Hi, I’m Jeannee Parker Martin, President & CEO of LeadingAge California.
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Each month I prepare a short CEO article to highlight the current situation and often examples of what is happening on the ground. This issue of Engage is no different.
In the midst of a pandemic, climate-induced wildfires in California, and an historic federal election, it is difficult to shift our thinking to the future – and what the future might hold for housing, care and services for older adults and those with disabilities. Yet, it is imperative that we re-imagine just this. Senior living will change as an unintended consequence of the pandemic, realities of climate change, and demands to modernize our facilities and workforce.
COVID-19 exposed major and systemic issues facing the field of older adult services. While nursing homes were initially highlighted, this ‘next normal’ is facing congregate settings as well as home and community-based services. Nursing homes, assisted living, independent living, life plan communities, and home and community-based services are all core to the care and support of older adults. Yet, these services are often underfunded, under-prioritized, and overlooked. COVID-19 also underscored the impact of social isolation regardless of setting, racial group, or socio-economic status. And, most dramatically, during the pandemic, racial and ethnic disparities, particularly among Hispanic, Black and other groups were exposed. None of these issues began in 2020 but the pandemic revealed them to the world.
So now is our time to re-imagine housing, care and services for older adults. Yet, how do we take this big task on? We can’t do it alone. LeadingAge California, along with many partners, are now exploring how we can re-imagine and change. From our relationship with the National Investment Center (aka NIC) to better understand the data behind seniors housing; to our relationship with the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute at UC Berkeley, and the Stanford Center on Longevity to better understand the possibilities in integrating technology into member communities, to our partnership with State of California Agencies and Departments that was strengthened by our work on the Master Plan for Aging, we are gaining insights to help us re-imagine the opportunities to modernize our facilities and strengthen our workforce.
November 5th would have marked my mother’s 102nd birthday. I can still see her, at age 99, managing to use an iPhone 6, an Amazon Echo, and a rigged-up Jabra speakerphone to help us communicate from afar. We re-imagined communication for one individual. And for hundreds of thousands of individuals being served by your organizations, in collaboration with myriad partners:
- I know we can re-imagine and integrate techniques to communicate and reduce social isolation – with AI, robotics, and other tools.
- I know we can re-imagine and integrate facility design and thinking with more warmth, style, and more outdoor “destinations” – to encourage engagement and healthy living practices.
- And, I know we can re-imagine our workforce to attract and retain individuals to our field – with technology of the future, education, training, and career paths for entirely different skill sets, and flexibility that allows for alternatives when old practices no longer fit in a post-COVID-19 world.
It is our time to re-imagine, re-think and be creative as we look to the future of housing, care and services. This discussion has been going on for a decade; now we have the opportunity to execute with a strong, bold vision for senior living of the future.
As we enter a holiday season, I want to express my gratitude to each of you. I am grateful to have you as a member of LeadingAge California, as a valued business partner to help us look ahead, and as an interested individual who may be experiencing LeadingAge California for the first time. I also am grateful to our staff and long-term members. For as we enter 2021, we celebrate 60 years of success in leading housing, care and service providers into the future.
Thank you and in gratitude for all you do for residents and their family members.