Tuesday, February 28, 2012


FALSE DEADLINES WITH GOOD INTENTIONS. No one resents a “false deadline” more than me. But then I am responsive -- a professional imperative for journalists. Publishing and handful of other professions (i.e. tax preparers, hostage negotiators, military generals) live and die by real deadlines. Too many others, however, use deadlines as casual reminders or threats or worse -- to burden subordinates with making up for wasted time. The false deadline can be identified for having no actual consequences once missed.

Conversely, “false deadlines,” when used with discretion, can serve a useful if not universally successful purpose. They can minimize your stress and calm your ulcer by obligating habitual procrastinators (i.e. lawyers, insurance agents, unnamed coworkers) to work with you instead of against you; in your time zone where time is money and accountability counts.

Ideally, the best way to reconcile the contradictory use of false deadlines is for all so-called ”professionals”  to value time as a shared gift rather than a personal possession.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


TAKING A NEW ROUTE DOWN MEMORY LANE. Branding and marketing for aging services can be a complicated, almost schizophrenic proposition as providers attempt to balance the needs of the current generation of consumers with the desires of the next generation of Boomer consumers.

Certain appeals always resonate: value, personal connection, supportive independence, everyone is aging (“aging is an active verb”), among others.

Others are not so universally accepted -- by one generation or another.

Take the new “graphic wraps” Eskaton applied to the transportation vans for community living residents. The colorful “mobile billboards” are accomplishing the purpose of attracting plenty of attention as they cruise about Northern California. The implied message is that Eskaton communities are contemporary, proud of our brand and home to vibrant older adults. While everyone agrees the new design clearly distinguishes the previously nondescript white buses, not everyone approves of the change.

“Most of us are dignified elderly people who have been proud of where we live. No longer,” one resident wrote. “That changed the day the ‘circus van’ came to town.” The note also stated that “many” residents feel this way, “but don’t wish to be involved.”

The predicament becomes trying to satisfy the subjectivity of the “many” with neutral, undistinguished branding. Or, veering off memory lane and on to the expressway where -- even though, or especially because -- the landscape is cluttered with messages competing for the attention of our prospective occupants. This new direction is not taken cavalierly; consideration for the dignity of our current residents remains paramount.

The majority of our residents, thankfully, do appreciate that the newly designed vans can serve the dual purpose to drive them about town and drive traffic to the community.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


ESKATON WHETS ITS APPETITE FOR ADVOCACY. Eskaton has been dipping its toes into the public policy arena over the past year. One effort produced quite a splash. Another created a ripple effect. And a third was just for show.

ADHC RALLY -- February 1, 2011: Adult day healthcare lives to fight another day. Or, more accurately, fights to live another day. Dozens of older and disabled adults, many in wheelchairs, and all participants of Eskaton’s Adult Day Health Center rallied at the California State Capitol on February 1, 2011. The very demonstrative appeal to legislators and the Governor to save the state’s adult day healthcare generated dozens of news stories and supported the successful grassroots advocacy to preserve the program. Senate Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg joined with participants that day. While Assembly Member Mariko Yamada, chair of the influential Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-term Care, issued a statement in November on the program’s protected status: “We must continue to fight for this program and all programs that help our most vulnerable elders and disabled adults live in the community with dignity while also saving the state money.”

THRILL OF A LIFETIME -- January 2012
Upon returning from his triumphant reunion in Japan with his brother from whom he was separated as a result of WWII more than 60 years ago, Eskaton resident Minoru Ohye was the guest of honor at a State Capitol reception hosted byAssembly Member Mariko Yamada. The 86-year-old Ohye participated in Eskaton’sThrill of a Lifetime initiative, which thanks to the support of Yamada and the generosity of private donors, arranged for Mino and his brother Hiroshi to enjoy a thrilling, week-long reunion in Japan. “I am ‘thrilled’ beyond words,”said Yamada, who worked closely with Eskaton staff leading up to and during the extraordinary trans-Pacific reunion.

“ONE NATION, UNDER AGE” -- October 2010 – July 2011
Eskaton’s “Generation Nation: One Nation, Under Age” photography exhibition shares the poignancy and positive benefits of positive interaction between youth and older adults. The 12 photos featured individuals from Eskaton’s Kids Connection project and Generations United’s international photography contest. The exhibition premiered October 2010 on the historic Governor’s Marble Wall at the California State Capitol where tens of thousands of visitors as well as the governor, legislators and staff viewed and read the story behind the powerful imagery. After touring throughout Northern California, the exhibition traveled to Washington, D.C. in July 2011 for a special viewing at GU’s annual conference.

Formal legislative advocacy, lobbying, surely has a role in attempting to influence a positive aging experience, though favorable outcomes require enormous commitments oftime and resources. On the other hand, while Eskaton’s recent public relations strategies may not stem concerns about the encroaching “Silver Tsunami,” the exposure and goodwill certainly do influence public opinion. And that attracts everyone’s attention, even elected officials.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


STRATEGIC THINKING STARTS WITH ASKING “WHY?” Why can be the most difficult and frustrating of questions. Every parent whose been challenged by their child’s curiosity -- Why is the sky blue? Where do babies comes from? Why do I have to go to bed? – knows that the bigger the question the tougher the answer.

Unfortunately, parents’ inadequate answers and lack of patience do little to feed our children’s insatiable curiosity. Instead their sponge-like minds too often absorb lazy responses like “That’s God’s favorite color” or “storks” or “Because I said so.” Until finally, invariably, unfortunately, most children outgrow their boundless curiosity.

But then, later in life when we need to ask big questions and think strategically, adult-size curiosity can be difficult to muster. And even when someone is brave enough to interrupt a rambling presentation with “Why?” the response is usually a blank stare, or more rambling.

Consider, for example, big concerns related to aging such as healthcare, affordable housing, home support services. Progress based on the narrow thinking and messaging of special-interest groups is getting us nowhere.

Abstract numbers and unfathomable worst-case scenarios do not resonate with the average person, who is every cause’s number one target audience.

Instead, we need relatable messages -- that explain why and how these concerns are personal, and that take advantage of the biological fact that aging impacts everyone, of all ages.

When a child asks “Why do we grow old,” we should be able to answer “Because it’s good for you.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


AROUND THE WORLD IN OHYE DAYS. [Installment #4] Back in time to make his Tuesday morning golf date, Minoru Ohye returned safely this past weekend from his whirlwind reunion with his brother in Japan from whom he was separated six decades ago. The week-long Thrill of a Lifetime experience sponsored by Eskaton coincided with Ohye’s 86th birthday which he was fortunate to celebrate with his brother Hiroshi.

His Tuesday also included an afternoon reception held in his honor at the State Capitol with Assemblymember Mariko Yamada. Yamada, who chairs the California State Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-term Care, helped organize a fundraiser to support the Thrill and about its success exclaimed, “I am ‘thrilled’ beyond words.” Consul General of Japan Hiroshi Inomata, who helped with the Thrill’s logistics, made a special trip from San Francisco to greet Ohye as well.

[pictured from left: Eskaton’s Suzanne Strassburg, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, Eskaton’s Debbie Reynolds, guest of honor Mino Ohye, Consul Tomotaka Kuwahara, Consul General Hiroshi Inomata, Consul Takemichi Nagaoka]

Also receiving special recognition at the Capitol event were Suzanne Strassburg, director of Eskaton’s Thrill initiative and this elaborate production; and Debbie Reynolds, administrator of Eskaton Wilson Manor in West Sacramento where Ohye lives. Reynolds initiated the reunion Thrill after learning from Ohye of his extraordinary military record and how his experience as a P.O.W. separated him from his brother.