By Susan Saldibar
Are you too old to be running a senior living community?
I don’t mean your age. I mean your old, stale attitude.
Because we all know youngish leaders in their forties who are strangling their communities with uninspired practices, rigid hierarchies, and a resistance to change. Maybe you’re one of them.
I hope you’re not. Attitude, after all, is “everything” as the saying goes.
But it has nothing to do with age. And I can prove it.
A Perfect Example
What a delight! Cindy is part of the leadership team that runs Juniper, a network of senior living communities located throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Colorado, providing everything from independent living through to skilled nursing.
This high-energy, forward-leaning group has not only gotten Juniper through the pandemic, but they are also tracking steadily upward and doing amazingly well.
As it happens, the secret to their resilience is attitude – in the form of an unflagging interest in listening, learning, sharing wisdom, and cultivating a future to be led by those coming up through the ranks.
And this gets me to my point: They’re not young.
Their average age, in fact, is sixty plus. Cindy is a 60-something herself. The rest are 60- and 70-somethings with two exceptions – the “babies” of the group, both fifty-somethings.
But who cares? With seemingly boundless energy, the Juniper team has spent the last year or two cultivating partnerships, tracking trends, and inviting insights and input from those who work and live inside their communities.
They’re 100% dialed into the future. And, to secure that future, they’re doing something really cool and really smart.
It’s called the RCE team, Resource for Community Excellence.
A Pool of Talent for the Next Generation
These people, mostly younger members of the staff, represent all areas of the business, from sales and marketing to operations to clinical to finance. Cindy and the team believe that, with this group, they are grooming a pool of talent for the next generation of Juniper.
Are you doing anything like this? If not, maybe you should be.
Because it makes so much sense. It’s so simple and on point with where leaders need to be today. And it does three really good things:
- It keeps older managers open to new ways of doing things.
- It gives younger team members a voice that is actually heard.
- It brings a vibrance to the community that can be felt throughout.
And with that come other good things, such as attracting more young talent and filling apartments and rooms.
The Power of Attitude
Attitude is everything. If you don’t let ageist stereotypes get in the way.
Imagine the power of having a can-do attitude, unhindered by an ageist mindset. Sort of how we want residents to live, isn’t it?
So here’s Cindy’s advice for you C-suite folks out there who are ready to get rid of “old” attitudes:
- Listen to team members. Do not discount the wisdom of the young. Some of the best census recovery ideas have come from the young Juniper team, Cindy tells me. They look at things very differently.
“When you work with people for 20 years, you get a certain mindset. Don’t let that happen!”
- Learn from everyone. When Juniper went to roll out the WelcomeHome CRM solution in January, Cindy admitted to worrying about learning a bunch of new systems. But it gave her a new way of looking at their data. And it’s made a huge difference. Never stop learning. That includes being open to learning the next new technology.
“As we age, we should become more flexible, more open to new ideas. The minute we stop being open to new ideas, we get ‘old’.”
- Share your wisdom. Have you ever wondered why so many young people who come into senior living in entry-level positions end up staying because they “fell in love with the residents”? Maybe it’s because the residents, instead of hoarding their hard-earned wisdom, are eager to share it.
“We can learn a lot from residents about mentoring.”
- Believe in the future. Change is inevitable, so there will be good years and bad years, Cindy reminds us. She remembers a low point this last February when their census struggles had an impact on the wellbeing of everyone, both physical and emotional, including residents. But their current trend line has been “remarkable” according to Cindy. And maybe yours will be too. Even McKnight’s is seeing investment money coming back in after a dry period, she tells me.
Old People are Cool
Cindy told me that she proudly displays a sticker on her laptop, “Old People are Cool.”
What constitutes “old” and what is “cool” may be up for debate. But wouldn’t it be great if we all pull together to create a world where you don’t need a sticker on your laptop to make that point?
I want to be a part of that world. Juniper is. Maybe you can be too.