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Becoming the Senior We Serve

Thursday, March 03, 2016

What happens to a senior living marketing professional’s perspective when he or she stays in the business long enough to become eligible to live in one of the communities served for much of that career? Does this milestone suddenly herald a new, advantageous understanding of the process? Or, does it just make one more empathetic?

Aging Gracefully

Theologian Henri Nouwen asserts, “We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say ’Whatever I do in my private life is nobody else's business’.  But, anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal. What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for us but for all people.”

My name is Patty Scotten, and this is my “professional’s rite of passage”:

I am now a member of the audience for all senior living communities and by extension, their marketing professionals. This is my personal journey – my anecdotal experiences as I age and approach the decisions I must make regarding my future.

Am I any different than today’s typical senior? To be quite honest, I don’t think I do represent the typical senior with whom we work, as a great deal of “insider knowledge” informs my approach. These dissimilarities should be kept in the forefront of your mind as you take this journey with me:

  1. I have worked in the senior industry since 1984, and therefore, already understand the confusing maze of choices in senior living;
  2. I have been raised and exist in a medical-oriented family who constantly discusses the job at home so I am “armchair” fluent in medical conditions and their consequences;
  3. I have had family members who lived with debilitating illnesses such as ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease) and terminal cancer that have given me a personal, bird’s-eye view of progressive, debilitating diseases;
  4. I am married to a younger man, perhaps changing my need for professional assistance during any early decline in cognition or physical health.

With that said, here we go……

Consulting for the Senior YearsSo time passes, and I am 60+. Gosh, that sounds like my mom’s age. My hands look like my mom’s hands, but my brain – or rather my thoughts – don’t feel any different to me. They still feel…like I am 50; no, make that 40; heck, I had these thoughts at 30. Is there a way to marry actuality to my perception? I recall senior living prospects sharing similar thoughts with me, so okay...this is typical of seniors with whom we work.

Things are going great right now while my health and cognitive abilities are holding steady, but I don’t know what might be around the corner. Since I have been involved in senior living and healthcare for most of my life, I KNOW how important it is to have a plan. My perpetual approach to life is one of positivity and gratitude for blessings, but that approach can become my failure if I let it prevent me from preparing for the what-if’s that may occur unexpectedly. When I honestly look at the future, I know that life can change in a blink. When I review reality, my brother-in-law was an apparently healthy 50-year old when he was diagnosed with ALS and experienced a year’s health decline before his death. This year, a burly male friend was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Life often delivers us surprises, but I would rather remain with my sunny thoughts – as most of us do. Hmmm…this rosy spin is typical of seniors with whom we work.

In fact, there is research regarding decision-making that demonstrates optimism has unintended consequences. People in a positive state have been found to make significant overestimations of the likelihood of positive events and underestimation of negative events (Johnson & Tversky, 1983; Mayer, Gaschke, Braverman, & Evans, 1992; Wright & Bower, 1982).

Therefore, I have discovered that I have to force myself to consider the possibility of negative occurrences in my life as I grow older. My natural inclination is to expect the best and ignore the possibility of infirmities and difficulties. So lesson number one as I age is: PLAN FOR DIFFERENT SCENARIOS, INCLUDING THOSE THAT I MAY NOT WANT TO FACE. The question is, am I one of those seniors who has actually done that planning now?

Tune into my next blog next week to find out!

Blog Posting Author: Patty Scotten

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