One of my favorite residents is a gentleman named Jerry who resides in one of the properties I oversee. I met him a few months ago when I took over the community. In-between executive directors, down in occupancy, and in the midst of a major renovation, this community had some pretty ticked-off residents. In the middle of all of the hostility he emerged and I have been a devoted fan ever since. 

A Lifetime of Helping Others

He and his significant other (of 43 years) started counseling students at UCLA in the late sixties and eventually they started a business in which they would help factory workers assimilate into a new way of life after their plant was set to close. When I met with him the other day he shared this statistic about those factory workers: One third were already disengaged and were able to move on quite easily. Another third, when given the necessary tools, would be able to progress into a new work setting, also relatively easily. But the last third, if not given support, encouragement, and guidance, would languish and fail. They needed tangible support to help them see that they could be successful and that they were indeed special in their own right. 

Connecting the Dots

As we discussed this wonderful work that they had done for 30 years, he then connected the dots to senior living. He stated that though the residents keep telling him they need him to continue to be their leader, he thinks they are wrong. And the reason he believes this is because he feels he has done exactly what he spent so much of his career doing; empowering them to see their own ability to succeed. In his words, he held a mirror in front of their faces and allowed them to see their own remarkable talents and qualities. He summed it up quite beautifully; “I simply gave them an opportunity to see their own greatness.”

He has carried out that plan quite successfully. The residents who were once angry and dissatisfied are now unified, purposeful, and determined to make a difference in their community. He even shared that he has visited some who have moved to competitors during those unstable months, and he came back feeling even more certain that he was in the right place. He loves his fellow residents and admires their collective intellectual and vocational achievements, but most of all appreciates that when he comes back to the community, he is indeed a part of a group of people who genuinely care for one another. And he is satisfied. 

Each time I meet with this remarkable man I wish I could take him to every senior community that struggles with internal challenges. I wish every resident could look at a senior community the way he does. And I find myself overcome with thankfulness that I know this special human being. I’m humbled that I am acquainted with one who so deftly and with great compassion guided these residents into a place where they could be empowered to live with purpose and make their community a better place. 

Keep holding up that mirror and changing lives Jerry.