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The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

Episode 68: David Sawyer

We love talking about love stories, and David Sawyer is here to talk about preserving them!

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Lucas: Welcome to Bridge the Gap Podcast with Josh and Lucas. We are at the Argentum Conference, keeping it rolling, rocking and you know what Josh, we talk about love stories and legacy a lot on the program and I am excited to have David Sawyer of TSOLife on today to talk about that exact topic. Welcome David.

Josh: Yeah, thanks for coming, man. Thanks for your time.

David: Happy to be here. Excited.

Josh: Well, this is exciting conversation, Lucas, because we’ve been talking a lot. We just had a guest on not long ago talking about life engagement of residents and preserving memories. There’s so many love stories that are produced every single day in these senior living communities. And we’re going to bring David in on this conversation because TSOLife, the company that he founded and started, is doing some amazing things. You may not have heard about this company or David yet, but you’re going to. They’re here on the argentum floor doing some amazing things.

So David, just give us a little background on you, man. You’re a young dude. You make me feel old. And what you guys are doing is fascinating. So tell us about your life story a little bit.

David: Yeah, so we are definitely a pretty young team. We actually started this company out of a dorm room at Stetson University. So, the only company that found a way to be started a company in something worse than a garage. We were in a dorm room. So right out of the bat-

Josh: -Well, if you only knew what I was doing in college. So I’m impressed already.

David: Yeah. So the whole inspiration for the company is I was actually go to college and I lost my grandmother and I was very, very close with her my entire life. So I always like to think that I was her favorite grandchild. But I mean she had a lot of great love in her life.

So I was sitting actually in her funeral listening to the story about how she met my grandfather. And I kind of dawned on me that I never got to hear that story from her. And funny enough, the person telling me this life story was one of the nurses in her nursing home. And I just found myself spending just the whole wake, the whole funeral process, just listening to who my grandmother was told by this person who got to know her better than I way ever did. And it was one of those realizations that my grandmother in the community she was with was really sharing what her life story was about, sharing who she was, making new connections and friends by sharing the story of her life. And I quickly realized that as a family member, I missed out on all of that conversation. I missed out on hearing all those great stories and I really didn’t get to know her much.

And so me being a millennial, whenever I want to learn something, I go on Google and I typed in her name and I pulled her up in Ancestry.com. I paid the $79 to go learn about my grandmother. And all they had was her birth certificate, death certificate and funeral service page. That was all they had on her life. And I’m like, not much to go off of now is there, you know, we got the beginning and the end and there’s a dash in the middle with 74 years just missing.

Josh: Wow.

David: So just one of those realizations that we aren’t doing a good job preserving these life stories, these legacies. So the whole inspiration behind TSOLife, I like to say it was basically a grandkid that missed his grandmother.

Josh: Yeah.

David: And so we really wanted to create an easy way to be able to have recorded those life stories and pass them onto the family and loved ones.

Josh: That’s fascinating. So I think in our industry, Lucas, we’ve talked about this a lot, the senior living community environment is very dynamic. A lot of people working very diligently to do a lot of things with and for our residents. And oftentimes, you know, these kind of preservation opportunities are just not there. It’s not because we don’t want to do it, we don’t think it’s valuable, but there’s just not a way to do it effectively where it’s not just maybe another, another task or something like that. So you know, you’ve been able to, as you’ve gotten into the senior housing industry, maybe identify some of the unique challenges that senior communities and staff face and trying to preserve legacy, preserve life stories to tell life stories. What are some of those challenges that you’re seeing as you’re going into these different types of communities?

David: One amazing thing about the senior living industry is they all get it. Everybody wants these resident’s life stories recorded. Everybody wants to be able to do this. I’m now going up to anyone and being like, no, I ain’t doing that. Like no one wants this. Everyone understands the fundamental need to be preserving these life stories and almost the duty of care to do it.

So one of the big things that TSOLife focused on is we were working with some early partners, Meridian Senior Living being our biggest one early on, and their whole thing is, as you were saying, how do we actually make sure this gets done? How do we tie this into workflow so it’s not just another task? How do we tie this into just our workflow so it’s a seamless process? And so one of the big things we looked at was just ease of use was top of our mind when designing a solution for the senior living industry. 100%. It just needed to be.

And the big thing too is we need to eliminate as much workflow as possible. So with TSOLife, we focused on automating the back and we actually have the caregiver, all they do is actually just record the one on one communication, that life story, and then we actually will process, transcribe it. Funny enough, we do it actually for the podcasts, we do all the transcriptions here. So we do everything there.

So we’re all just about automating the backflow curation of this and then giving the families and amazing end product, which is the form of a digital legacy on a website. So we really focus on just the seamless activity. It’s just the biggest thing. As I’m sure you guys can appreciate as owner operators, if this turns into another task and another thing where people already bogged down, it’s very, very difficult.

But one funny thing for us is just more listening to just how seamlessly these conversations are already happening. We’re going to someone and we’re talking to them, they’re like, oh yeah, caregivers hear all these stories anyway, just how do we capture it? How do we make this more seamless and so that’s what the TSOLife technology really provides to seamless way to be able to capture the conversations these caregivers are already having in the communities.

Josh: Well, you know, it’s fascinating. So I wish this would have been available, in some of my earliest communities. Something, and I’m sure this probably, I’d like to kind of how you’re using this, how the families are using it? Cause I’ll tell you something that was so meaningful is what we did and we were very intentional early on in my career with our activities department and we called it Life Enrichment. I think a lot of people do that where we would sit down and we would have volunteers come in and different things and we would literally just have our residents start at the beginning of their life from the early childhood memories and kinda just tell all their stories, highs and lows, and what they learned from that. And it was amazing these stories that they never shared and if we wouldn’t have asked them to share it, it’s almost like they don’t share.

Maybe they don’t think people care or maybe they don’t want to come across as bragging or, or maybe it’s a painful moment, but we would take that and we would have to actually hand write all of this. And we had kind of create like a little storybook, but I can’t tell you for the families, to your point, and sadly often it was after the resident had passed because we would have this storybook for them that we called a scrapbook and we would issue that to them. And you would have thought that it was the most precious thing that we could have anyone could have ever given to them at that time when they were in mourning and loss and they got to really celebrate life.

So I’m interested to see, you know, how are these a resident families, how are they using this tool? You’re capturing the information, but how’s the community and families, how are they engaging with it?

David: So great question. Something that we’re really excited about is just as you’re saying, the reception of the families is just unbelievable. And the really cool thing about us is that we’re able to produce and turn around the content almost instantaneously. So we get these life stories to the family members within three days of the actual initial recording. And so what that allows it to do is the families, as we’ll get to hear these stories while the resident still alive and often the reception is, I never knew this. This is amazing. And then they’re actually calling up the resident and having a conversation about the story they just heard and they’re having more of that social interaction.

Josh: Wow.

David: Then also going and doing the visits and rather than just sitting down with them how their day was, how was the meal, they actually taking out the TSOLife app and doing the interview while they’re there or visiting too as well. So families start getting engaged in the actual documentary process and that’s pretty beautiful thing too. And the big thing for communities to top of mind is how do we get families more engaged in the residents life? How do we get them to come visit, how we get them to stay with them more? It becomes a very powerful tool for being able to do that, which is just really exciting.

And the really cool thing for the residents is they love doing it. To your point, having somebody sit down and say, I’m interested in hearing a bit more about your life story, it actually does a world of wonders for the resident just mentally and emotionally as well. And so TSOLife is loosely tied to reminiscence therapy as well, which is clinically proven to reduce depression, increase end of life satisfaction, reduce anxiety and that has a lot of mental impacts as well, which also helps the bottom line.

But the really cool thing is with TSOLife, for all the committees we’re with, we have a 70% resident engagement rate and we’re an opt-in model, not an opt out model. So 70% of residents are asking to have their life story recorded once the program has been made available to them and taking part of it. And to your point, that’s a big thing is communities want to know that if they buy something that they want to know when they buy something it’s going to get used. And the amazing thing is we’ve been able to knock that out of the park.

Josh: That’s so fascinating. So I’m assuming, you know, you’re probably faced and you could tell us a little bit more what have been some of the hurdles as a new company with just an incredible mission behind what you’re doing. You know, when you go in and you’re talking about this tool that you have, I’m sure those wheels are spinning for these business owner operators and they’re thinking, what’s the return on investment? I know you were getting 70% engagement. Yes, that’s awesome. We love that. But how are they able to kind of translate that into an ROI that they actually see on the bottom line?

David: Yeah. So that is the number one thing that over the past year we’ve really had a focus on learning. And that is what is the ROI to legacy prep reservation, just as a whole? And there’s other great companies that are doing it as well, but really it is what is the ROI besides just it is a feel good thing to do. And so we’ve able to do a couple things.

The first thing we really tie to his caregiver retention, which is a constant issue. It’s like, yeah, 40 to 60% across the nation. It is just nuts, the level of turnover. And so funny enough they leave for a number of reasons, but one of the primary reasons a caregiver will stay with a specific community is how good of bonds they form with the residents they’re taking care of. How well do they get to know, you know, the resident and hall C13? How good of bonds they form?

And the big part of this is legacy preservation allows you to get to know that resident on that level to get to have those conversations. Sometimes when you look at a caregiver’s day job, it’s very specific tasks at a time, so very impersonal. And so with this allows communities to do is reinforce the personal level of why people fall in love with the industry. Why they wanted to get involved in the first place and get to have that personal conversations and feel they’re making a meaningful impact in a resident’s life. So we’ve been able to see with Meridian an actual trough and caregiver turnover, which is why they then decided to roll us out to all 80 of their locations and we’ve been able to grow like that.

Josh: That is fascinating. So we talked about that. We were talking about it on one of our last shows, Lucas, that that is the employee, recruitment, retention, no matter what conference or retreat you get to in senior housing, we’re talking about that. So direct correlation in your product and some studies have shown that. So I’m super fascinated by that.

What’s next for you guys? Can you reveal like as you’re churning and burning, obviously you guys are young, creative group. What are you guys working on now?

David: So what we’re working on now is really the big thing for communities that we’re trying to help them out with as well is just single login. So there’s a lot of other great tax, you know, Sherpa is a CRM, PointClickCare for the HR. Sagely is another great one for resident engagement is how do we make sure that it just seamless for the people carrying out these tasks. As I know I’m forgetful. If I have a drive password and a Dropbox password and if they aren’t the same one, I’m forgetting one of them and figuring out how to log into them and just holding up my whole workflow. So we’re finding ways to integrate through APIs with these partners and be able to be as just as seamless workflow for the end user.

Josh: I love that. So as an operator have such an appreciation for what you guys are doing. There’s a lot of people doing a lot of cool things, but I love that you guys are motivated by the right reasons. I’m fascinated that we’re now being able to track this resident engagement and preservation to actual ROI and we, it’s not a, a very dotted and blurred line, but it’s a direct line. That’s, that’s really good and a lot of our listeners may not know that you guys helped make our show possible. So if you love our show out there, BTG nation, TSOLife is a brand you need to follow. We so appreciate them doing everything possible to make this show better.

This has been a big year for us, Lucas. 2019 we brought on partners, a few select partners that we felt like really aligned with our mission. David, your team at TSOLife has been an awesome partner to us. We appreciate the time that you’ve had to sit down with us here. Share a little bit for our listeners. Lucas, I know you’re going to be able to tell our listeners how they can connect?

Lucas: I would love to do that. But before I let David go, as we talk about these love stories, I’d love to end with an example of a story that has touched you in this journey.

David: Oh geez. If I had to pick out one. So it’s funny, we have actually a Slack channel with just really emotional stories that we’ve been getting a lot of. And I’m trying to think here. You put me on the spot.

Josh: He loves to do that.

David: Oh, he loves to do that. So one actually the favorite and was one of my early life stories that I got a record, which was just really meaningful, impactful, was actually that of Max Cleveland. And he was a US Senator out of Georgia. He actually lost three limbs in the line of duty while serving in Vietnam. And just listening to his life story and how he had the courage to kind of just start his life over again. You know, he had to move back into his parents, had to have his parents just teach them how to like get dressed in the morning, had all this help and just, he then found the courage to have that major, just horrific thing where a lot of people just would not have bounced back from and turn that into the platform to go do good.

And so he was the one person that started to introduce, PSD and as a medical condition after war, he was able to just a lot of really impactful things in the government. It was just amazing to get to listen to this life story about how someone that had this really tragic event that happened to them and how they had the courage to stand back up. And that’s just one that I’ve always loved to listen to. Whenever I’m having a down point in business, I go back and listen to Max’s story and I’m like, all right, if he can come back from that, I can come back over this hurdle. This isn’t that big of a deal.

Lucas: Absolutely. And there’s such an intergenerational aspect of this is that these stories need to be handed down. They need to be preserved. In legacy is really, it’s what we’re living for. So thank you for sharing that story. Thank you for capturing that beautiful story. So now that we’re all able to share in the beauty of it, so, definitely connect with David in the show notes. TSOLife, big a help in a and a partner with BTG this year. Go to BTGvoice.com to get more information and thank you for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.

Bonus Feature

Lucas: Josh, how awesome is it? We have partners that are helping us bring this content to our audience and TSOLife. Their mission is a great value add to our mission here at BTG.

Josh: It really is a, from the first time we met David Sawyer and his team at TSOLife, we knew it’d be a perfect partnership just because of their mission. Preserving those legacies and those stories in a first person narrative told by the people that have lived those awesome stories. So it’s, it’s great. It’s great for the families that get to have that, to take with them, to hold for many generations and it’s great for the communities. It’s a great engagement tool. The residents in our communities want to tell their stories. The staff want to get those stories and TSOLife gives them a great way to do that easily as an effective tool. So awesome. They’ve elevated our program. And so glad to have them as our industry partner.

Lucas: Legacy preservation is a huge topic and we talk about it all the time, telling those loves stories and TSOLife that is about everything that they’re doing right now. And we’re just so grateful. Young group of very savvy people that are putting their time and talent to the senior living industry. It’s a testimony to this industry and then also to their personal stories that they’ve been able to provide a service like this to the business. It’s great.

Josh: It’s awesome. So our listeners go check them out and TSOLife, they’re all over social. They’re on our website at BTGvoice.com.

Thank you to our supporting partners NHI, RCare, NRC Health, TSOLife, ERDMAN and Sherpa.

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Episode 68: David Sawyer