as human beings, experiencing the support they receive not with resentment but appreciation.

Far from feeling fearful, sad and isolated, seniors are showing us how to live more fully than ever.

A few months ago in The News, we authors urged the country to rethink how we view senior citizens and engage elders in the work of healing the nation.

The latest data suggests seniors are already doing this work. Far from feeling fearful, sad and isolated, many of them are showing us how to live more fully than ever.

Patricia Finick, for one, looks forward to more dinners and concerts with her new friends. Together, they are eager to put the last vestiges of the pandemic behind them.

Says Finick: “There is a whole world out there to explore.”

Read the article.

Jacquelyn Kung is CEO of Activated Insights and a Nexus Insights Fellow.

Robert G. Kramer is a Nexus Insights Founder and Fellow, and Strategic Advisor & former CEO of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care (NIC).

Ed Frauenheim is co-author of several books on organizational culture, including “A Great Place to Work for All.”

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Relief ahead for health care worker burnout

Relief Ahead: HHS Funds 3-Year Program to Reduce Health Care Worker Burnout

Another cost of the COVID-19 pandemic? Caregiver burnout. Research firm Activated Insights conducted a two-year survey of 330 senior living and care workers. The results? “Worker burnout increased substantially during the pandemic at independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing facilities,” according to a report by McKnight’s Senior Living.

One of the surprising findings is that burnout declined by 12% for home care workers. 

In a conversation with McKnight’s Home Care Daily. Activated Insights CEO and Nexus Fellow Jacquelyn Kung suggested an explanation for the decline. Home care agencies “have adapted very quickly and are supporting their employees a lot more than they have in the past.” 

The good news? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced $103 million in funding for a three-year program to Strengthen Resiliency and battle worker Burnout. 

Worker burnout increased substantially during the pandemic at independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing facilities.”

“It is essential that we provide behavioral health resources for our healthcare providers — from paraprofessional to public safety officers, so that they can continue to deliver quality care to our most vulnerable communities,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the announcement.

The McKnight’s report went on to say, “In awarding the money, HHS said healthcare providers face many challenges and stresses due to high patient volumes, long hours and workplace demands during normal time. During the pandemic, those challenges were amplified and had a disproportionate impact on rural communities and communities of color.”

Read the full article.

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Nexus Insights Fellows News 2021

Nexus Fellows Flash Bulletin: June 2021

The Nexus Fellows are leaders in the aging industry, helping to shape public policy and redefine aging and aging services. From books to podcasts, here’s a sample of some of the work they’ve been doing in the past month:

  • Jay Newton-Small, CEO of MemoryWell, is wrapping up a second year of their joint contest for Hilarity for Charity, Seth and Lauren Miller Rogen’s Alzheimer’s charity and Humans of Dementia Storytelling Competition. It’s a competition for high school and college students to write the best profile of someone living with Alzheimer’s. Winners will have the chance to meet Seth and Lauren Rogen during the virtual celebration. Additionally, MemoryWell has added three new members to their team.
  • Jacquelyn Kung, CEO of Senior Care Group at Activated Insights, was interviewed by Skip Lineberg, host of The Main Thing Podcast, about elder care, and her passion to improve the aging experience. “The main thing I’ve learned in my lifetime so far is that getting older is what you make of it. And I see it as full of good news. Socially, we get happier as we get older, and the research shows that.”
  • Jill Vitale-Aussem, president and CEO of Christian Living Communities, sat down with Senior Housing Investors Podcast to talk about her book, “Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift.”
  • Sarah Thomas, CEO of Delight by Design, delivered the keynote on designing products and services for the aging population with Chief Medical Office of AARP, DR Charlotte Yeh. Additionally, she moderated two panels featuring the important work of seven agetech startups at the Rehab Tech Summit mini-Summit. Thomas was an expert judge at the AOTA 2021 Inventors Showcase, where 11 startups pitched their innovative products designed to serve people across the lifespan. The winner designed a novel gait belt that improves the safety of caregivers and residents in senior living and beyond.
  • Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of The Eden Alternative, The Green House Project, and Minka, recently traveled the country, talking with elders and their care partners in more than 125 cities. He learned about their hopes and fears, and listened to their stories. What did he discover? That people want better alternatives for senior living. “It turns out that older people pretty much want what everyone else wants: to belong to a community that includes people of all ages and remain connected to the living world,” Thomas said.
  • Nexus Founder & Fellow, and NIC Strategic Advisor, Bob Kramer, has joined the Edenbridge Health Board of Advisors to help expand access to comprehensive, integrated, community-based and person-centered care for the frail elderly through innovative applications of the PACE Program.
  • In the blog post, “Just Move It,” CEO of SmartLiving 360, Ryan Frederick talks about the importance of physical exercise for older adults. “Inactivity is the fourth leading cause of death and about 1.5 billion people in the world are inactive to the point that it risks their long-term health. At a health care conference several years ago, four recent surgeon generals were asked for one tip for successful aging. They coalesced on one word: move.”
  • Nexus Fellow Kelsey Mellard, CEO of Sitka, sat down with Sanjula Jain Jo on Her Story for a candid conversation about being a healthcare leader and her transition from the Midwest to DC to Silicon Valley, building a resilient team, and overcoming challenges.
  • Longevity economy expert, Jody Holtzman, formerly of AARP is proud to be on the advisory board of Intuition Robotics, which is mitigating loneliness among older adults with the companion robot ElliQ. “The growing mismatch between the number of people in need of caregivers and the availability of caregivers is a multifaceted challenge for individual families and society more broadly. Technology must be part of the solution. Companion robots like ElliQ and others in this space, like my friends at Joy for All/Ageless Innovation, have an important role to play.”
  • Caroline Pearson, Senior VP of Health Care Strategy at NORC at the University of Chicago, announced the release of new research from NIC and NORC that looks at the impact of the pandemic on seniors by care setting. “Mortality rates increase by complexity of care, but, in lower acuity settings such as independent living communities, they are comparable to surrounding populations.”

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Dr. Jacquelyn Kung on The Main Thing podcast

Aging Into Happiness – Dr. Jacquelyn Kung 

“We get happier as we get older,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Kung, CEO of Activated Insights, and a Nexus Insights Fellow. Kung was recently interviewed by Skip Lineberg, host of The Main Thing Podcast, about elder care, and her passion to improve the aging experience.

The main thing I’ve learned in my lifetime so far is that getting older is what you make of it. And I see it as full of good news,” said Kung. Research from the University of Chicago shows that from the 50s onwards, into the 80s, happiness increases. “Socially, we get happier as we get older, and the research shows that.” 

Mentally, people do lose recall memory, which allows them to remember particular words, or people’s names, “That does go out the window when we age,” she said. Recognition memory, however, remembering faces or the situations we’ve been in together, stays pretty constant through life.

As for physical decline, Kung said that a lot of people think of aging and physical decline as synonymous. “If we don’t stay physically active, then we do physically decline. But when we stay active, walking or exercising, there isn’t that physical decline as much as we think.”

“Getting older is what you make of it. And I see it as full of good news.”

Kung said that her passion for working in aging services began when she was a child, living across the street from a nursing home. “There were lots of people sitting around in their wheelchairs, waiting for people to come to visit them, and I realized I could help.” She began by volunteering in that nursing home. Over the course of her career, she continues to see many ways to help. “What I’ve learned since then is that there are huge opportunities to improve aging in the US.”

Kung’s company, Activated Insights, is a technology company that supports better employee and customer experiences for aging service providers. It provides intelligence, services, and insights to people who run assisted living communities. “If you’re not happy with your score in one place or another,” said Kung, “we have a set of software tools to help you get better.”

Listen to the podcast:

Dr. Jacquelyn Kung has worked in senior care for nearly 30 years, first as a nursing home volunteer then caregiver. Her team now works tirelessly to bring innovation and ideas to Activated Insights’s 4,000 partner locations. Dr. Kung is the CEO of the Senior Care Group at Activated Insights, a Great Place to Work Company.

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Update on Nexus Fellow May 21s

Nexus Fellow Flash Bulletin: May 2021

As the United States shifts gears from pandemic crisis management to a new post-COVID normal, we must now deal with the aftermath and identify what went wrong and what we can do better. Issues of transparency and loneliness in nursing homes linger. Large corporations that once were oblivious to the older population have found a new market. How will we address the age-old problem of social connection for those who are still isolated, a problem seniors have faced for decades? The entire industry, the way we view older adults, the options for living independently and the implementation of technology, must all be urgently addressed and thoughtfully designed into an actionable plan for the future of aging and longevity.

Our Fellows continue to strive for innovation and reform. Here’s what they’ve been up to:

NEWS:

  • Nexus Fellow David Grabowski, was quoted in an article by the Associated Press on nursing homes’ requirement to report COVID-19 vaccinations at nursing homes. “This is an important development that is months overdue,” said David Grabowski, a Harvard health policy professor who has tracked the industry’s struggles with the outbreak. “Many of us argued that this information should have been published starting in December when the federal long-term care vaccination effort began.”

 

  • Dr. Bill Thomas, Nexus Fellow and creator of The Eden Alternative, Minka, and the Green House Project, is helping value-based care innovator Lifesprk (which acquired Tealwood Senior Living.) Dr. Thomas will be leading the efforts to combine the two companies’ operations. He has also created Kallimos Communities, new multi-generational communities with small dwellings clustered around shared green space. Additionally, he has a new project he’s working on with Signature Healthcare — currently called “Canopy” — a cluster of small ADA-accessible houses built close together.

 

  • Bob Kramer, Founder and Fellow of Nexus Insights, was interviewed by Nancy Griffin for SeniorTrade Blog. He defines 5 Boomerville Segments likely to flourish in the future: Wellnessville, where residents will focus on healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise; Margaritaville, resort-style independent living (Minto Communities’ Latitude Margaritaville has three wait-listed locations with more in development); Serviceville, where the emphasis is on volunteerism, mentorship and giving back; Collegeville, where residents focus on continued learning in a communal living environment, and Changeville, for those concerned with making a difference in the world and creating a legacy.

 

  • Preordering is now available for “Right Place, Right Time, a book by Nexus Fellow and CEO of SmartLiving 360, Ryan Frederick. “Place plays a significant yet often unacknowledged role in health and happiness. The right place elevates personal well-being. It can help promote purpose, facilitate human connection, catalyze physical activity, support financial health, and inspire community engagement.”

 

  • Nexus Fellow Kelsey Mellard, CEO of Sitka, sat down with Sanjula Jain Jo on Her Story for a candid conversation about being a healthcare leader and her transition from the Midwest to DC to Silicon Valley, building a resilient team, and overcoming challenges.

 

  • Will seniors continue to buy groceries online post-pandemic? Nexus Fellow Jody Holtzman, longevity economy expert, formerly of AARP, thinks seniors will split their shopping, using online for staples such as canned goods and going into stores for fresh foods. Some senior consumers claim it’s a social outlet for them. “As the necessity imposed by the pandemic lessens,” Holtzman says, “retailers will have to start to play the price game.” Read more at Blomberg.com.

 

Out and About:

  • Jill Vitale-Aussem, president and CEO of Christian Living Communities, and Nexus Insights Fellow, recently spoke at a session, “Finding success in increasing diversity and inclusion,” at the 2021 Women of Distinction educational webinar. We’d also like to congratulate Jill on joining the SeniorTrade Advisory Board.

Jill Vitale-Aussem joins SeniorTrade Advisory Board

  • On June 30, Nexus Fellow Sara Zeff Geber will be joining experts and thought leaders in the areas of aging, retirement and thriving for the “Boomers Thriving After the Pandemic” virtual summit, hosted by Wendy Green from Hey, Boomer. Other speakers include Helen Dennis and John Tarnoff. Part of the proceeds will go to Meals on Wheels Greenville and The Walk to End Alzheimer’s. For more info visit the virtual summit’s Eventbrite page.

Sara Zeff Geber on Hey Boomer

  • Sarah Thomas, CEO of Delight by Design and Nexus Fellow, recently presented at the Rehab Tech Summit sponsored by AARP Innovations Labs. She spoke about designing for all, including age tech, universal design, living with purpose and designing beautiful products for everyone at every age.

 

COMPANIES ON THE MOVE:

  • Jay Newton-Small, CEO of MemoryWell, is growing MemoryWell. After a successful capital raise, she’s been adding some amazing new talent to her team including Sarah Jones from Healthsense, GreatCall and Best Buy Health.

 

  • Jacquelyn Kung, CEO of Senior Care Group at Activated Insights, is working with her team to create recognition programs for senior care providers, based on their resident and family surveys. The goal is to tie the data to outcomes and impact metrics, and to use machine learning to identify patterns in those who improve to apply across a broader population of providers.

 

NEW RESEARCH:

 

 

VIDEO DISCUSSIONS:

 

 

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Nexus Fellow

Nexus Fellow Flash Bulletin – March 2021

COVID has caused dramatic disruption in our education and healthcare systems and long term care environments. We wear masks, we distance, we stay home. So what have we learned? How can we come out stronger on the other side? Despite the massive challenges and barriers to implementation, there is a strong sense of hope on the horizon.

“Out of the tragedy of COVID, there are a lot of silver linings, a lot of good things we’re learning. 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.” Nexus Founder & Fellow, Bob Kramer

While the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the seniors housing and long-term care industry, it’s also shed a big spotlight on this industry like never before. And that has advantages. After all, how could anyone identify a problem if they aren’t looking. People are paying attention now, and if we take this opportunity and make the changes needed, the senior living and long-term care industry will vastly improve post-pandemic.

Our Nexus Fellows are front and center. They’re experts, thinkers and entrepreneurs, bringing fresh ideas and important insights to the industry at this critical time. 

What’s the latest? Here’s a Nexus Fellow Flash Bulletin:

  • Bob Kramer, Founder and Fellow of Nexus Insights joined Jocelyn Dorsey, Becky Kurtz, Elise Eplan and Deke Cateau on a panel last month for A.G. Rhodes Living Well-Virtual to discuss the stark realities of what is happening with COVID19, aging, and in the senior housing world. “What became clear in our conversation is that, despite the overwhelming challenges and difficulty in pandemic protocols and vaccine strategies, there was a sense of hope throughout.
  • Nexus Fellow Kelsey Mellard, CEO of Sitka, announced that Sitka has raised $14 million in Series A financing led by Venrock, with participation from existing investors Optum Ventures, Homebrew, First Round Capital, and Lifeforce Capital. This round of funding will enable Sitka to accelerate product development and expand growth with new and existing partners.
  • Jill Vitale-Aussem, president and CEO of Christian Living Communities, and Nexus Insights Fellow, was featured in a McKnight’s Senior Living piece on how the senior living industry needs to change. “We need meaningful purpose in our lives. We don’t need to live in a hotel. We need to belong…to continue growing and learning…I am a huge proponent of shifting our thinking of residents as customers, which really creates helplessness, and moving to a model of citizenship”
  • In an op-ed piece in The Dallas Morning News, Jacquelyn Kung, CEO of Senior Care Group at Activated Insights and a Nexus Insights Fellow, with Nexus Insights Founder and Fellow Bob Kramer and author Ed Frauenheim offered five practical solutions for “repairing and renewing the industry.”
  • In a recent interview, Nexus Fellow Jody Holtzman cited four important trends to consider as we embark on a rebuild of a broken industry. Three of them are driving a changing view of health: the expanding holistic view of health that started with a focus on social determinants; the growing list of non-traditional supplemental benefits reimbursed by CMS; and, the increasing centrality of the home as the locus of health, care, and connected living. These are tempered however by a counter-trend: the slow uptake and limited usage of new supplemental benefits.
  • In a recent article for the journal Health Affairs, Nexus Fellow David Grabowski, along with Charlene Harrington, Anne Montgomery, Dr. Terris King, Sc.D., and Mike Wasserman, discussed recommendations for changes to public policy that would “make ownership, management, and financing more transparent and accountable to improve US nursing home care.”
  • In his latest piece on the SmartLiving 360 blog, Nexus Fellow Ryan Frederick explains that while Zillow provides comprehensive information about homes to purchase or rent, it can’t answer the question of what happens when you lose electricity and water for days, as happened in Texas recently. Whether neighbors come together as a community to help each other through the crisis has a big impact on whether you’ve chosen the right place to live.
  • Sarah Thomas, CEO of Delight by Design and Nexus Fellow, was keynote speaker at the Rehab Tech Summit in February. In her speech titled, Designing the Future: Creating Your Own Path Through a Lens of Innovation, she said,  “It’s time we challenge our own views on aging. As we design products, services, spaces and communities we must design for ALL. Our designs should delight our consumers at every age. It was such a pleasure to share my professional journey that has taken me around the world changing the global perspectives on aging.”
  • Caroline Pearson recently completed a project looking at consumer experience measures for Medicare Advantage plans. The report recommendations holding plans accountable for aspects of consumer experience that are meaningful to beneficiaries and within the health plans’ control to improve. Caroline’s team at NORC continues to examine the impact of COVID-19 on older adults in seniors housing. Look for their report due out soon.
  • Dr. Bill Thomas will be featured in the 30th Annual Aging Well Conference hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Parkside Professional and Continuing Education Office on April 23 & 30. In his keynote, Dr. Thomas will deliver a multi-part interactive keynote “What if Everything we Know About Aging is Wrong?” followed by a Q&A session. In his breakout session “MAGIC:  Exploring Intergenerational Communities,” Dr. Thomas will share new concepts in Multi-Ability, Multi-Generational, Inclusive Communities that brings together people of different ages, abilities, and backgrounds.

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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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Events

LeadingAge Colorado

LeadingAge Colorado 2021 Assisted Living Virtual Conference

Thursday, October 14

9:00am – 9:05am MST
Opening Remarks

9:05-10:00am MST         
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Discussion
Idalia Hill, CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion Strategy & Operations Leader; Jacquelyn Kung, Activated Insights; Joell Siciliano, Sunrise Senior Living; Ali Edlestein, Sunrise Senior Living    Moderated by Anthony Ormsbee-Hale, Civitas Senior Living

The past few years have brought ever-increasing attention to diversity, equity and inclusion concerns in our society. Many assisted living providers, both here in Colorado and across the country, have taken steps to build a better understanding of diversity and inclusion among their constituencies. Join fellow thought leaders as they share the diversity and inclusion journeys communities have undertaken, and how that journey is enhancing the experience of residents and staff alike.

More info: https://www.leadingagecolorado.org/2021-assisted-living-conference

Argentum Senior Living - Better Together

Argentum – Igniting Your DE&I Journey

Over the last year, many organizations have made new or renewed commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Whether your organization has just begun a journey or wants to ignite a renewed commitment, the question remains – where do you start? Join this interactive panel to hear about the latest research, spark actionable ideas, and learn about resources and tools to support your organization’s DE&I strategy. During this panel discussion, you will:

  • Learn about the importance and value of building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace
  • Learn about the importance of leveraging data to build your DE&I strategy by first examining industry trends to help HR executives examine their own culture, practices, policies, and opportunities to build an intentional DE&I strategy
  • Learn about best DE&I practices from top Fortune 100 companies along with healthcare and hospitality sectors
  • Learn about critical elements of a DE&I plan
  • Learn about organizations, resources, and tools to get you started on your DE&I strategy journey


Panelists:

  • Mako Fitts Ward, PhD, Assistant, Professor of African American and Women and Gender Studies in the School of Social Transformation Arizona State University
  • Jacquelyn Kung, DrPH, CEO, Activated Insights
  • Akerah Mackey, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Specialist, Vi Living


Moderator:

  • Judy Whitcomb, SVP, Organizational Strategy and Effectiveness, Vi Living

More info: https://conference.argentum.org/agenda-2021/

Argentum Senior Living - Better Together

Argentum – CEO Collaborative

Invitation Only

9:45 – 10:45 AM
Top 3 Ways to Increase Customer Leads Every CEO Must Know
Speaker: Jacquelyn Kung, DrPH, CEO, Activated Insights

11 AM – 12 PM
The Intersection of Senior Living Insurance, Claim Trends, and Public Policy
Speakers:

  • John Atkinson, Managing Director, Industry Leader and Chairman, Marsh Chicago
  • Tara Clayton, JD, Senior Vice President, Marsh Senior Care Practice

Sponsored by Marsh

More info: https://conference.argentum.org/agenda-2021/