I arrived in Nashville for the LeadingAge Annual convention a couple of days early, leaving me some time to relax. Yesterday I went for a long walk around town. Across the street from the convention center I found this 35-foot-long chalkboard that had been erected by LeadingAge and HealthStream:
There were a bunch of young visitors from “Jersey” who had driven 14 hours to spend the weekend in Nashville (not for LeadingAge). I started taking pictures of the board and they asked why I was taking them. I told them it was for an article I was going to write and we had a nice chat.
Their fascination with it intrigued me so I just sat in on a bench and watched people interact with the board. Altogether I spent more than an hour there. The interactions were amazing and inspiring.
- Most of those posting were young, meaning kids, teens and 20-somethings
- Some would walk right up and write something
- Others would agonize for 10 or 15 minutes
- I saw a homeless woman sit there for a long long time, then grab a stick of chalk and write “I will continue to improve.” Inspiring and heartbreaking
- I watched one young woman grab a chalk stick then wander up and down, talk with her friends about what to write, pause and think. She did this for maybe 10 or 15 minutes before finding a spot to write. I was expecting something profound. She wrote: “I will party more“ sigh . . .
- A few were funny, a few were silly and a few even sad. Most, though, were full of hope for a better future
Aging is something that is a part of all of us. Often we have this perception that people see aging as a terrible thing. It is what the media tells us and it is natural that we come to believe it. And yet what happened in that park at that chalk board was all about hope and growth and wonderfulness, both in what was written and in the conversations I eavesdropped on.
As providers of housing and services to older people who have the obligation and the right to be a part of the conversation about the possibilities of life . . . even living in a retirement home. Bill Thomas, in his book Second Wind, talks about this, but we need more voices. As we talk to people . . . to residents . . . to family members . . . to prospects about what we do it needs to be in the context of the next great chapter in that resident’s life . . .
It needs to be more than, “Come move into my community to while away your time until you die”.
I think it would be a fascinating experiment to put up a board like this in your senior living community lobby and let your residents and visitors have at it. If you try it I would love to hear about it and write about it.
And, if you were here, what would you write? And, yes, I did write on the board. It’s in one of the photos.