This #ActivitiesStrong Executive Edition discussion is led by Charles De Vilmorin, Josh Crisp and James Lee.This conversation inspiries listeners to rethink Resident Engagement as more than just a department in senior living. It is the mechanism through which we can serve a much broader market of seniors who may never be customers of traditional senior housing. A strong business case can and should be made for viewing Resident Engagement as the core revenue-generating secret sauce of the senior living industry.
Charles: Welcome everyone. Welcome to today’s Activities Strong Executive Edition. Before I get started, I’d like to share with you two things. One is, I don’t know about you, but it’s been a really long year and I think that we all have mentally, and James and Josh I’d love to hear yours when we get to talk, I think we all have mentally this placeholder in our head when everything started right, COVID started. And for me, I just want to share with you that for me, it kind of started no more than a year ago on February 26th, because it was my last visit in a senior community. It was actually Cherrydale Health and Rehab just in Virginia, because I live in DC, which is part of medical facilities of America. So if any of you are part of medical facilities in America on this call, you know, shout out and to all of you, I’m sure you understand that. It’s been kind of interesting for all of us on the quote unquote outside because I truly miss not being part of and you know, not visiting a community, not getting a sense of how things are and hopefully things are improving for all of you. The other mentioned that I wanted to share with you is that today is an Activity Strong webinar. It’s also an executive edition weapon and these are extremely exciting webinars and opportunities for us because we get to partner with our media partner, Bridge the Gap, which is today represented by Josh; hey Josh. And for us, it’s an interesting way to welcome everyone.
Obviously Activity Strong is about acknowledging, educating, and empowering activity in life enrichment directors, but we also want to invite executives to the discussion. So if you are an executive, such as an administrator, an executive director, or anyone else on an executive team, let me just thank you for your interest and share with you. The fact that you just showed up for today shows that activity and life enrichment matter, right? And we all know they are beyond the essential. So we’re excited about these opportunities and we will continue throughout 2021 with our media partner, Bridge the Gap to provide this education. So today’s is extremely exciting where we welcome James Lee, who’s the founder and owner of Bayer Wise Consulting and we’re going to be talking about resident engagement is the secret sauce of senior living. So let me briefly introduce James to our audience. He is a founder and owner of Bayer Wise Consulting, a boutique consulting firm, specializing in strategy and innovation consulting with its clients in the senior living space, right. There’s really a focus on the senior living space. 12 years of experience and I’ll let you read the rest of the bio here, but let me just share with you something that James said with me, which is the fact that one of his very first jobs when he started in senior living was as an activity professional. Is that right? James
James: That’s right.
Charles: So with us, we also have Josh, welcome back to today’s. He helped me conduct a state of the resident engagement back in January. I’m sure you’ll remember him and obviously myself. You know, I believe all old people are cool and I also believe that senior living is activity strong. Before we get started, some of you might know that Linked Senior is behind two extremely exciting initiatives in our space. One; old people are cool, which started actually five years ago now. And then in the wake of COVID, we started the activities strong platform to again, acknowledge etiquette and power you the activity enrichment directors in the space. Quick word about Linked Senior, we are a resident engagement platform for senior living. And our work has been published in a peer review journal.
So we’re very interested in taking engagement to the next level, disrupting it, but in a very good way where we can, pick the benefits of measuring and improving so that we can see the impact on quality of life clinical and financial outcomes. The last slide here is a quick invitation to all of you, the audience. If you have any suggestions of speakers and or ideas, we always take these into account. And I want to say that most of these speakers come from suggestions from the origins of some of our partners. So please reach out. And as Meaghan mentioned, if you have any stories to share about the shine your light celebration that we did in partnership with time-slot speed, please be in touch. So that’s my introduction, James, I’ll leave it up to you and just let me know when you’re going to change sides, thanks.
James: Great, thanks Charles, and thanks for inviting me to be a part of this conversation here. I won’t go too far into my professional history if you’re interested in that. I’m happy to answer questions at the end, but I’m really excited about diving straight into the topic here. The quick preface I’ll say is that Charles is right, one of my earlier jobs in senior living was as an activities director, the title at the time was called lifestyles director. It’s one of the hundreds of iterations of the name of this title. And I think we’re still really trying to get it right. Some people call it activities, resident engagement, but the job is the same. The job is to provide that fulfilling, purposeful experience for seniors who not just live in our communities, but are just part of our service ecosystem. I tell people, and to this day, I still tell people when I go to communities that the hardest job I’ve had in senior living by far and away is the one I held in activities. I’ve been an executive director, I’ve had every job in sales you can think of and senior living and I’ve had various senior roles for four organizations. And I will still tell you that the hardest job I had was an activities. The second part I say to that is, it’s the hardest job you’ll have if you do it right, if you do it well and if you do it to the full extent of what this amazing role is meant to be, this’ll be the hardest and most rewarding job that you can have. So I have a profound respect for all of you who are on this webinar that also believed that this is a worthwhile position that we should invest in.
This first slide here, you know, as you’re taking a look at this it occurs to me that in our industry, in the senior living or senior services industry, we get really in the weeds of the day-to-day business. We talked about sales, we talked about operational expenses, we talked about the day-to-day hustle of the work that we all have. And we rarely get an opportunity to pull back a little bit and talk about what problem we are solving in the first place. So this is my attempt to kind of gear that conversation back up to the 30,000 foot view and talk about what problems we as an industry are addressing.
And I can tell you it’s not housing, it’s not specific to just cares, not specific to even activities. There’s a bigger, I think problem set that our audience is trying to solve for themselves and this is my attempt at that. So this is a little human psychology kind of leading into it, which is what are the needs of seniors. And it shouldn’t have to be said, but let’s say it anyway, seniors have exactly the same needs as any other adult group, there is no distinction here, there’s no retirement of needs once you hit a magical age. Your desire for belonging and inclusion and purposefulness, it’s all still there. So, Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, that’s the image that’s on the slide here and it basically asserts that from beginning to top that once your base needs are taken care of you advance to the next stage.
So we’ll come back to this, Josh, Charles and I will talk about this a little bit, on the premise of what problem are we solving in the first place. And as we go, I’d love for you to engage with us. So if you have questions, if you have something to say about these topics, we’d love to engage with you on that and not just talk with the three of us. So we’ll come back to this Charles, let’s advance to the next slide here, a lot of content here. But basically, this is just an attempt to convey how we’re actually solving that problem today. So resident engagement, the way that you and all of us on this call on this webinar might describe it. It’s not just the social things that we do. If you look back on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a full complete human being, the holistic needs of any adult are beyond just food and water and shelter care. Their respect, their esteem, the things of being the best version of myself that I can be and that quest doesn’t retire at a certain age. You always feel like that and I think all of us on this webinar would probably agree that when you interact with residents, um, they are still searching and pursuing the best version of themselves. If you look at the pie chart here, this is not a scientific pie chart, but it’s really meant to visually represent to you; how our industry currently allocates funds to taking care of that full holistic person. So, in other words, I get this, a recent study by Statista says that the average American adult spends $3,050 per year, just on entertainment, on entertainment alone. We spend about $3,000 a year, sme of us may spend a little bit more looking at you, Josh and some of us may spend a little bit less, but in general, the average American spends 3000 bucks a year, just for entertainment. Think about that in the context of senior services, many of you on this call, I believe are professionals in the resident engagement space. So you can tell me if I’m right or wrong here, but hypothetically let’s say that you have a monthly budget of $1,500 per year for a community of about a hundred residents. You do the math, this works out to $180 per resident per year. The normal amount spends $3,000 just on entertainment and we allocate $180 for the entire year for the full range of human needs, not just the entertainment and social. So I think that if we’re addressing the real problem, we got to take a look at how we are trying to solve that right now? So this is kind of the big slide which we can kind of come back to and speak to. But let’s go ahead and move on to the third and final slide, Charles and then we can go back to the beginning. Here are the consequences of us not getting this correct. So these are all data points that are collected from reputable sources, 43% of seniors report that they regularly feel lonely. This is not seniors in communities, this is not seniors living at home, this is the aggregate 43% of older. Yeah. Adults feel lonely on a regular basis. You keep moving that along to some of the other correlated data points here and that if you report that you feel lonely on a regular basis, you have a 45% increased risk of mortality. So, the sources for this data it’s on the slide here. So if you’re interested in more of the science that went into this I think these are some fascinating reads. But take a look at nearly half of seniors who say that they feel lonely on a regular basis and if you feel that you have basically a 50% higher chance of dying earlier than somebody who doesn’t feel lonely. To most of us on this call, that feels intuitive. But here’s the data behind that and if you’re looking for a way to talk to your leadership team about the business impact of all of this, I think the next part is not just looking at the data behind loneliness and engagement, but what is the financial cost of not addressing those needs? So, you know, here’s one point which is $6.7 billion spent annually attributed to social entertainment for older adults. So that’s the costs, right? That’s not how much we are literally spending, that’s the economic value of how much time, how much resources we put into solving this problem just as a society. So take those three points together. The first slide being Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, what a complete adult wants out of their lives. You take a look at point number two, which is how we’re currently solving for that as an industry. And you look at slide number three, which are the consequences of not getting that correct. So that’s the premise of our conference station today. I’m sure that a lot of you are feeling that kind of frustration to kind of leap up off of your seat and talk about this with us. And that’s the point, let’s have an honest conversation about what seniors really want out of engagement and how are we addressing it and what are the consequences of not getting that right. So Charles let’s head back to the first slide with that pyramid and let’s see if we can have a robust conversation around this.
Charles: Sure. Thanks a lot, James, I’m happy to get started with one question, which is kind of the title of our presentation today James, you know, like rather engagement being the secret sauce of senior living. We know for a fact that some providers, they do a fantastic job, but why do you believe that even in 2021, it’s still a secret, what’s your best guess at that question?
James: I made a LinkedIn post today or yesterday kind of along this topic. If I were to ask you Charles, about supply and demand in senior living, and I ask you to describe supply, what is the supply in senior living that most people are going to point to?
Charles: I guess, the communities themselves, right? Like the units yeah.
James: Right, when most people talk about supply, they’re talking about units but jump over to the demand side of that. What do seniors actually want? I can tell you, they are not demanding units, they are not demanding apartments, they’re not asking for any of that. What they’re asking for, what they’re demanding is care. And care, I mean that in an umbrella term that incorporates resident engagement. And really from my point of view, resident engagement is the better word than care because resident engagement is inclusive of care, but we don’t always think that care is inclusive of resident engagement. You know what I mean? So when I say resident engagement, I don’t mean like just the fun activities that we do in the communities. That’s certainly a part of it, but that’s maybe entertainment value. When I talk about resident engagement, I mean the entire pyramid here. I mean the drive for purpose, the drive for influence in the world around you. So if you think about that, the demand in senior living is actually care and engagement. The supply, the corresponding supply is not the apartment. It is care. And again, I’m using care as an umbrella term for caregivers, activity directors, maintenance directors. So I mean, resident engagement in all of the services that we provide, not the physical places where we provide them.
Josh: So James, I have a question, and it’s just screaming off of page at me this slide. And it’s really in that first line, things that do not retire. I have witnessed as a senior living community manager administrator for years so many of these things that you’ve put into this formula, this pyramid here for us, which is a great visual, and it seems like so many things pivot at this term retire. It seems like that’s something that in our culture here in America, that we really long for this, this idea of retirement. And it seems like so many, that’s a wonderful thing. I think we all kind of aspire to retire and retire well, but it seems like so many things that we take with us to that date of retirement are loosed from us on that day. You know, whether it’s our job that we identified as our purpose, all these meaningful things that we were doing, they seem to often, too often, get lost in that retirement process. And then we see kind of a decline in our senior living communities, because maybe it’s a sense of purpose and all these different things in this pyramid. But my question is, and not to put anybody on the spot, cause we didn’t talk about any of this before the show. But where did the concept of retirement come from? Is that just an Americanized thing that’s kind of fueling some of this, Charles, do you or James have any ideas on that?
James: I’m going to bounce that over to Charles for a second while I think on this amazing question. So I’m going to buy myself a few minutes by giving Charles the platform for a minute.
Charles: I have no idea to be honest, where retirement comes from. I think it, I mean, if I have to make a best guess and I would say that it comes with the fact that our population has been aging more and more since the industrial revolution, right. And maybe it had to do with the fact that some of the very physically demanding jobs cannot be done after a certain age, but that would be my best guess. You know, Josh for me, I love the fact that this age that we have for clinical retirement was supposed to drop half of what we’re doing and kind of not know what to do else, right? Like this quote unquote retirement is supposed to be a moment in life where we get things taken off or away from us and then they’re not being replaced. And we all know that this is wrong, we all know that this idea of the fact that we are perpetually reinventing ourselves right through our lives. And that actually starts when you’re a kid. Right. I think we all know Lynne Katzman, the CEO and co-founder of Juniper communities. And she, I saw her speak one day and she had this amazing thought, which is; in America, in our culture and in the American culture, one of the moments of most intense freedom is when you get to your college campus, like a university. And she’s like, why can that not be when we moved to a senior community? Like what is preventing us as a society to celebrate life and freedom and kind of this thirst for more stuff. But new stuff as we did when we were younger and so I love this concept because if you think about it that way, then that helps us remove all the barriers, all the things that are in our way, including ageism. Right. So that’s a quick attempt to,
Josh: I love that Charles and I think you just re iterated kind of the point I was trying to get to where I think in our culture, we have so baked into the idea of retirement that we’re kind of done at that age. And it really should be a celebration. I love the way you put that, where now all of our life experiences, for good and for bad, all of those, those learning experiences are now at a point where hopefully we have some level of a new level of freedom and a new platform, so to speak to where that wealth of knowledge can be passed around and so much good can be done. So thank you for taking my side ball question there you guys. James, do you have any other thoughts?
Charles: Sorry, I just want quickly somebody in the chat quickly answered that it was at a time when we had a high unemployment and it was to leave room for the younger generation. So a retirement was made a requirement between 65 and 70. So all those people are adding to that. So, sorry, go ahead, Josh, with your question for James.
Josh: Well, no I was just going to say thank you to the chat room. And whoever said that, if you knew that without having to Google it, I wish we could give them bonus points right now. That is amazing. I think that’s another practical example to go into. We won’t chase this, this rabbit, but that was obviously a very, probably great idea for that time that has probably gotten a little bit twisted and Americanized in such a way that it’s not as beneficial as it used to be in some ways, but that’s great.
James: Yeah, I think to kind of further this conversation, so much of what we do here in America, if you look at this pyramid here of what gives us a sense of belonging, what gives us a sense of esteem? A lot of us wrap that into our professions, into our jobs. And so when you retire from that job, you were also inadvertently retiring that kind of sense of belonging in that esteem that came along with it. So I think, you know the goal here for us, and really a commentary of why senior living I think resonates with us so much, is that it’s not about taking care of seniors. It’s about taking care of ourselves, it’s about taking care of just society and the family unit. So I think that the goal for us is to retire, to live the way that we want to retire, right? So that when you stop working, you’re not putting up on the shelf the belonging and esteem and all of those things that kind of got wrapped up with it. I think that kind of takes us to where we might be missing the value proposition now is that we are replacing, or we’re attempting to kind of fill that void of belonging esteem and self-actualization with just activities or things to do which is not to say that those are bad. But you know Josh, I remember the very first conversation I had with you. This was back at our genom a few years ago and one of the things that came up from that was I was an executive director at the time. And I think one of the best resident engagement case studies we had was one of our residents wanted to work. He wanted to go find a job. So we were actually helping him to craft his resume and talk to people. And that’s what I mean, it just happens to be that that’s about work, but the core concept there about helping this person to find purpose and keep driving it forward. That’s what we’re all talking about.
Josh: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. And I know you and I have had a lot of conversations as have me and Charles about helping the residents to live their purpose. And oftentimes I think we kind of say it the wrong way, I’ve even been guilty. We’ll say we help our residents find a purpose or give them purpose. Well, they’ve already got the purpose. A lot of times it’s just us enabling each other and reminding them that they do have purpose and then assisting them to fulfill their purpose. And to your earlier points, again back to the whole retirement thing, if you look at as Charles said, all these different life events, how many times have we heard somebody say, oh my gosh the empty nesters syndrome or they’re having a midlife crisis because there’s these moments when your identity is so wrapped up in something else. I kind of refer to it as the identity box, it’s something that we’ve assigned our value to something that can be taken away and of course our purpose can’t ever be taken away from us. So it’s really cool.
James: I had a conversation with somebody last week that really helps me elevate my perspective of the word purpose. We use that word purpose a lot in our profession or our industry. So I was having a conversation, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind my sharing, but she doesn’t identify as a senior, she doesn’t like the label; I understand that too. But I think she referred to herself as an older adult in her early seventies and we got to talking about purpose and this insight came through that conversation, which is what gives you a sense of purpose? Meaning how do you know that something is purposeful and where we arrived at is that it’s not just something to do or something that you like to do. Purpose is tied to influence; you have the ability to influence the things that you love. So with work if I don’t feel that I influence my work environment, I don’t feel purpose in that job. If I don’t feel that I have influence over my faith community, if I’m just the person who sits there and listens to somebody and I can’t influence my community, I don’t feel purpose. So try to find anything that you have purpose in, that where you don’t exert some kind of influence. And it just clicked for me that when we use the word purpose, most of us incorrectly mean, let me give you something to do or something that you enjoy doing. But purpose has to be tied to influence. And I think that’s the thing that more older adults are feeling is not a loss of purpose, but it’s a loss of the ability to influence the things that they care about.
Josh: Oh, wow, that’s good stuff. So I’ve got another question, I feel like this is my lucky day. I just get to sit here and just hammer James with questions.
James; Let’s do it, I’m going to roll up my, I didn’t even bring sleeves. They’re pre rolled up, so I’m ready for that.
Josh: Well, we’re talking about what problems are we trying to solve? And I think for a lot, I’m going to just put on my operator hat for a minute. We’re constantly trying to measure things, right. Because if we can measure something, we feel like then we can quantify it and then we can somehow improve on it. So when you start throwing out things like self-actualization, esteem, love and belonging, safety, all these things in this pyramid that tells us if we are actually meeting these needs of the resident, then we’re achieving something, we’re solving some problems. Well, then my mind immediately goes, how in the world do I quantify this? Because I think I’ve fallen into with many of our activity professionals in our communities through the years self admitting, we try to measure things that I don’t think give us any indication of these things. We try to measure things like how many attended this activity, what did this little survey feedback score say. Do you have any insight on how these things that seemed to me very hard to quantify. How do we get a measure to know that if we’re trying to do these, that we’re doing better?
James: Totally, absolutely. I think if you, I don’t know if I have an insight, I have a theory and maybe we’ll arrive at an insight together. If you think about anything truly quantitative, I’ll do this. Give me something that you feel is a hard and cold quantitative fact that we measure in senior living. Just give me an example, average length of stay, average length of stay. So you can record somebody who is in your community and you record when somebody leaves the community. But if you think about if I tell you two data points, there was a resident who lived with you for 365 days. There was a resident who lived with you for 180 days, which was the more productive person for your business.
Josh: The longer one.
James: Maybe. But what if the person who was with you for 180 days brought you three referrals?
Josh: Hmm, yeah. That’s a good way to look at it.
James:The data doesn’t matter as much as what is the insight or the thing behind the data. And if you think about that data point, the raw data of a year versus a half a year, of course that’s our trained response of like oh longer means better, more revenue, all of that. But the data is not the insight. The question behind the data is the insight. So if I’m looking at measuring qualitative things and putting numerical value to it, think about companies right now, tech companies that have a master algorithm. So Charles or Josh, can you think of a tech company that just has their algorithm down so pat that it’s almost scary.
James: I bet most people were thinking of Amazon when I said that. Amazon is so good at quantifying qualitative things. I have not once told Amazon, I like purchasing this or purchasing that here’s my budget, here are the life things going on in my life. But somehow some way Amazon always seems to put products kind of in my view that are at least close to what I want to find. And so you talk about putting quantitative measures to qualitative things like what brings me enjoyment and what can help with relevant things in my life. Amazon has proof in the pudding that you can do something like that. I think the thing that we have to get to as an industry is who are the companies who are the organizations that are trying to quantify qualitative things. And so resident engagement, to your earlier point about we can’t just measure attendance because that gives me no insight. It’s like the same thing, about 365 days versus 180, the person who was fully engaged in activities 180 days out of the year may feel more fulfilled. They may feel more influential in their community. So it has less to do with what you’re recording and what questions are driving that data in the first place.
Josh: Well, I love that and that probably ties into your last slide in some way to where our measures and the questions behind what we’re measuring also tying to the cost, because I think one of the challenges that we face here is, I’m going to make a big assumption, and say that everybody, all thousand of us that are listening and engaging here today in this chat room probably are like aiming everything that you’re saying right now. Then it’s like, how do we begin to change this narrative? Because we all know that the activity budgets are a tiny little line item in most and so how do you begin to have those tough conversations with executives? Mean old guys like Josh, how do we have those kinds of conversations?
James: Well, I think the hope and the silver lining for that, Josh, is that I think the way through to any significant change is education and education starts with having conversations like this. I think about you know, I can’t really monitor the chats, this is a crazy chat room. Like I don’t think I’ve been part of a webinar where I can’t even keep up with comments because they’re just scrolling past so fast. But some of the stuff I’m picking up here is about just people really engaged in this idea. But also I think I read a comment here about these conversations being long overdue. And so absolutely they’re long overdue. I think what we need are people like us and in this community of people on this webinar to try and translate things so that all of the different stakeholders get it. So within these three slides themselves, I can relate to the activities person. I can relate to the executive director and I could relate to the CEO just on these three slides. What is the problem set? How are we currently solving that? And then what are the consequences of us not getting it right. So I could certainly make a financial argument for if we improve resident engagement experiences and we have greater retention, we have less turnover. All of those things are going to be byproducts of a really thoughtful resident engagement practice. So there’s not an easy answer for this Josh, but I think that it’s that we need a lot of translators. We need people in the middle who kind of see all of the perspectives and can translate it to the right audience, but anchor it to something that we all believe, which is we want to make life better for seniors.
Josh: So Charles and James, if I’m understanding and I think I am, this idea, this approach to resident engagement, being holistic for lack of a better term it encompasses everything. It’s not just the entertainment like you said, or it’s not just this, if it’s covering the physical, the emotional, the spiritual, that engagement, the purpose, all of that. Do you think that the way the average, I would say the majority of organizational structures from the community up with having a department, a clearly defined department that is put right here with a small budget that’s called life enrichment or activities or assign whatever term we want. Do you think that is fundamentally setting us up for failure because we’re trying to compartmentalize it so much either. This is for any of you and the chat room as well.
Charles: I know Josh, on your podcast Bridge the Gap, you interviewed somebody by the name of Hardy Camp. Hardy is fantastic in this field, she’s with a company called Sagely, but I think that she gets it pretty right, which is unfortunately almost zero senior living organization had somebody at the C level that manages and spends most of his or her time on resident engagement. So I think that’s one issue. The other issue is, and this is a lesson learned on one of our past webinars where we had people living with dementia. And I think James, you alluded to that one sentence that I thought about afterwards, the gentlemen saying nothing about us without us. In other words, even if we live with dementia, even if we live with reason XYZ, why are we not part of every single conversation about us? Because that is the nature of person centered care. And then the last thought, and I’ll be quick on that. One is we have an amazing speaker coming on April 6th, Josh again, thanks to you and our partnership. She’s the CEO of Christian Living Communities and she’s going to be talking about this idea that historically now our industry was very institutionalized. And then we moved to this customer service idea and her thought is that that is flawed. It is flawed by nature because what a resident wants is like we said, to belong. And in a way, the only way to belong is to invite them as citizens of the community. So she’s really thought provoking and I love the concept of these aren’t clients of ours, they are citizens active participants of our communities and to me, this is just an aha moment really.
James: Yeah, absolutely. You know, we do have a transactional view, I think sometimes of seniors as the end recipient of the products and services that we put together, but they have to be at the first part of that equation. And Josh to get to your question about are we setting up our industry to fail when we allocate such a small budget to resident engagement? Here’s the simple answer I could say is yes, but that doesn’t help us kind of find a solution to it. So I’ll tell you how I’m trying to solve it, resident engagement, technically it was the third job I had in senior living. I was a caregiver and a concierge first and then probably three to four months after that I went into resident engagement, so it was really my entry into senior living. If I think about it, I still consider myself a resident engagement professional. It’s almost like a Wolf in sheep’s clothing, I’m a resident engagement person in an operator’s clothing. So the way that I’ve chosen to solve this problem is let me go, let me infiltrate the senior living organization and let me rise the ranks or find my point of influence. And that’s the thing here, I think that sometimes, and here’s a little bit of just hard truth for us who feel very passionate about things in our industry, but then try to solve it exactly the same way over and over again. Sometimes it’s going to take us working the system and figuring out how to get the thing done, but within the channels that are available to me. And so I didn’t really have an aspiration for, let me go do sales or let me go do operations. The end goal, the passion, the fire, the love story that kind of sparked for senior living happened for me 12 years ago in resident engagement. I’ve had a whole bunch of other roles since then, but I’m still a resident engagement expert. And I think more of us have to kind of take on the operator’s clothing, take on the salesperson’s clothing and go exert our influence on the industry. That way you don’t have to have resident engagement in your title to be a resident engagement advocate.
Josh: Man I love that. So here’s where I hope to jump to, I know we’re running out of time, cause I’m asking so many darn questions. I’m sorry Charles, I’ve taken over here. But I want to go back, so we’re talking about the departments and how we can change that and we’re looking at what budgets are and talking financials and quantifying things. I really feel like our industry, aging services, the pandemic really shined a spotlight on our industry. I know a lot of that was probably not a great spotlight or at least the way we wanted it to be on us and how we wanted it to come on us. But I do think there’s some great things coming out of that and I think there’s great conversations like what we’re having today, because I think an extra focus has been put on now everybody I think realizes we’ve got to be talking about engaging our residents more, right? So like you said, solving the problem begins with the conversations, but I do really believe, especially when you’re in the business of taking care of people, you have to be able to talk with those stakeholders and communicate up the ladder, so to speak, in convincing ways. And this data that you’ve provided, I think is a great way to do that. We’ve spent some time on this slide, but I would like for you to, could you unpack the cost slide a little bit more where you showed what’s the cost of if we don’t engage our residents a little bit more, could you speak to that a little bit more?
James: Sure, I’ll preface this by saying that the way I look at costs. So I’m putting my executive director hat on, which is really a resident engagement person. We’re in an ED hat and here’s how I kind of look at expenses. Most people look at it as how do you minimize your expenses? How do you keep your expenses down so that you can increase your profit margin? That’s a very simplistic look at revenue and expenses. I used to coach my team, let’s optimize our expenses. Expenses are really just an investment, it’s just a dollar that we spend to solve a problem. So if we optimize our expenses, that means we have a different view of what those are. So we start looking at spending as a means to generate solutions. This is how I will look at it in terms of this slide, is what is the cost associated with the resident experience of loneliness, just to stay on this topic. The solution has to have a better, a higher value than the cost. So I think talking about costs from this perspective starts to really help investors and C-suite people to look at the market opportunity of that cost. So if I tell you that $6.7 billion are being spent to solve isolation issues for older adults; the operator, the CEO, the investor who’s going to look at this is going to see that as, okay whatever the solution is there’s a margin on that. So 6.7 is the cost, what is the potential revenue solution to address that need so expenses and profit and all of that? Honestly, it gets a bad rep because people I think are afraid of using that in a way that it serves our mission. So we got to get better at learning these things ourselves, that people on this call, we got to get better at using this language for us, rather than against us.
Charles: You know I was thinking about James, about what you were saying about the number of days within a community and to your point; a day spent in the community also can bear different types of costs. We can have less or more costs and I don’t know if you’re aware of that, but the antipsychotic medication, which is often not used correctly, especially in dementia care. We have this big effort in scale, but also Medicare and assisted living to reduce these drugs. I don’t know if both of you know how much it costs. The average prescription for anti-psychotics ranges from $250 to $500 monthly per resident. Which in some cases, and I’m sure people can confirm this could equate to the monthly budget for the whole place, for the whole community. So there’s clearly a disconnect when you think about it from the cost perspective, it’s just that the interests of the stakeholders are not aligned and given back to you to ensure your point. All of this starts with the discussion and us knowing about these facts.
James: My hope in having these conversations, I’m sure most of you on the webinar are probably thinking, man it’d be great if my CEO was on this call and it’s like, sometimes there’s this feeling of we’re just kind of preaching to the choir here. So here’s really the outcome or the intent of this conversation is that it’s not to preach to the choir and make you say, amen. It’s to throw the gauntlet down and challenge you to be able to speak to all of these things yourself, improve your own skills of advocacy of negotiations. You know, these are the things that if you improve the skills around your passion, it’s more likely that your passion is going to find flooding somewhere. And so these conversations are not about, man I wish the CEO would listen to these conversations about how do I kind of level up my own skill sets here so that I can become a better advocate, a better steward for my mission by improving the skill sets around me. So I think that’s the challenge here, that’s the goal. And if we can do that, we’re gonna create influence. I mean the natural consequence of improving our skills is that we’re going to have influence.
Josh: Well, I think right now we have some of what I refer to as the big MO on our side, because as we’ve mentioned, the spotlight where everybody’s talking about resident engagement activities and analyzing this is the perfect time for all of our listeners. All of those that are watching this right now and all of those that we’ll share this later since thank goodness Linked Senior and Activities Strong is recording this and we’ll share this so you can share it with your C-suite. If they weren’t able to listen today, you’ll have to be able to do that. But these conversations, and James what a phenomenal job I think you have done today to give a few tools to slant the conversation in such a way to where it makes sense even in a business sense, because let’s face it we can all have all the feel-good conversations and believe this as much as we want. But to bring about change we have to actually convince everyone, all of the stakeholders, because for on the real estate side of the business, on the investor, in the capital market side of the business, those are all players that whether we like it or not, they’re influencing every single one of us in every single community. And so everyone has to be aligned with better resident engagement and I think these tools and these conversation pieces are phenomenal places to start.
James: Yeah. Well I think that’s the mission here for us. And we rarely convince other people from our own soap box, we have to join them on their platform. So I think those investors in the capital markets of how they influence senior living, we can sit here and stew about it and get upset about where money comes in and money goes out, or we can increase our skills and our financial literacy around that, and then go convince them. Otherwise, if you don’t know what the internal rate of return is, Google it, look it up and then figure out how to make my point but in the language of the people who are going to make the changes in our industry. So put on your wolves clothing, whatever that is, and let’s go do this thing.
Charles: You know it’s funny James, because I was speaking to 11 enrichment directors last week and believe it or not, she’s part of a chain, and she was getting a training session on net operating income NOI. And I thought it was so, I mean obviously probably the reasons behind it also is that the company is trying to educate their staff to be budget conscious, especially these days with lower occupancy. But I also thought, wow, that is cool. I’ve never heard of an activity director kind of getting tools to understand the business side of things. So either that is spot on to what you were saying and kudos to you for thinking that way. Were kind of coming up to the hour mark, you know James and or Josh, both of you, I’d love to hear your thoughts on going forward in a James, your comment about being educated as one, but what else can we be thinking about to mature the conversation mature line of work?
Yeah I’ll leave a kind of a little tip here, again this is not preaching, this is how I’m trying to solve this problem myself. I think that LinkedIn is a very underutilized platform that I’ve met both of you through that platform. I’ve met so many great people through that platform. And if you think about why we got connected in the first place is because we’re having honest, authentic conversations, right. So what we have to do is find a community of people, talk about things that maybe make us a little bit uncomfortable, but stretches beyond our skill sets and we have to keep asking ourselves how do I affect change and how do I bring the skillsets around me to go and effect that change. So we can’t just stop at starting a conversation, it has to reveal some insight about our ability to go create that change. And so I would say, don’t think of LinkedIn or any other similar platform as a job search platform. I haven’t gotten a job off of LinkedIn yet. But I’ve been on that platform and I engage with people who spark these thoughts, who spark these conversations. So whether it’s a podcast or a blog, or just put your own content out there and figure out where what’s your crossroads of what you believe and what other people are frustrated about, and then go create your solution from that. I’m on there, I want to engage with you. If your brain is cycling right now with lots of questions and things that you want to talk about, come find me, come find us and let’s keep the conversation going. I appreciate the platform to join you guys by the way this is a lot of fun.
Charles: Fantastic, thanks so much. And to your point, here’s your email, anyone on the line please feel free to contact James to continue this discussion and join him on LinkedIn. Josh, any final thoughts on that?
Josh: You know, I just love this, I love keeping up with the chat here. Very thankful to everybody that’s been a part, I would just encourage everybody to be the influence. I think a lot of times we get kind of beat down, we get depressed and that can turn into negativity. I would say every single person that has attended and listened or will listen, has a certain amount of influence and a certain amount of influence potential that is far beyond what they recognize. Everyone’s a leader and I would say it’s always easier to attract people to positivity rather than negativity. So if we’re wanting to change things, I think the way that we phrase things and the way that we approach problems with our leadership and with those around us is to come at it with a positive angle and not be so critical, especially without offering solutions. So if we can kind of say, how can I, how can we be part of this solution and start bringing solutions to the table, rather than just saying; this is a problem, this is a problem. I think we’re all to the point now we know it’s a problem and the good thing is the conversations have started, there’s at least a thousand people on here today that are cheerleaders for the cause. So I am really excited for the future of senior housing, for sure.
Charles: Yeah, very well said. Thanks a lot to Josh for these closing words and both of you, thank you for your time. Anyone in the audience feel free to contact us, here is Josh and James’ email as always. A pleasure to have you both. I’ll close this webinar today with just a very quick few announcements, which is that we are partnering the Activity Strong Initiatives under the leadership Rochelle Blau on quarterly Life Enrichment round tables. And Megan, if you don’t mind dropping the, we have a zoom webinar link. So the next one is actually in two days and we already have quite a few people. The whole idea is just to connect on zoom; it’s to have a conversation and share best practices. That’s announcement number one, and ultimate number two is as we continue to build Activities Strong, and again, Josh and Bridge the Gap, thank you very much for being our media partner. You know, we are continuing these professional editions and these executive editions. I want to point out that the next webinar we have is Nancy Ward. And I’m so excited because as you might know, she is the founder of activity connection and her session is going to be awesome all about humor, but in a very kind of serious and professional manner. One of the main points for me in today’s presentation is how can we invite other stakeholders? And so I want to share with everybody on the line that the executive edition is our way to do this. They practically, and I want to point out that registration is open for our June summit. We’ve almost completed the sessions, we’ll be announcing that soon. But one of the things that we are extremely excited about is that if a third of the presentation is pre presentations are going to be led with people living with dementia and residents. We are also going to have a session focusing on the C-suites and other very exciting things. And so to support a lot of these new undertakings, we’ve completely redesigned our upcoming webinar page on our website and including our activity strong .com website. So with that, thanks to James and Josh, I’ll see you if nowhere else on LinkedIn. And everyone on the line, thank you so much for joining. Thank you for the fantastic work that you do and take care.