Understanding what residents love

Jack York, It's Never 2 Late
Jack York, It's Never 2 Late

We're huddled together, outside, in 3 degree weather, with our faces and necks exposed to the brutal Chicago elements. A brisk swirling wind makes the simple act of breathing a chore. There are close to 900 people, all ages, all huddled together. The risk of violating personal space is not nearly as important as the chance to gain a few degrees of body heat by standing inches away from another human being.  

It is 5:00 p.m.  on a Tuesday evening, the last glimmer of light fades into oblivion behind a construction project that has long since closed for the day. Through our shattering teeth and freezing eyelids, most everyone is a stranger and despite the elements and brutal wind chill, there are very few complaints to be heard; anticipation is in the air. I am by myself, yet feel surrounded by friends all gathered for a common cause.

Where exactly am I? And why are these words finding their way into a trusted senior living publication? It's actually very simple: I'm delighted to be providing McKnight's readers with a monthly update of how person-centered technology impacts the lives of the older adults that many of you serve. The series starts with a personal anecdote, one that if I have dementia in my own life would be a nugget of information infinitesimally more relevant than whatever medical bit of data on my record.  

What I am doing to myself in Chicago, along with 900 strangers who are my best friends this evening, is an attempt to win a seat up close and personal to Bruce Springsteen. Earlier in the day, we got in line twice, once to get a wristband  with a number, then again to see which 200 numbers would be picked to wind up front and center to watch The Boss come alive.

I realize that to the vast majority of people reading this blog this all sounds insane, why would anyone do this to themselves? Why did we put ourselves into excruciating discomfort for a simple rock concert of an aging rocker? But to my friends and me, all lined up, it's the most natural thing in the world. And that's my point.  

All of us, as creatures on this splendid planet, have our own set of quirks and preferences that may seem outlandish to someone else. It's the joy of mankind. The trick, from a senior living profession standpoint, is to sift through the wreckage of a medically-based nursing home model, and figure out who their Springsteen might be.

Obviously, this is especially difficult to do for residents living with dementia. Nevertheless whether it's tomorrow, or 25 years from now, if I'm living in one of your communities, your challenge will be  to make sure that the culture of your community ensures that someone finds out I want “Born to Run” when I'm agitated, and will not settle for a dose of risperidone, or worse yet, having to listen to the Carpenters!

I'm delighted to report that on a daily basis members of our company, It's Never 2 Late (iN2L), see examples of people making Herculean efforts to get to know their residents' likes, loves and lives. People are striving to learn about what really makes someone tick. I'll be reporting on creative uses of technology in general (not just iN2L) that are changing the lives of the Greatest Generation. The future is now; there is no reason for not having this be a part of your culture.   

Families are starting to demand it. We see it every day.

Think of your own favorite quirk and ask yourself if your organization's culture would be able to find your own personal needle in the haystack. And in case you're wondering, the concert was awesome, and as you can see from the picture, Bruce is a true proponent of healthy aging…look at his partner for “Dancing in the Dark."

See you next month!

Jack York is the CEO and co-founder of It's Never 2 Late.

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