Adolescents can typically expect “The Talk” at some point during their upbringing.

Coming from a parent, it’s usually an uncomfortable, anxiety-filled attempt at education about “the birds and the bees,” and any other slippery topic an elder might feel a growing youngster should know about.

Its success has been lampooned and smirked at for generations. It’s commonly an awkward, fumbling talk. And the content almost always comes 100% from “The Talk’s” initiator. It’s not a true conversation in any sense of the word.

Well, long-term care providers are now being promised an “evolution” of their own educational relationships. Often talked at, about and around, providers are going to have more opportunities to respond and get things off their chest in 2019. Call it “The Year of the Conversation,” at least as far as leaders at LeadingAge are concerned.

Preliminarily planned to start in February, the association for nonprofit long-term care providers, will start holding structured town hall conversations around the country in every jurisdiction, for all of its members. This is not an indictment of past practices. There have been periodic meet-and-greets with state execs and members of the national office, but they have been less formally arranged, the group’s president and CEO, Katie Smith Sloan,explains.

“There will be town halls led by members and we’ll be there to listen. They will have a structured format for soliciting input about whatever’s on people’s minds,” she says. “Some will be state, some will be federal, but they’ll all be good issues.

“We view it as a listening opportunity for us,” she adds.

Taking that theme to another level, LeadingAge also has revamped its annual spring “Capitol Hill fly-in” conference format. Most recently known as the PEAK conference, the “LeadingAge Leadership Summit” will still feature advocacy training, policy updates and visits with members’ respective federal lawmakers. But gone will be the one big keynote speaker and many aspects that might seem to duplicate the annual fall conference agenda.

“We’re really taking what has been PEAK in the past and evolved it into an event that delves into strategy and learning from others,” Smith Sloan says. “Members will be key speakers and it will feature key trends in our field, and innovations. It’s also a way to highlight some of our own staff expertise and focus on problems that happen to leaders in our field every day.”

It’s a mindset shift, a way of looking for “disrupters,” as Smith Sloan explains it. Seeds were already planted when about 100 hearty members plowed through the spring conference year, when the meeting coincided with a major snowstorm.

“We’re trying to focus on the 10,000-foot level instead of the day-to-day, which is very much what the annual meeting is,” Smith Sloan said. “It will provide a slightly more intimate setting, compared to the annual meeting, for members to connect around the big issues of the day.”

The “LeadingAge Leadership Summit” will be held March 17-20 at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington. This gathering of C-suite and other top-management types will focus on panels holding dialogues on key issues. Some will be staff-led, some will be member-led and yet others will feature outsiders in the lead role.

“Rather than talking heads, we really want to create more of a conversation,” Smith Sloan notes.

It is an admirable effort and another sign of LeadingAge’s well-known appetite to experiment. There is, after all, more than one kind of ice cream in your favorite sweets parlor, and the only way to know which flavor works for you is to try more than one.

Here’s hoping providers everywhere will speak up and become more a part of the conversation in 2019.

Follow Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.