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Update on Nexus Fellow May 21s

Nexus Fellow Flash Feature: 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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Overcoming loneliness among seniors

The Opposite of Loneliness

Originally published in 2018, and now even more important and relevant since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the isolation so many have experienced, The Opposite of Loneliness is an essay that explores the cost of loneliness, and that recommends effective ways to address is at the personal and the societal level. 

The English language has its limitations. For example, take the word ‘love’. The English language uses one word, for which the Greeks needed seven words – ranging from eros (sexual love) to philia (friendship love) to agape (love of stranger) – to accurately describe.

A similar example is with the opposite of loneliness. Merriam-Webster defines lonely as “being without company,” “cut off from others,” “sad from being alone” or “producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation.”  According to the late researcher on loneliness and pioneer of social neuroscience, Dr. John Cacioppo, English doesn’t offer an adequate antonym. He suggested the closest proxy was “normal”, although that is clearly not a satisfactory solution. It’s too all-encompassing. It’s not descriptive enough.

Marina Keegan, a senior at Yale University at the time, didn’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness in her New York Times bestselling posthumous collection of essays and stories The Opposite of Loneliness, but she knew that’s what she wanted. She says:

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place. 

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.

Sadly, Keegan didn’t experience the opposite of loneliness in the real world as she died in a car accident just weeks before graduation.

Loneliness is Becoming Normal

Unfortunately, loneliness itself is becoming increasingly normal. Loneliness has doubled since the 1980s, and now over 40% of adults report feeling lonely. In his Harvard Business Review cover story, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the former US Surgeon General, indicates that loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and even greater than that associated with obesity.

One the most powerful predictors of loneliness is living alone. This is particularly threatening for older adults, as about 1/3 of Americans over 65 live alone and over 50% of women over 75 live alone.

But, of course, people living among others can still feel lonely. In this regard, Dr. Cacippo describes loneliness as “perceived isolation.” The viral video, #EatTogether, by a Canadian grocer illustrates that you can live among plenty of people in an apartment building and still feel disconnected.

This phenomenon is not unique to the United States. The UK has over 9 million people suffering from loneliness. More than a third of older adults report being overwhelmed by loneliness. A whopping 80% of British citizens over 85 live alone.

Japan is perhaps the most challenged with loneliness coupled with the highest percentage – about a 25% — of its citizens 65 or older. Demographics coupled with frayed families and communities have made it particularly difficult, according to a recent in-depth article by the New York Times (“A Generation in Japan Faces a Lonely Death”). Sadly some people are even committing crimes to benefit from the social connection in prison.

How Can We Make The Opposite of Loneliness Normal Again

More seems to be known about increasing loneliness than what to do about it. The UK made a PR splash by creating a “Minister of Loneliness” in January. The anticipated focus of this ministry is to (a) create practices and programs that cultivate conversation, friendship and empathy: the founding of community allotments where solitary folks might gather, and (b) instigate knock-on-door initiatives, with volunteers targeting lonely souls. But it is an open debate as to whether we can institutionalize the elimination of loneliness.

Dr. Cacioppo’s research tested a number of methods and tactics, including many that did not demonstrate positive success. One successful tactic is to change how lonely people think about other people, having them understand what happens when their brain goes into self-preservation mode. Dr. Cacioppo’s research suggests that treating it like a disease is difficult because social connection requires a two-way relationship with others.

One simple yet significant approach is to more commonly practice kindness. Lonely people need an especially heavy dose of kindness. If more people were able to identify those lonely around us and choose to act kindly, say by an empathetic cashier to a lonely shopper at check-out, it would certainly help.

The Important Role of Where You Live

What is probably not mentioned enough in these conversations is the role of where we live in the context of loneliness. Living alone is a driver of loneliness. Fortunately, there are emerging, alternative housing models that help facilitate interaction and connection. For example, co-housing, a communal living approach that integrates shared spaces and a common house for community meals, is a popular housing option in Denmark with some successes in the US, and has demonstrated improved social connection, particularly across generations. EngAGE is an organization that integrates a whole-person approach to creative living, providing college-level programs in the arts, wellness and lifelong learning into existing communities.

Living in cities or in more dense suburbs (or “sub-urbs”) offers the prospect of a greater number of interactions with a diverse number of people. Susan Pinker, author of The Village Effect, points out that technology can be helpful in bringing people together for important face-to-face connection. In her research, she has found that it’s not just close friends that keep people from being lonely; it is also a broader network of connections, in concert with close friendships, that help people thrive.

At SmartLiving 360, we believe location, design and an ethos of social connection can go a long way towards helping build sustained social connection. Walkable locations make it easy for people to see others. Accessible, communal spaces designed for formal and informal connection make it easier to get to know your neighbor. In addition, having a culture where social connection is important helps residents self-select to be part of such a community. Our Lifestyle Ambassador is central in our approach as he knows each resident by name and serves as a catalyst for creating community. We have witnessed the positive impact.

The Opposite of Loneliness is Our Responsibility

Technology advances, shifting family dynamics and changing demographics are all conspiring to make loneliness more common. However, as we all become increasingly aware of the risks to our health and well-being, it is important that we make lifestyle decisions to ward off the hazards of loneliness, particularly as we age. Fortunately, new, innovative housing models will make it easier to embrace the opposite of loneliness at every stage of life.

The Opposite of Loneliness was originally published on SmartLiving 360.

Place plays a significant yet often unacknowledged role in health and happiness. Ryan Frederick, CEO of SmartLiving 360 and a Nexus Insights Fellow is the author of the upcoming book Right Time, Right Place, in which he explores more deeply the idea that where you live matters enormously – especially during the second half of your life.

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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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