Guest Columns

Cultivating innovation

Sara McVey
Sara McVey

Imagine our industry without innovations: We'd all be faxing each other about residents' shuffleboard tournaments. Instead, whenever one senior living community shares an innovation they tried and succeeded with, others benefit—for instance, transforming an institutional dining room into a restaurant with chef-prepared meals, or turning to the Disney Institute for a fresh take on customer service training. And sometimes by sharing, a new best practice begins to grow.

With this sharing and growth in mind, Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging created its annual Promising Practices Awards. These awards recognize and honor organizations that are serving older adults in new and exciting ways—and our goal is that they become innovation-growers. That is, Promising Practices Awards spread the word on new practices that others (your organization, perhaps?) might want to adapt, and join together in moving the industry forward.

A Commitment to Innovation

The Promising Practices Awards embody the commitment of the Institute—and all of Mather LifeWays—to innovative thinking. We're always looking for new ways to question the status quo and turn senior living upside down—whether it's transforming our language (turning retirement into RepriormentTM);  applying a whole-person wellness approach to a brain health program for senior living residents; or shifting our industry's focus to employee wellness in an effort to boost quality of care.

That's why in 2009, we decided to broaden our reach and look to other innovators by instituting the Promising Practices Awards. Since then, we've recognized 19 practices with true potential to reshape the aging services industry. By sharing these successful new ideas, approaches, and practices that organizations are testing, we hope to spread the spirit of innovation throughout the senior living industry. (And give others a chance to replicate some winning ideas!) Even if we can't transform the industry with a single Promising Practice, I'm pretty confident that we can help a few organizations out there try something new and improve their own status quo.

Introducing the 2014 Winners

Last year, we reviewed Promising Practices submissions from 30 finalists from 20 states, representing the most diverse and highest quality entries we've seen in recent years. My colleague and fellow selection committee member Stella Hatcliffe told me, “I think we're seeing a tipping point now that the award has been around for six years. More organizations are aware of Promising Practices, and are excited to share their innovations.”

I couldn't agree more with Stella, and we're probably more excited than the winners are over this year's innovations. Our committee had a tough time narrowing the field of submissions, but ultimately selected four winners and two honorable mentions based on their practice's innovation, the outcomes presented, and the replicability of the practice:

·      Central Baptist Village in Norridge, Illinois, for creating an end-of-life experience that honors and comforts residents and their families, through an organizational philosophy, staff training, and a dedicated area called the Chrysalis Room.

·      Jefferson's Ferry Lifecare Retirement Community in South Setauket, New York, for their Embraceable You campaign, a program that encouraged hugging and touching as a way to improve resident well-being.

·      Jewish Association on Aging (JAA) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for Pennsylvania's first-ever Nighttime Memory Care Program, which will offer overnight engaging activities and structured interventions for older adults with Alzheimer's and dementia. 

·      Wadsworth Soprema Center and Café in Wadsworth, Ohio, for the Soprema Senior Center and Café. Based on Mather LifeWays award-winning Café Plus concept, this center offers a wide range of activities and services that focus on health and wellness, information, engagement, intergenerational connections, and volunteering.

·      Presbyterian Villages of Michigan in Southfield, Michigan, for Rivertown Neighborhood, which will include affordable independent and assisted living, transportation, nutrition services, a community park, and much more.

·      Sarasota Bay Club of Sarasota, Florida, for the Bay Club Kids Intergenerational Reading & Art Program.

You can learn more about the winners and how you can implement their Promising Practices in our new guide Innovation at Work, available as a free download.

Submit for 2015

If your organization has an innovative practice or approach, I hope you'll submit it for this year's Promising Practices awards. The awards are open to organizations working with older adults in a variety of settings that are moving away from conventional practices by developing and implementing innovative approaches.

We'll open 2015 submissions in July—bookmark our page so you can share your innovation: www.matherlifewaysinstituteonaging.com/promising.

In the meantime, there's no time like the present to start innovating!

Sara McVey, MBA, NHA, is vice president of senior living strategic initiatives at Mather LifeWays. Her 20+ years of executive experience has built her expertise in innovation, operations, and senior living trends.

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