By Susan Saldibar

After Andy Thomas, Senior Regional Director of Operations for Morrison Living (a Foresight partner) turned me on to an article about Ed Childs, I thought, “Wow, what a great story.” And it really is.

But it got me wondering . . .

  • Where are the other “Ed Childs” out there?
  • What communities are they coming out of?
  • What does Morrison Living know that we need to know?

Meet Ed Childs, “Go-To” Guy for All Things Gardening at Clermont Park

Ed Childs is a resident of Clermont Park Senior Living in Denver, Colorado. There was a flurry of articles recently exalting Ed’s active involvement and contributions within the CCRC community.

Among other things, Ed has become the “go-to” gardener and groundskeeper, a passion he has held for many years and now continues. And, through his involvement, Ed has inspired others as well.

You might be thinking “doesn’t apply to me, it’s a CCRC/Lifeplan Community” but why not in any kind of senior living community?

People Like Ed Childs Don’t Just “Come Out of the Woodwork”

It helps to understand who the Ed Childs of communities are.  

Most of the residents who take more active roles in their communities have always been active and involved. These are folks who’ve always been dialed into doing what they love. Lots of them have traveled the world. And they’re educated with careers as professors, doctors, lawyers and so on.

But not all of them. This is where it gets a bit more interesting.

People Think Mary is Part of the Dining Department

A case in point is Mary Catherine Johnson.

If you’re like me, you’ve known a “Mary” or two in your lifetime. She’s the “organizer”, the one who comes up with all the ideas, sets things up, and takes charge when needed. Visitors actually think she is part of the dining department!

Other residents enjoy conducting personalized tours for prospective new residents. Sort of a “welcome to my home” approach, which I think is pretty cool in that it shows residents taking ownership of their communities. Something we don’t see often enough.

Then there are the leaders, who preside over resident councils. These are the folks who get involved in decision-making on a day-to-day level. It’s a great idea as long as the residents are really empowered. In an ideal world, more communities would have residents create these councils. I find myself wondering if some are afraid to (a topic for another day).

You Can’t Create an Ed or a Mary – You Just Need a Culture that Supports Them

So, why does Morrison Living seem to have so many active, involved senior stories? I wanted to know what they’ve been doing to bring the Eds and Marys out of their rooms and into the center of the community universe.

A lot of it starts with taking a look at the culture itself. Folks like Ed and Mary are clearly attracted to cultures and environments that encourage active involvement. They wouldn’t last a day in most communities.

What was Normal in Their Lives Before They Retired? That’s What They Still Want!

While you won’t typically find as much independent involvement in assisted living as you see in Lifeplan Communities/CCRCs, this kind of involvement should be the norm.

And not everyone has to be an Ed or a Mary.

“I was talking the other day with a couple of residents who are friends,” Andy says. “One said, ‘I just came here to relax!’ Her counterpart, however, stays involved; she’s still an educator; working with schools. She shows no signs of slowing down.”

Helping Communities Create Cultures that Attract Ed and Mary

This concept lives at the heart of what Morrison Living is all about.

And it’s becoming a huge part of the kind of culture that attracts the Eds and Marys.

There is a new wave of “foodies” in senior living.

They’re as picky as you might imagine them to be. And, apparently, they’re picking cultures as well.

“A resident might want to go to the street taco vendor in the dining venue one day and have sushi or steak the next day,” Andy says. “They are interested in things like locally sourced produce. Communities need to be quicker in responding and more open to these types of venues and services, more than we had to in the past. That excites me so much because it builds on knowing that we are creating something new and unique for residents to push that envelope.”

A New Generation of Residents Will Force Change (Whether You’re Ready or Not)

There is a new generation of residents emerging and they will force change.

“I’ve been in senior living for over eighteen years,” Andy says. “Back when I started, it was ‘Just come and relax’. Now you see individuals who were once very active, staying active,” he says.

And they’re picking communities where they can do that. Which brings me back to all the attention the Ed Childs story got.

Right now, we need to hear these stories. We need to listen to Andy Thomas and others who are shedding light on what’s attracting the Eds and the Marys. Because we need them in this industry. Now more than ever.

What are you doing to build those great stories in your community? Be honest. Would Ed or Mary last a day? Would a “foodie” even consider your community?

Maybe it’s time to talk with the folks at Morrison Living. They’re the ones with all the stories. Maybe they can help you build a culture that creates some of your own.

You can check out Morrison Living’s LinkedIn page for more stories on resident involvement.