Recently, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how much board level influence residents and families should have in the operation of senior living communities.

By Steve Moran

I have this friend, Jack Cumming, who lives in a Life Plan (CCRC) community in southern California and is very active in NaCCRA, the National Continuing Care Residents’ Association. Several weeks ago he sent me some fascinating correspondence between him and a national consultant in the industry, where he talked about living in a life plan community from a resident’s perspective.

One of the things he discussed was how in the world of Life Plan Communities residents fund a huge portion of the development costs (in effect equity) and yet in most organizations have little or no voice on the board of directors for those organizations (both for-profit and not-for-profit). This particular issue actually deserves an article of it’s own and I am hoping that Jack will write it from a resident perspective.  

Since reading that document I have spent a lot of time thinking about how much board level influence residents and families should have in the operation of senior living communities.

Then this . . .

Show Me The Design

While at AHCA, I got the chance to sit down with the CEO of a medium-sized senior living organization that has communities in a number of states. He told me this fascinating, teachable moment that involved the mother of one of his executive directors.

It is the ultimate testimonial to have an executive director’s parent live in a community, at the same time it is loaded with challenges. This particular executive director and the resident together established a firm set of rules that honored their unique relationship and at the same time did not interfere with the executive director’s relationship with other residents and staff.

It worked fine until the community undertook a complete remodel of the kitchen. It turned out that before mom retired and moved into the community, she had founded and run several very successful restaurants. When she heard about the remodel she went to the daughter and asked to see the plans.

The immediate response was NO. It was an unusual request and the idea of letting a resident or group of residents have input on a relatively big dollar project like this could turn into a nightmare.

But mom kept pushing. Her big question was, “Why can’t I?”

It was one of those “ah ha” moments. She can’t see primarily because . . . she is old, she is irrelevant, she is . . .

Yet, at the end of the day, there really wasn’t a good reason for her not to see them.

The Rest of the Story — Ageism

It turned out that once she took a look there were some significant workflow issues that would have been very detrimental to the whole project. They scrapped the old plans and redesigned based on her input, ultimately resulting in a much better, more efficient and useable kitchen.

It was a stark reminder to the executive director and the whole organization’s team that it is so very easy to engage in ageist activities, even at the very same time we are claiming to be the ultimate expert advocates for our residents.

I often end articles with questions. This time I have two:

  1. Are you willing to confess a time when you were ageist in your organization?

  2. What do you do to combat the problem?