Turn to any television news channel today, and what will you find? Reports about natural disasters—wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, droughts, floods—along with the manmade kind—political turmoil, wars, riots, mass shootings, recessions -and, oh yes, a global pandemic. Add to those events such personal disasters as job loss, debt, bankruptcy, homelessness, hunger, illness, hospitalization or death of a loved one. How are we humans dealing with all these challenges to mental health? Not well.
Unsurprisingly, too many of us are drinking more alcohol or taking drugs (legal and illicit), or engaging in a multitude of other addictions and negative behaviors to handle the daily onslaught. As active-aging advocates, we often talk about resilience and its importance. From my viewpoint, I see a widespread need for people to learn better ways to cope and respond to situations, so they become more resilient in the face of such uncertainty. Let’s consider how we can compassionately support growth in this area for our customers, our colleagues and, indeed, ourselves.
Also needed? Remembering to celebrate what is good in life even as we endure these challenging times.
Psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor and best-selling author Viktor Frankl famously wrote about the “last freedom we possess”—the ability to choose our response to circumstances—in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. As I see it, we can let events pound us into submission, which they will; or, we can choose wellness and stand rooted in gratitude for what we have, knowing many others have it worse. Let’s celebrate the good and positive experiences of life, and find ways to reenergize our purpose, professionally and personally.
A great many professionals have striven heroically to uplift residents, members and colleagues during these difficult times (ICAA’s April 2020 survey reveals stories of caring and courage amid concerns). Many Organizational members with whom I have spoken over these months are now, well, “frozen” when it comes to what to do next. Why? They are not sure what actions to take given all the unknowns. Do I move forward? they ask. Retreat? Or maintain the status quo?
To offer guidance, ICAA brought together 154 thought-leaders to explore what the “next normal” might look like for senior living. Their recommended strategies and tactics are reported in the white paper, “Creating a path towards the ‘next normal’ in senior living” and are applicable to virtually any setting, from seniors centers to resorts, to wellness centers.
During the three-month Task Force process, I found it especially exciting that these thought-leaders accepted where we are as a society, but also recognized the opportunity to push the “reset button.” They considered how to move the industry forward with a greater focus on optimizing health and wellness for residents and staff, while creating a new value proposition for the industry.
No matter what the future holds, key to fulfilling these strategies and tactics is to ensure your organization has a prepared team. This team must be ready to respond to any crisis and support your residents or members in remaining engaged and well. To assist with this means educating your staff, helping them build the knowledge and networks to move forward. It’s time to move beyond frozen.
Colin Milner, CEO