Tuesday, July 31, 2012


A STITCH IN TIME. Eighteen older adults, for years neighbors and acquaintances, are now fast friends, too. Artfully and forever connected, the Eskaton Henson Manor residents and neighbors are students in the community’s “Artists in Residence” program. As part of the current course’s two-month learning experience, each budding artist created a colorful patch to contribute to a flower-themed quilt. The resulting composite artwork, coordinated and stitched together by the affordable apartment community’s administrator, Donna Garrett, will be auctioned to raise tuition money for the next class of art students.

With study upon study validating the benefits of socialization, creativity and purpose amongst older adults, it’s easy to make case here for doubling the preventative measure of “a stitch in time saves nine.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


TAKE THE INITIATIVE ... AND SELL IT. [PART II] Remember that Babe Ruth analogy. Considered the greatest baseball ballplayer of all-time, The Bambino hit less than one homerun for every 10 at bats. So, with due humility, here are 10 successful initiatives of the 10 times as many ideas that have been pitched within Eskaton.

Their success can be attributed to effective Planning, Purpose and Priority.

Thrill of a Lifetime by Eskaton -- The gameplan for this “dream come true” campaign explains how it inspires everyone involved, the participants as well as employees, volunteers, sponsors and news media.

Eskaton Celebrates 100+ -- Celebrate our three-dozen-plus centenarians and promote Eskaton as the “Official Sponsor of Longevity.”

Eskaton Kids Connection -- This signature Eskaton experience has grown in three years from one class of elementary school students visiting with 30 residents, to more than 500 student-resident buddies throughout Eskaton.

Eskaton “Dawn of a New Day” Memory Care -- New memories are made every day with this forward-thinking approach dementia care.

Eskaton Veterans Appreciation -- West Sacramento’s first Veterans Day Parade launched the initiative; holiday celebrations regularly honor our hundreds of vets.

Eskaton’s Urban Gardens -- This growing concern highlights Eskaton’s commitment to resource conservation, sustainability and healthy eating -- a trifecta of contemporary (Boomer-friendly) causes.

Eskaton / CSUS Student Living andLearning Experience -- A gerontology student from California State University, Sacramento benefits from a practical education by living in older adult community for a year.

Artists for Alzheimer’s -- The ARTZ partnership brings artwork to memory care communities, and residents to museums.

Keep Connected with Eskaton -- This new initiative will connect residents with remote family members and friends using eLiving, Eskaton’s proprietary online social and video connection.

Longevity Rules with Eskaton -- The multimedia public outreach campaign helped build Eskaton’s national reputation.

It takes the best of intentions -- starting within the organization, from the top on down -- to make good ideas work. [SEE PREVIOUS POST, PART I -- JULY 23]

Monday, July 23, 2012


RESISTANCE-PROOF YOUR IDEAS. [PART I] There are a number of reasons many great ideas never amount to more than “great ideas.” Insufficient expertise, resources, finances and time obviously can reasonably stifle creativity. However, internal resistance is a particularly dispiriting excuse.

Most employees these days perceive themselves to be stretched thin as is. The prospect of being tasked with more work, with which they do not associate any personal recognition or financial benefits, is less than motivating.

Though your workforce may not know of Peter Drucker’s tongue-in-cheek warning that “Every great idea eventually deteriorates into work,” their intuition about such things obliges consideration.

Several fundamental strategies can preempt this push-back and even encourage buy-in:

1.     Involve operational staff in the planning process. Their on-the-ground perspective offers a reality check on available resources not always recognized by management. Then, use operational staff to champion the project among coworkers.

2.     Explain the purpose, with relatable context. If it is simply to increase revenue, then communicate how this translates to “opportunity” in terms of future growth, more jobs and job security. If the operational benefits apply to marketing potential, explain this connection. For new initiatives to be promoted with conviction to consumers, they need to be understood and embraced internally first.

3.     Prioritize the implementation. Respectfully, assume workers are busy and that they do not have a block of time set aside to take on new projects. (See Parkinson’s Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.) If now a highest priority, explain why and how other tasks can be rearranged to accommodate the new focus.

With Eskaton and a number of other aging services providers across the country, operations and marketing teams are conspiring on creative strategies to build census -- immediately and for years to come.

[NEXT POST, PART II -- JULY 24] Of Eskaton’s multiple initiatives, effective Planning, Purpose and Priority facilitate their implementation. While, others, still in various stages of development, require more resistance-proofing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


“WIN THIS ONE FOR THE GIPPER.” “Why not an actor, we’ve had a clown for four years.” So read the best bumper sticker in the history of politics, sported during the 1980 presidential campaign as the Reagan camp’s response to President Carter’s aspersions. The Gipper’s self-depricating humor endeared him to many, but more importantly, strategically marginalized real concerns.

It was a tact he employed most memorably in his presidential debate with Walter Mondale. “I am not going to make age an issue in this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience,” Reagan famously quipped. The audience roared with laughter and, once again, his wit took the wind from one of the opposition’s fundamental campaign themes.

There’s a lesson here, and it goes beyond the obvious that humor and humility are much appreciated qualities.

THE ART OF INDIRECTION. For those of us tasked with promoting aging and aging services as rewards rather than burdens, it is this: The target audience for our messaging is not older adults as much as it is everyone else. Older adults already know who they are and what services they need and want. We need to connect with younger adults, whose denial and fear of aging does an injustice to the inevitable process. These are the people whose attitudes and actions influence those of older adults -- both intentionally and subliminally.

Only by adjusting their behavior will overall public regard for longevity improve. Directed to younger generations, there needs to be a substantive, but clever public awareness initiative to exploit and project the benefits of aging -- experience, perspective, patience, purpose ... time, among others.

THE PUNCH LINE IS SOLID. Clearly, “Longevity is good.” The set-up and timing need some work, though.

Comedians (and sometimes astute politicians) effectively apply the art of indirection. They lure unsuspecting audiences with the obvious and, surprise, catch them off-guard. (Pfizer’s just launched “Get Oldcampaign attempts to showcase aging from a different, unexpected perspective.)

Watch for more to come on this. In the meantime, consider a campaign that declares “Longevity Rules” and reminds us of rule number 1: “Aging is better than not.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


HOME ALONE? NOT ALWAYS BEST. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts,” U.S. Senator Daniel Moynihan famously declared. In marketing and sales and advertising (and yes, occasionally even public relations) opinions are often miscast as facts.

So we are fortunate that new research now validates a key sales pitch used routinely to attract people to older adult communities. It is now fact: Socialization is healthy and can extend life expectancy.

Conversely, the social pain of loneliness produces changes in the body that mimic and essentially accelerate the aging process, according to a new study by Cornell University. The study specifically determined that loneliness increases the risk of heart disease and other health problems later in life. On a positive note, lead researcher Anthony Ong concluded, “One of the most important and life-affirming messages of this research is the reminder that we all desire and need meaningful social connections.”

Another new study by geriatricians at the University of California, San Francisco confirms that older adults who feel isolated and unhappy are twice as likely to have declining abilities to perform so-called activities of daily living; and 45 percent more likely to die than older adults who felt meaningfully connected to others.

(In my opinion) these findings, as is often the case with popular research, simply reinforce a commonly held belief. Still, they do offer older adults and their families impartial, factual information as they struggle to distinguish the benefits of community living versus aging-in-place.

Monday, July 9, 2012


THE HEADLINE READS “DECLARING INDEPENDENCE.” On the front page of the Sunday Sacramento Bee (7-8-12) the color photograph of five older adults laughing shows what the 82-inch story proceeds to tell. Among this friendly group of residents at the Eskaton Roseville Manor multiservice community, are Jackie and Bill Merz. When asked about offers from their kids to come live with them, Jackie exclaimed that as much as she adores them, “I told them we’d have somebody shoot us before we did that.”

“Most older adults tend to be a bit more euphemistic about it,” said Anita Creamer, the Bee’s senior writer who authored the feature on older adults living on their own. The desire to remain as independent as possible is a recurring theme with many residents of older adult communities. And not simply to avoid burdening their families.

More so, Eskaton residents point to the engaging lifestyle, friendships, activities, security, modern conveniences and healthcare when needed as reasons for choosing community living.

Monday, July 2, 2012


PUT A PILLOW OVER MY HEAD!? Sadly, it is not uncommon for a young, healthy individual to whisper “Just kill me” or “Put a pillow over my head” upon witnessing the plight of a very old, frail and infirmed person. Two things are not taken into account, unfortunately, with such disparaging perspectives: 1) The objectionable remark is incredibly disrespectful to the individual who is challenged to value every moment of life; and 2) No one knows with certainty the value they will place on their own life, given similar circumstances, until they personally experience it.

Avoiding ageism, as with all forms of prejudice and negative stereotyping, often requires observers and communicators to carefully view situations from another’s perspective.

Aging is inevitable ... and unpredictable. Walking aids, feeding tubes and memory care may not be standard issue, but for some these supports are not optional. Yet no physical or mental decline is likely to be as frustrating or challenging or sad as accepting the notion that for all the individual effort, some more fortunate observers still reflect: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”