I am reflecting from a somewhat different position than the more usual perspective offered at LeadingAge meetings – the outlook of an octogenarian who has been a CCRC resident for eight years. In this, I hope that Proverbs 20:29 is correct in saying that “The glory of youths is their strength, but the majesty of old men is their gray hair.”
For CCRC residents like me, “long term” has a different meaning than it used to, but when involved in community affairs we still try to plan for others coming after us, even if we won’t directly benefit from the improvements we are working for.
Our life as residents is distinct in that it is essentially without power within the community, while we are at the same time exceptionally dependent on the spirit of obligation and stewardship of others. Residents face uncertainties in costs of care, the future of government funding, and the outlook for skilled nursing availability. The passage to a more powerless and dependent life has been a stormy one for some residents, and this has created some burdens for you as care providers.
We are in a time, in senior care as well as all other walks of life, when many are proposing answers, answers often not requested but nonetheless forcefully expressed, but fewer are asking the necessary questions and even fewer are willing to listen first. As a resident member of the LeadingAge California Board of Directors, I have seen that LeadingAge has been asking the necessary questions and is listening to the answers it is hearing.
You, LeadingAge and the senior services providers of California, are the people we residents are relying on, whether because of physical or mental necessity or simply by contract. These are demanding jobs, calling for great commitment, and often involve more stress and less compensation than employment elsewhere. It is noteworthy that many providers have a religious foundation, including my own, which began life in the mid-nineteenth century as the Protestant Episcopal Old Ladies Home. It has since relaxed its admission policy.
I have looked for a pithy saying to close my reflection, and the quotation, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care,” attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, fits the challenges and obligations assumed by LeadingAge and the entire elder care community. A more personal aspiration was my mother’s frequently expressed measure of a person – wisdom. For her, the measure of success was not wealth, public acclaim or personal popularity, but wisdom, and her judgment that a person had no wisdom was a severe rebuke. I believe that the efforts of everyone at LeadingAge and all of you at our communities are meeting that test, and hope that you will continue to strive to do so. I and all residents of our communities are relying on you and I am confident that you will.
When the Spring Lake Village Resident Council decided to honor some of its longest serving volunteers, they saw it as another way to build community. The Volunteer Recognition program celebrates residents who have made a lasting contribution to the community’s life, many of which are unknown to newer residents.
“People who are moving in are enjoying so much being part of this community,” says Resident Council member Sharon Boschen, who moved to Spring Lake Village in 2014 and now coordinates the Volunteer Recognition program. “And of course new residents have no clue of the contributions of so many of our elders here who have helped create this community that we’re all enjoying. And so this program is an effort to build bridges between these two groups.”
So far the program had had two presentations. In February, Don Sanders, who moved to Spring Lake Village in 2005 with his wife Marilyn, was honored for his service as Resident Council president, Financial Study Group member, Fire & Disaster Committee, founder of the Conservation Committee and the Wellness Committee, and as a leader in the effort to develop the West Grove addition to Spring Lake Village. In April, Rodgers and Nancy Broomhead were recognized for their activities ranging from stocking and working at the Village Store to reading to residents in Skilled Nursing to hosting a “birthday monthly dinner orphans table” in the dining room to developing the yearly Robert Burns dinner and celebration.
“Those of us with German-Danish ancestry love being Scots for a night,” says Boschen. “It’s such a delightful presentation and just a real community builder, and you discover that you like haggis, which is a surprise.”
Honorees are nominated by the community through one of its 20-plus resident committees. “One of our suggested benchmarks is that these are people who have served in some capacity for at least ten years, someone who’s made a lasting impression on our community life.” says Resident Council president Gerry Porter, a resident since 2015. “We started out with the premise that Spring Lake Village is a community of volunteers and that we would not enjoy this wonderful place if it were not for people pitching in and doing things to make the community stronger.”
The goal of the program is to provide lasting recognition to volunteers who may no longer be as active. Similar to residents who receive a gold name tag for 20 years in the community, these recipients receive a platinum name tag that says Honored Volunteer.
“I noted when you see someone wearing that, give them thanks for helping to create this community we’re all enjoying because they have done a great thing for us,” says Boschen.
Recipients are honored during a presentation at a Resident Council meeting, each one unique to the recipient. “One of the things I noticed in the recent presentation is there is not a sound in the room when they’re going on,” says Boschen. “People are involved. They really feel good about knowing what is being offered there about these other people who may look to them just like frail elders, not shakers and movers who’ve created this beautiful community with us.”
Porter says, “It’s still an emerging program because we’ve only done two of them so far. The community here is very strong but it’s always changing with people leaving and people coming in. Trying to get people engaged in the community I’d say is one of the primary goals, as well as to recognize the people who have served so faithfully for so many years.”
“I think it’s an inspiration to us all when you see what these residents have accomplished and you know that you’re a part of this and you have a role to play here too,” says Boschen. “The audience is quiet and almost reverent as they listen to what these people have done. So they are inspirations to us. This whole process has brought an appreciation and a joy to the community.”