By Elizabeth George

When I hear the word “assumption”, it takes me back to a line from the 1976 movie, The Bad News Bears. The film wasn’t the first to claim that when you “assume, you make an a** out of you and me” but as a kid watching that movie, it was the first time I’d heard this insight. Fast-forward a few decades and, while it’s a bit crass, the motto actually holds fairly true in business today.

It’s so easy to make assumptions. I do it all the time. And many times, making decisions based on existing assumptions is the prudent thing to do. But when it comes to creativity and innovation — to making something better — challenging our assumptions is the place to start.

Airbnb challenged the assumption that hotels were the only solution for people seeking temporary lodging. Uber challenged the assumption that the primary model for paid transportation was the taxi. And, of course, Amazon replaced old assumptions with a new one that there is almost nothing that we can’t happily buy online.

Within the senior living industry, several individuals and organizations are thinking about aging and senior housing options in ways that are truly ground-breaking. One of these innovators is RCare, a global provider of wireless nurse call and personal emergency response systems, and a Senior Living Foresight partner.

I got some insights recently from RCare’s Founder and CEO, Myron Kowal, about a few assumptions that exist within senior living. He and the RCare team are debunking these assumptions as they fulfill their mission of improving the quality of care in senior living.

Here are a few that stand out:

Assumption #1: Emergency call providers need to own all the hardware and software to offer a solution and provide value.  

“Integration is key”, says Myron. “We view RCare as the communications hub of a facility. In many situations, we are working with senior living organizations who already have hardware or software they are happy with or who lack the budget to replace parts with an entirely new system. We intentionally designed our solution to integrate with many other providers and we partner with best-in-class companies like Accutech, PointClickCare, Inovonics, Amazon, and GrandCare to bring cutting edge solutions to our clients that are also very cost-effective.”

Assumption #2: Seniors won’t learn technology.

“There’s a common assumption that elders are technologically averse,” says Myron. “From our experience partnering with Amazon to implement Alexa with our client Fellowship Square-Mesa, we learned that wasn’t the case at all. When shown how to use technology, seniors take to it like anyone else. And they like it.”

Assumption #3: Creating affordable senior housing options is largely out of reach.

“As your readers know,” says Myron, “making senior living options affordable for more people has been a real challenge. We all know how important it is but it’s been a tough nut to crack. Subsidized, affordable housing is one of the largest areas for growth in long-term care and we designed our product, the HCube, to help bring solutions to this end of the market. It combines all the critical capabilities of our flagship wireless nurse call technologies and delivers a solution at a fraction of the cost.”

RCare is known for its creativity and innovation. Its unconventional approach may be down to a founder that studied philosophy and entered senior living for the first time when he founded RCare in 2006. But Myron also believes that thinking creatively is a skill that anyone can acquire.

Here are 3 ways to free yourself up to think more creatively:

  1. Watch out for stereotypes about creativity and innovation: It’s easy to get stuck in our own way; believing that creativity is a trait that only a few of us are born with but we can all learn to be creative through adopting alternative thinking patterns and structured processes. It’s also about believing in the whole spectrum of innovation — from the small and impactful incremental changes to the big industry-changing leaps forward. It’s all innovation and it all matters. 
  2. Ask “Why” and “What if”: Sometimes it takes only a couple open-ended questions to get quickly to root causes and infinite possibilities. The “5 Whys” method originally used at Toyota is one method of doing this and it’s simple to use. Identify a problem to solve and ask why the problem occurred. Write down the answer then ask another “why” to go a level deeper. Continue asking “why” until you’ve identified a problem’s root cause. You may naturally see a solution that you hadn’t thought of before. 
  3. Give permission and invite others to challenge existing assumptions: Assumptions can be considered sacred and off-limits depending on organizational hierarchy and culture. Invite others to share contrarian perspectives and express gratitude for honest and outrageous ideas.

Over the next couple of months, RCare is taking another unconventional approach and taking their show on the road (click here to learn more), immersing their distributors in a free two-day experience to engage them in dialogue about industry changes and what organizations are looking for in emergency call system solutions. For some attendees, participation may even get them a ticket to a rodeo!

To hear Myron Kowal’s insights into trends affecting senior living, watch the Bridging the Gap podcast.