Aging Archives – Varsity Branding

Tag: Aging

You’ve heard all the ageist cliches: Act your age. You’re no spring chicken. Old dogs can’t learn new tricks. You’re out of touch with society. And so many more. 

Is there any truth to these? Probably not. But here’s what we did realize about pop culture: You don’t have to be young to be relevant. 

Negative comments about aging and biases against older adults are pervasive in our lives. Which is why it’s so refreshing to see that pop culture has been debunking some of those stereotypes. Essentially, you can be mature and relevant, and we’re seeing proof of that in everything from toys to music. 

Justice for older women

Let’s talk about former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was always an influential public figure throughout her career. But it wasn’t until her 80s when she truly became a pop culture icon. The film “RBG details her unlikely rise to stardom, including how she was lovingly nicknamed “Notorious RBG” by her fans.

Thanks to the wildly successful “Barbie movie, the iconic, sexagenarian brand is more popular than ever — with consumers of all ages. Most notably, director Greta Gerwig used the movie to challenge age-related stereotypes of women in the film industry. Barbie’s longevity has impacted many generations, and it’s refreshing to see that impact get updated in a positive way. For example, last fall Mattel released a limited-edition Stevie Nicks Barbie doll, whose style and dress pays homage to the 75-year-old Fleetwood Mac singer. 

Musicians don’t seem to age

Look at Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, both 80, who released their first Rolling Stones album in 18 years last fall. Yes, it’s true, society is still worshiping these octogenarian rockers — and rightfully so. Their “Hackney Diamonds” album even features guest appearances from the likes of Lady Gaga, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.

Speaking of McCartney, 81, he’s another example of a musician who’s not slowing down anytime soon. Last year alone, he put out his “Eyes of the Storm” photography exhibition and accompanying book, a new podcast, finished up his Got Back tour and released the last Beatles song, “Now and Then.”

Also last year, 76-year-old Elton John completed his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. That’s after his relentless touring over the past 50-plus years, playing nearly 4,600 shows in 80 countries. 

At 90, Willie Nelson released his 74th solo studio album, “Bluegrass,” and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He continues to tour and perform. 

And we can’t forget how Dolly Parton stole the show when she appeared at the Thanksgiving day Cowboys-Commanders game dressed as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. She’s still got it at 77.

TV is the fountain of youth

This mature and relevant theme continues on TV. In fact, “Golden Girls,” four older women turned roommates, does seem to get better with age. After over 30 years since it last aired, its sassy dialogue still resonates with many, particularly millennials and the LGBTQ+ community.

There are also newer TV shows that play up older stars. “The Golden Bachelorfeatured Gerry Turner, 71. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin were brought back into the spotlight with TV series “Grace and Frankie.” More than 30 years after the end of “Cheers,” Ted Danson is still being celebrated on TV, most recently with “The Good Place and “Mr. Mayor.” Michael Douglas starred in the “The Kominsky Method,” a show about an aging, once-famous actor who now makes a living as an acting coach. And even Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte are as chic as ever in “And Just Like That …“, the Sex and the Citysequel. Only this time they’re dealing with issues like teenage kids and menopause, all while debunking media stereotypes of over-50 women. 

We’re just scratching the surface. There are endless examples of pop culture giving old age a fresh look. Maybe it’s because there’s an unprecedented population growth of people 65 and older. Or maybe society’s perspective has simply broadened to be more equitable to all ages. In any case, Jamie Lee Curtis, who won the first Oscar of her career for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” at age 64, said it best: “This word ‘anti-aging’ has to be struck. I am pro-aging. I want to age with intelligence, and grace, and dignity, and verve, and energy. I don’t want to hide from it.”

Q & A With Sara Breindel, Chief of Staff at Changing the Narrative

Changing the Narrative is a leading national effort to end ageism through evidence-based strategies and innovative public-facing campaigns.

Q. Why did you join Changing the Narrative?
A. I was working in marketing communications for older adults and attended a 2018 training for professionals at Changing the Narrative, which really shifted my perspective. I learned that many of the stories we told about older people were stereotypes — older people are not a homogeneous group. I was drawn to join the organization soon after, first as a content creator and now as chief of staff and co-director.

There’s a lot going on at Changing the Narrative, not just anti-ageist birthday cards, but workshops to promote age-inclusive workplaces, intergenerational conversations, social media campaigns and more. In this culture, we’re doing a disservice to ourselves with many of the stories we tell about what it means to get older — and Changing the Narrative wants to change that.

Q. What is the anti-ageist birthday card project?
A. The idea was to engage people at birthdays, because it’s a time when we all think about aging. Cards are a very visual example of ageism. One example was a card with a picture of a walker and a line that said, “Here’s your next birthday present.” Why is that OK to say?

We launched our first set of birthday cards in 2020. Because we’re headquartered in Colorado, we called for local artists to create general age-positive cards. For the second round of cards in 2023, we engaged with existing designers at small greeting card companies from across the nation, asking for specific messaging that used age-positive language as well as images.

When picking out birthday cards, we want people to take a little pause and think about the message they’re sending. Some cards send a really negative message about getting older. Ask yourself: Is that how I think of my friends and colleagues? That they should feel bad about themselves — old and ugly?

It takes time, but these awareness campaigns can change peoples’ perspectives. The genesis for this idea actually came from one our volunteers, who was about to turn 70, and she had already talked to her friends about her work with us. For the first time ever, she got no negative cards about aging on her birthday.

Q. What is implicit bias and how can birthday cards change that?
A. We’ve all been surrounded with negative messages about older people and we now believe them about ourselves. We don’t realize we have this implicit bias — even about ourselves. Our negative beliefs about aging actually hurt our ability to age well. Receiving positive card messages can help us celebrate a milestone rather than fear it and start to chip away at the idea that aging has nothing to offer.

Q. What can we do to get involved?
A. It’s easy to say, “I’m going to grab the first thing I see in the card aisle.” People might take a second look and ask, “Is this a positive sentiment?” Every time we purchase something, we’re telling the industry, “there’s a market for this.” If we start picking up cards that are more age-positive, it can change what companies sell. People looking for age-positive cards can find them on our site, but wherever you buy them, we encourage you to think about the message you’re sending.

Q. Why is it important to foster a positive picture of aging?
A. Getting older can bring health problems, but it brings great things as well. Greater resilience, wisdom, experience and an ability to form connections all come with age.

A study by Yale University professor Dr. Becca Levy showed that people live an average of 7.5 years longer if they have positive feelings about getting older. Something seemingly small like a birthday card, or our larger initiatives to help end workplace discrimination, can work to create a more positive view of aging.

To learn more about what Changing the Narrative is doing to end ageism, visit their website.

 

Solo agers. Kinless seniors. Elder orphans. These buzzwords have entered the common vernacular, but they’re also describing a very real shift in demographics. The current generation of seniors contains more solo agers than ever before.

“Solo agers” are defined as those over age 50 who live alone, are not married or partnered in a long-term relationship, and have no living children. They make up 12% of the ages 50+ population in the United States, and this trend is increasing, as more baby boomers get divorced and fewer have children, and people live longer overall.

According to a recent report by Forbes, among adults 75 years and older (not boomers), 10.9% reported being childless; among those ages 65–74 (early boomers), 15.9% reported being childless; and among those ages 55–64 (late boomers), 19.6% reported being childless.

Right now, there are close to a million solo agers in the U.S., and as Generation X and Millennials head to retirement, that number could grow even larger. These generations are getting married even less frequently than boomers.

What does the trend toward more seniors without family ties mean for retirement communities? We hear a lot about “demanding boomers” and the high-end amenities they expect — but another audience to consider is diverse populations like these.

According to an article in InsideHook, kinless seniors often live alone and rely on appointments with doctors or encounters with cashiers to interact with other people.

What’s more, a Canadian study reported in the New York Times that those without partners or children had lower levels of self-reported mental and physical health, and higher levels of loneliness, which in itself has been linked to many health conditions. Even more worrisome, a decade after respondents’ initial interviews, more than 80% of seniors with partners and children had survived, compared with only about 60% of those without either.

In contrast, studies have shown that residents of Life Plan Communities tend to live longer than other people. So what better environment for solo agers than senior communities, where they can form meaningful friendships and live happier, healthier, longer lives?

Here are a few suggestions on ways to connect with kinless seniors — and to help them get the most out of your community once they join it.

  1. The sales process

Typically, the salesperson must consider the influence of adult children on the sales process. But there are a growing number of prospects who will be trying to make these decisions on their own, and who will be looking for input and advice.

  1. Online resources

Why not show that you understand this growing audience and their concerns by including solo ager-focused blogs and resources on your website?

  1. Prospect events

Events can address issues that solo agers are coming to terms with, such as decision-making on one’s own, medical power of attorney, financial planning and loneliness.

  1. Marketing materials

While married couples will always be depicted in brochures and ads, it’s also important to think about the diverse populations we’re serving and make sure they’re represented in marketing pieces.

  1. Campus events

Since connecting with others is so important for kinless seniors, inclusive activities, events and clubs can help them feel a part of campus life. Shared meals with “friendship tables” open to all are also a great way to make solo agers feel welcome.

  1. Celebrations

Holidays like Mother’s Day, when the mailroom is filled to bursting with bouquets and cards from children around the country, can be a time to also acknowledge those who don’t have children.

  1. Support groups

Campus support groups that address the needs of solo agers can help them find a niche in your community.

Senior communities have always had a focus on supporting solo residents, but with the trend toward more divorces and lower marriage rates, combined with longer lifespans, this group will only continue to grow. In a society that doesn’t provide well for those without family ties, communities can be a powerful solution to help them thrive during their later years.

At our 2nd monthly Continuing Care at Home Roundtable, we all shared our ideas about generating leads, cross-promoting community living and overcoming objections.

Check out the highlights below, and feel free to join us for our next roundtable discussion in April.

Please join our next Continuing Care at Home Roundtable on Wednesday, April 7, at noon ET.

For login information, email .

 

During our final roundtable of the year, communities shared what they learned in 2020 and how they’re anxiously awaiting the vaccine.

Check out the highlights below, and please join us for our first roundtable of 2021 after the holiday break.

Please join our first roundtable of the year on Thursday, January 7, 2021, at noon ET.

For log-in information, contact .

Robert Speker, Activities Coordinator at Sydmar Lodge  in Edgware, North London, UK, and his residents have passed the time through lockdown by recreating famous album covers. Posing while wearing similar clothing, makeup and expressions, the residents (and the caregivers as well) have redone album covers by the Beatles, Lady Gaga, Adele, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, The Clash, U2, Elvis Presley, Madonna and others. And they’re still going.

Robert started this project to keep residents engaged and entertained during social distancing. Rather than passing the time playing bingo or watching TV, he felt they needed something more inspiring to do. It was a huge surprise to all of them when the project quickly went viral on social media and gained international recognition. Robert has done 80 to 100 TV and print interviews, and was gracious enough to talk to Varsity. See his ongoing artistic collaborations with residents at @RobertSpeker on Twitter.

Why did you begin this project?

It was something I’d long thought about, but I don’t usually have a lot of time. However, during lockdown, I had more time to put on different activities with the residents particularly when no family visits were allowed. That was the impetus for me actually starting the project. Once I had explained to each resident what I wanted to do, they got on board really quickly, with great enthusiasm.

What have been some of the highlights of the experience?

There have been many. David Bowie’s widow Iman retweeted it.  It’s just a phenomenal thing to know that the love of his life has seen this project and has liked it.

Midge Ure challenged me to do the Ultravox album cover of Vienna, which was just celebrating its 40th anniversary. So I felt the need to be able to do it. After I sent the photo out, he sent a really lovely message. As a special surprise for resident Sheila Solomon’s 92nd birthday, I’d arranged for her to meet Rag’n’Bone Man backstage before one of his concert. He was really lovely with her. He is a huge guy… he gave her a signed album. It was the one with the tattoo, so I knew that I had to get her doing this cover, complete with tattoo, temporary in Sheila’s case.

Sheila also recreated the Clash cover (a redo of an Elvis Presley album). She’s a real character. There’s not many 94-year-olds that still like going to rock concerts! She’s just waiting for lockdown to end so she can go and see Ed Sheeran. 

How did you choose the residents and carers for the photos?

It was partly on their look, say, if they had a similar hairstyle, but also based on music preference. They had heard all of the artists⎯they might not know exactly the song, but they all know and have listened to all of the different artists. So it was a case of showing them the album covers. It was interesting to discuss different covers and see how the image appears to someone in their 90s, and then it was a case of matching it in that way and taking some photos.

How did you choose the album covers?

I wanted the covers to be ones which were easily recognizable ⎯ the word “iconic” springs to mind. Even if the photo won’t have the name of either the singer or the group, you’ll know almost immediately who that artist is.

What impact has your project had on morale among residents and staff?

Well, they really have loved doing it. And obviously the global response has just been overwhelming. It’s been absolutely awesome, really phenomenal and so positive. They loved seeing the coverage on TV and in the press. For the residents and the staff to receive such warm wishes from around the world is really heartwarming ⎯ especially in this time when we are still in lockdown. Residents are only seeing their families maybe a couple times a week, if that, literally for 20 minutes, at two-meter distances, with masks on. The positivity was really needed. And while I was doing it just to create some smiles, it has also raised awareness of care homes—the people who are living and are working in them.

Did that play a role in changing the perception of older individuals?

It certainly did, because it made people realize that care homes aren’t this stagnant environment where residents just sit around in a circle, either sleeping or watching television. We try to encourage them to do as much as they possibly can. My mantra is: Use it or lose it. So often I say, if you can do it yourself, do it, because you don’t want to get to that stage where you actually aren’t able to do it; so once you can still do something, do it. And with these photos, they were all able to do it, they all enjoyed doing it. So it was that kind of feeling of knowing how care homes are perceived not only in the UK, but obviously in America and other countries, and we’re trying to knock that theory out of the window.

Are there any residents who said, “Hey, I want to be included”?

Yeah, we had a few, and their family members would get involved by saying, “I think Mummy would be good at this.” Or, “Why don’t we use Dad for this?” Then we’ve got residents saying, “What am I going to do? When am I going to be photographed?”

How did people find out about it?

Initially I sent it out on Facebook, to the families, and then posted on Twitter and Instagram. On Twitter, that’s where it went really completely crazy—just to learn who had seen it and how many people had seen it. I said to the residents, over 11 million people have seen these photos. It’s quite unbelievable. 

How were you able to do all the makeup, hair, body painting, photography and editing?

When I’ve got an idea such as this in mind, I like to do it myself, because I know what I need to achieve, rather than trying to explain it to someone else. Also, I didn’t want a lot of people knowing about it, just so that it could be focused on that individual. I could just take them off quietly. There’s no hoo-ha about it. I’d spend 30 minutes or an hour with them. Doing the makeup or the set or the hair.

Can you talk about why you made some of the details in the photos different?

Martin, the gentleman in the Springsteen photo, he’s got his own baseball cap, so I thought, I’m going to use that cap. And I’ve tried to do that throughout, so if there’s an item of clothing that the actual individual has already, then I want that to be in the photo. Sheila had a jumper similar to Rag’n’Bone Man’s, so that’s what I got her to wear. For Hilda and Blink-182 — the model is wearing a red bra, which wouldn’t have been appropriate for her. I showed a lovely red jumper of Hilda’s. Whether it’s an item of jewelry or a piece of clothing, I use things that belong to the residents, to make sure that it’s about them in the photo, not just their body, but also other aspects of their personality.

 Have other communities reached out to you about your project?

Yes. Another care home messaged me and said, “We hope you don’t mind, we saw what you did, and we’ve also tried to have a little go at that.” I think that’s a wonderful thing — especially during this time, when other care homes are in isolation — we need to be sharing ideas. And if this can work in other settings, then I’m all for it. It’s not a competition about who can do the best; it’s about making sure that seniors are engaged and have activities to do.

What has been your favorite thing about the project?

Suddenly, our residents are in the spotlight; they are the main talking point, having done something absolutely phenomenal. They have been able to talk so much about this to their peers, to family, to staff. It’s amazing that it’s still carrying on. Which is a beautiful thing. 

It’s not only just making somebody smile, it’s the fact that residents are talked about. And it’s not about the famous singers, it’s about our residents. It is really humbling personally for me. I never expected the impact and the response. I’m really overwhelmed, and the residents just absolutely love receiving the messages and can’t quite believe that people in America, Australia and all over the world have seen these photos and want to connect with us.

It has been a lovely ride that we’ve all been on. I’ve really shared it, the whole way, with the residents, which is just a lovely thing.

During COVID-19, Robert and the residents of Sydmar Lodge Care Home are helping others by raising funds for three charities: DementiaFriends.org.uk, Alzheimers.org.uk and AgeUK.org.ukYou can join the cause by donating through their GoFundMe page or by ordering a charity calendar they’re creating. Watch Robert’s Twitter page (@RobertSpeker) to see when the calendar comes out and how to order it. 

This week, we’re pleased to present a guest post by Lynn Perugini, director of sales and marketing at Meadowood At Home, a Continuing Care at Home (CCaH) program that is affiliated with the Meadowood Life Plan Community in Worcester, Pennsylvania.

For over 20 years, Lynn has provided exceptional service to senior communities and their residents. She’s an expert at giving sales and marketing presentations, and when COVID-19 closed the country down, she embraced virtual seminars immediately.

Today, I’d like to share some practical, common-sense tips for giving virtual presentations. These tips engage viewers and lead them to the next step in the sales cycle.

  1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. My biggest tip would be to prepare. The presentation part of it is all of it. Practice your presentation several times before you actually give it. (My family sat through at least four trial runs before I actually gave my first virtual presentation.)
  2. Set the stage. Consider the background you’re sitting in front of, the level of your camera, what’s around your computer. It’s like a stage show, and all the elements are part of a set. The details need to be right.
  3. Remember Camera Etiquette 101. My coworkers laugh, but I even do my makeup differently when I’m going to be on camera. Here are some other tips to help you make that on-camera connection with the audience:
    • Remember to smile—the audience can see you!
    • Use your hands as if you were talking to a friend
    • Wear a bright color (and especially, don’t wear black if you have a black chair, or you’ll appear as a disembodied head)
    • Wear a headset to signal that you’re connected to the video
    • Make sure that your head and shoulders fill the screen
    • Introduce yourself on camera at the beginning, then turn the camera off, so the audience can focus on the presentation
    • Engage the right monitor (if you have more than one monitor, make sure that the right one is engaged; if you don’t, you’ll be showing people your desktop instead of your presentation)
  4. Experiment with platforms. My favorite platform is GoToWebinar. I’ve tried Teams and Zoom, but I like GoToWebinar, because it’s easy for my audience of seniors to use. It’s as easy as one click; they don’t have to set up an account, and they don’t have people calling or emailing them. (Many of them are concerned about security.)
  5. Connect the phone audio. In the demographic I work with, many people have older computers that don’t work well. Now my invitation says, “Click here to see the presentation. Call this number if you don’t have a speaker on your computer.” Give your audience more than one way to experience your presentation.
  6. Help your audience through the process. Younger seniors are computer-savvy, but the folks over 80 may struggle. If they need help, I walk them through the process, and show them how they can easily get online. That drives registration. I’ve even had people call me for help five or ten minutes before the presentation.
  7. Make the presentation visually interesting. Avoid using a logo that sits on the screen. Add motion and life, like animating bullet points. That keeps the audience’s attention and acts as a prompt, so you can speak to each item as it flies onto the screen. You can also invite a guest speaker to add interest.
  8. Mix up the topics. Switch out your presentations and target them to difference audiences. (I change my presentations to target residents who live in 55-and-older communities, people who are interested in long-term care insurance and others.) The world at large has been doing these virtual presentations for four months, and audiences are getting burnt out. We’re all inundated with requests for webinars. And now that the weather is nice, it’s going to be even harder to get people’s attention, so variety is important
  9. Know that live and virtual are totally different. My online presentation is 100 percent different than my live presentation. In the live presentation, the PowerPoint is just a backdrop. In the virtual presentation, the focus is on the slides—the information has to be clear, easy to understand and attention-grabbing.
  10. Avoid too much touchy-feely. During COVID-19, people tend to make virtual presentations too emotional. Don’t show 50 slides of people wearing masks. Too much loses people, unless it’s as a background or a quick mention. I try to focus on relevant data—pricing, statistics and how people are using my program.
  11. Watch other virtual presentations for ideas. I made sure I sat in on at least four or five other, similar presentations; I picked out things that did and didn’t work. For example, one presenter overdid the polling feature—it was a good idea, it just took an agonizingly long time. That experience taught me that it’s best to do a quick poll at the beginning or end. 
  12. Follow up afterward. I send a separate email thanking the audience members for joining the webinar. I also provide them with the financial slides I presented. And I send a link to a New York Times article about Continuing Care at Home programs. When I send that, I tend to get a lot of reply emails.
  13. Make a virtual event a segue to a live event. At a live event, I can read the audience much better, and they can get to know me as well. At the end of my webinar, I encourage the audience to attend an upcoming live seminar (when it’s up and running). It’s a different level of commitment when people come to an in-person event. It’s easier to build personal relationships there.

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. I think it’s a great idea to continue to do virtual presentations, even after COVID-19. People are comfortable with them now. They see them as less of a commitment than a live event. I think I’m always going to do them. They’re a new and useful tool for sales and marketing.

Even after three days in the steamy summer heat, my excitement about everything I learned at the LeadingAge Tennessee 2019 Annual Meeting & EXPO is just beginning to heat up. The theme was: “What if we helped people find passion and purpose?” The individuals I connected with at the show are doing that in amazing ways. They’re bringing generations together, leveraging strategies from other industries and approaching their challenges with a fresh perspective.

Without further ado, I’m excited to report back to you my top five “what-ifs” at the show:

1. What if we could integrate former foster youth into senior living communities?

While I was walking the floor, I spoke with Rosemary Ramsey, founder of The Victory Lap, an organization committed to matching youth, 18 to 21, who have aged out of the foster program, with open apartments at senior living communities. The community would be paid $900 per month (funded by the foster program in Tennessee) and would be asked to provide a job for the individual (at least 10 hours per week). The program is intended to give former foster kids a boost — with stable housing, employment opportunities and support from caring older adults — while meeting workforce challenges, filling otherwise vacant units and fostering intergenerational friendships. Look for an interview with Rosemary in a future blog post!

2. What if we could bring the principles of doula care to hospice?

A session on creating a doula program for hospice created some serious conference buzz. The program follows the principles of birthing doulas to help guide the individual and family/loved ones through the dying process.

3. What if we could find and retain top talent?

One of my favorite sessions, led by Matt Thornhill, stressed the need for transparency and inclusion when hiring. It was all about finding and retaining top talent. One example Matt referenced was the innovative 30/40 program by LifeSpire of Virginia in which certified nursing assistants are paid for 40 hours but are only required to work 30.

4. What if new residents could feel at home more easily?

I heard several people talking about a unique continuum concierge program discussed by Melissa Ward, vice president of clinical & regulatory affairs at Functional Pathways. The program promotes successful transitions and helps people stay in their current levels of care. Its tools include new resident orientations, resident-driven support groups, physician services, collaboration across the care continuum and more. Stay tuned for a future blog post about this innovative program.

5. What if we looked beyond a prospect’s age and income?

Last but not least, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our session with co-presenter Robbie Voloshin of United Methodist Communities (UMC). Robbie celebrated her birthday that day! The talk covered an in-depth research study on which we had partnered with UMC. In short, the study shows how going beyond superficial demographics to interests and values can help organizations connect more deeply with the right prospects. Discussion centered around the core aspects of the study — the values statements and how they were ranked.

Have you had any what-if moments of your own? If so, drop me an email at . I’d love to hear about them.

At Varsity, we take every opportunity to get into the mind of the mature market, so we thought, “What could be better than using the social media phenomenon, FaceApp, on one of our own, James Schorn, resource manager at Varsity?” I decided to capture a few of James’s reactions to seeing himself aged several decades.

Q. Did seeing yourself aging change your perceptions about growing older?

A. It was refreshing to see myself aging like fine wine, as opposed to aging like milk…All kidding aside, I did feel that my spirit remained resilient, and that confirmed the many experiences I’ve had with older people ever since my first job working in the dining room of a retirement community. I think what I have always enjoyed about the mature market is seeing how happy and active this generation is. I love hearing about their life experiences. Sometimes it seems as if the world classifies our older generations as weak and fragile. Based on my experiences, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Nothing is more inspiring than a couple that has been married for 50+ years and still loves each other, day in and day out.

Q. What are your responsibilities at Varsity?

A. I’m in charge of quotes, scheduling and planning of projects. Through my career, I have overseen hundreds of projects of all different scopes. This has allowed me to use knowledge from past initiatives to ensure that our future projects run efficiently while giving our clients the best possible return.

Q. Are there any myths that still need to be debunked about aging, and the senior living industry specifically?

A. The overall perception of senior living needs to change. From my visits to communities, I have seen personally that they are built on friendship, trust and care. From residents to staff members, everyone looks out for one another. This generation is made up of strong individuals, and they should be respected for their impact on this world.

 

Two very different leaders have just reached the halfway point of their journey in the LeadingAge PA Fellows in Leadership program. For all those who aren’t able to attend, we wanted to share ten unexpected things they’ve learned about leadership along the way.

Brian Mailliard is the CFO at St. Paul’s. Sakkara El is the Director of Personal Care at Masonic Villages. As they hit the halfway mark of their journey, here are 10 invaluable insights Sakkara and Brian have gained about leadership so far:

  1. Shake up your thinking. “I came into the program with my own ideas on leadership, much of which was inculcated during my youth,” said Sakkara. “Now I realize that there’s so much more to it. My overall thinking has expanded.”
  2. Be aware of your impact on others. “The program is teaching me to be more aware of myself, and how my actions and reactions can have an impact on those I’m tasked with leading,” Brian said.
  3. You don’t have to have all the answers. Brian has been amazed by the sheer volume of leadership information that is out there. “It’s not always about knowing all the answers,” he said, “but having resources to reach out to and learn from other individuals that are experiencing similar situations.”
  4. Praise your team. All of the Fellows underwent a DISC profile, a test that assesses personality styles. “It was eye opening reading page after page about my leadership style,”  Sakkara said. She has made a conscious effort to implement some of the leadership suggestions that came from the profiles, such as praising the team she directly manages more often.
  5. Be an advocate. The Fellows visited the Capitol Building in Harrisburg to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of advocacy, including interacting with government officials and their office staff.
  6. Execution is key. Sakkara found one presentation on the work of leaders enlightening. “The lecturer explained the importance of crafting a vision, building alignment and championing execution,” she said.
  7. Look outside yourself. Both Sakkara and Brian were inspired by a visit to  Messiah Lifeways in Mechanicsburg. The community is very innovative and 100% resident focused,” Sakkara said.
  8. Look inside yourself. “”It has been an introspective journey in terms of continuing to learn, grow and evolve in my leadership style,” Brian said.
  9. Build relationships. Current fellows, past fellows and LeadingAge PA staff attended a mixer at the LeadingAge PA offices. “Meeting new people you can learn something from is always a plus,” Brian said.
  10. Don’t wait to be a better leader. What would Brian tell people who are thinking about participating in Fellows in Leadership? “The sooner you can do it, the better.”

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