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Sarah Thomas and Bob Kramer

Let’s Quit Talking to Ourselves: Sarah Thomas and Bob Kramer on the Future of Senior Living

“They’re coming for our space,” said Sarah Thomas, CEO of Delight by Design, and a Nexus Insights Fellow. Thomas is an accomplished leader of innovation and a global aging expert, advising startups, large corporations and investors.Those of us in senior living and senior care need to lift our heads to see what’s coming. We need to see how we can be part of creating what’s ahead of us.” 

Thomas recently joined Bob Kramer, Founder & Fellow at Nexus Insights and Co-founder and Strategic Advisor for NIC, for a conversation on Senior Living Foresight TV, entitled “Let’s Quit Talking to Ourselves: Moving the Conversation Outside Senior Living.”

The two discussed the increasing presence of investors and large corporations in the aging industry. Kramer and Thomas agreed that outside companies can be perceived as threats. But a wiser approach, they advise, is to see opportunities for productive partnerships.

“We must elevate our voice to be heard beyond our own walls,” said Thomas. “If we don’t want to partner with them, we may be replaced. So we need to look at what is not our domain expertise, and to identify gaps and consumer expectations that we’re not meeting.” Kramer agreed, observing that larger companies have greater logistical support, and greater expertise in certain domains. The key is to look for partners who can help close those gaps.

“We must elevate our voice to be heard beyond our own walls.” – Sarah Thomas

Thomas and Kramer discussed the importance of ageism, which is everywhere, and impacts everyone, and not just the older demographic. Thomas’s consulting work includes helping investors understand the marketplace, and to see the true needs and not the perceived needs “that are often misperceived,” and based on ageist ideas and stigmas. The two agreed that communities need to know their own value proposition, and to know how to communicate it, if they want to have a bigger seat at the table.

The discussion also touched on the value of universal design. “If we’re designing for all instead of designing for old, then we have beautiful designs that are also functional,” Thomas explained. Her experience includes work with the integration of robotics and fashion. The lesson for the aging industry, she suggested, is that beautiful designs help accelerate the adoption of new ideas, a philosophy that should be applied to senior living and senior care.

The two also talked out the potentially lasting impact of the pandemic on the industry. “The pandemic reinforced the idea that senior living is all about care,” Kramer said. “Ultimately we have to offer an experience that is aspirational, that is about a sense of belonging, about the joy of being alive, and not just making it through the day.”

See the whole conversation:

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.
  • Jay Newton-Small, CEO of MemoryWell, announced $2.5 million in new Series Seed funding. The company will use this funding to scale its platform and to continue to build its predictive social determinants of health AI rating system.
  • 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.
  • Long-term services and supports (LTSS) when provided in the community as home and community-based services (HCBS) can be a lifeline to help a person live safely at home and age with dignity. In a position paper on HCBS, A Blueprint for Reforming Medicaid Long-Term Services and Supports and Creating Good Caregiving Jobs, ATI Advisory CEO, and Nexus Fellow, Anne Tumlinson shared three recommendations for legislators and regulators to expand access to home-based care services sustainably and equitably. 
  • 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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Events

SLF Foresight TV

Foresight TV with Sarah Thomas & Bob Kramer

Join Senior Living Foresight’s Steve Moran as he discusses current topics in the senior living industry with Sarah Thomas, Executive Strategist at Aging Innovation and Bob Kramer, Founder of Nexus Insights and Strategic Advisor for NIC. Watch live on YouTube.