“Children, Please – I’d Rather Do it MYSELF!”

Mother, PLEASE, – I’d Rather do it Myself!

A classic Anacin ad from the early days of TV:

The first segment of this new series was written by Art Carr as a Guest Author for the Senior Housing Forum Blog.

That young homemaker of the 1960’s is now a resident in a senior living community and is still becoming “stressed out” because she is not being allowed to do as much for herself as she desires.  Everyone around her – friends, family, AND the staff of the assisted or independent living community – believe that they are being helpful when they do everything for her.  Their intentions are just as good as her Mother’s all those years ago – yet, the result is even worse.  All her Mother did was give her a headache; well-meaning staff may be actually robbing her of the ability to care for herself!

Independence is primarily a “state of mind” – a person’s desire and belief in their ability to perform a task or handle a situation under their own direction.  They may choose to accept minimal assistance, but the CHOICE is theirs.  In the book, “Successful Aging” based on the MacArthur Foundation Study of Successful Aging, the authors found that older men and women named remaining independent with the ability “to take care of themselves” as their primary goal.[i]

Dependence is a Learned Trait

Beginning in infancy, we are taught to do things for ourselves: e.g. toileting, eating, walking, and dressing.  As we mature, we are encouraged to become self-reliant, think and act independently and, as responsible adults, to “stand on our own two feet” and become productive in society.

Yet, once we reach the normal retirement age (around 65), we enter “a time of life when nothing is expected”[ii] of us.  This roleless role continues in old age, often couched in terms such as “You’ve ‘earned the right to leisure’[iii], so just sit back and let me take care of you.”  While an admirable sentiment, this approach misses the key point that forced leisure is not what aging adults are seeking.  Like all of us, they want the RIGHT to choose and make decisions for themselves about their care and lifestyle.

As we age, our care needs and dependence on others for assistance naturally increase, but the desire for independence and satisfaction of ego and other higher level needs [see Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs[iv]] continues.  However, the cumulative effect of family, friends and/or healthcare professionals telling the senior that they CAN’T or SHOULDN’T continue doing specific tasks (e.g. laundry, yard work, cooking) and/or caregivers taking over responsibility for these functions weighs on the individual.  Ultimately, they’ll give in and become dependent on the caregiver – EVEN WHEN THEY COULD STILL DO IT THEMSELVES!

To emphasize this point, consider what would happen to the development of a toddler if the parents continue to cut the child’s food at every meal?  It’s fairly easy to recognize the problems this would cause the child when they go to school, but less clear that the same dependency can be learned by the elderly as their sense of purpose and productivity is removed by others with their misguided efforts to do “what’s best for them”.

The attitude of the management and staff and the approach taken in a given situation is often more important than the actual action in preserving a resident’s independence and dignity.  For instance, there is a fine line between a gentleman opening a door as a courtesy and a senior living employee treating every resident with a walker as disabled.  Please go to the “Children Please …” category on the Progressive Retirement Lifestyles blog [https://progressiveretirement.wordpress.com/category/Children please …/] for more insights into specific examples and suggestions as to how management can PROMOTE INDEPENDENCE.  Embracing these concepts will lead to higher resident satisfaction, longer lengths of stay and an environment that will be more appealing to higher functioning seniors.

 

[i] “Successful Aging”, John W. Rowe, M.D. and Robert L. Kahn, Ph.D., Masterpiece Alliance Foundation, 1998

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid

[iv] https://progressiveretirement.wordpress.com/category/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs/

If you remember this ad and the cultural phenomena it created, PLEASE share your remembrances in the comment section below. COMMENTS:

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C’mon Man … Show Some Respect!

Over the past decade, I’ve had success in building occupancy[i] with a focus on activities to demonstrate a superior senior lifestyle. It is encouraging to see more operators utilizing activities to convey LIFESTYLE CHOICE in their ads, but “C’mon Man”, we need to show more respect for our customers than is displayed in this direct mail piece:

“… we offer a lifestyle that allows you to focus on the fun things in life. You never have to worry about what to do today because there’s always something going on to keep you engaged. Join us today for one of our activities and stay for lunch. It’s on the house!

 

5 Things “NOT to Like” with this Marketing Technique

 

  1. This independent living ad targets prospective residents, and/or their families, who are ready to turn lifestyle management over to the facility. This “needs-based” approach has contributed to higher average-aged residents, older residents at move-in and shorter lengths of stay.   It has also led some experts to question whether the recent building boom in senior housing will create a supply that outpaces demand[ii], even with the influx of baby boomers into the “senior” classification.
    • We must promote independence with dignity and respect to meet the positive aging demands of newer, higher-functioning generations and attract adequate numbers of potential residents.

 

  1. This ad is synonymous with the “cruise ship on land” marketing concept that assumes “old folks” will be happy toCruise Ship on Land just sail off into the sunset and be happy as long as they get plenty of food and have something to entertain them between meals. Unfortunately, this is good intentions masking a form of benign ageism as identified by the MacArthur Foundation Study.[iii]
    • The dated “rest home” mentality was based on this principle that older adults no longer contribute to society and must be “cared for” in sheltered facilities at their end of life.

 

  1. Current and prospective residents have been responsible adults for most of their lives and don’t want to just have “fun” all day.   They lived an active and productive lifestyle BEFORE deciding to move into a senior living community and most desire to retain as much normalcy in their lives as possible.
  • Progressive Retirement Lifestyles (“PRL”) draws its scientific basis from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.   In order to continue satisfying the higher level needs – e.g. EGO – of older people, our senior living 3b Activitiescommunities must provide mental and physical challenges for their residents with a diverse array of activities. The “3 B’s”[iv] – Birthday, Bible and Bingo – simply won’t cut it anymore!
  • Our programs respect and foster the desires of many residents to continue “contributing” in some way – by helping others within the community, by volunteering and/or by providing service to others “less fortunate”.

 

  1. “Worry” is a natural part of living and most mature adults don’t want to be treated as though they can’t “act” or “think” for themselves. They don’t expect to just “sit back” and be treated like children with every minute of their day planned for them.
    • The PRL concept has proven successful by offering multiple daily lifestyle options, while allowing the residents to make their own independent choices.

 

  1. The only specific “activity” highlighted in the flyer was a “Chef Showcase: Waffle Bar”, which is more “demonstration cooking” than a true resident activity.
    • At best, this is a passive event with residents and other spectators being entertained by the Chef.   Although entertainment is an important ingredient, PRL emphasizes interactive lifestyles with active participation by the residents in activity programs.
    • Unless the “waffle bar” is available every week, there is a risk that current residents will complain that the activity is just a marketing ploy and NOT a lifestyle feature.
    • PRL is a combined operations and marketing approach that enhances operations first and THEN invites prospects to participate in on-going programs.

The PRL program was developed to adapt to the evolving market and promote additional demand by respecting the prior life achievements and recognizing the on-going capabilities of newer generations of seniors. PRL creates positive differentiation from the competition by providing and marketing a more robust lifestyle with a greater quality, quantity and variety of stimulating age-appropriate activities than was frequently the case in the past.

I am Art Carr, the creator of the unique Progressive Retirement Lifestyles program and welcome your comments. PLEASE POST YOUR OPINION about whether you agree or disagree with these observations and share this article with those who might appreciate it.

Please contact me at 615-414-5217 or via email at art@progressiveretirement.com to learn more about the exciting Progressive Retirement Lifestyles program and its potential to enhance operations and serve as the foundation for improved occupancy.

THANKS!

[i] This approach enabled me to build a regional census 6 points higher than the national average and lead the fill-up of several new buildings, as well as stimulating turnarounds of other under-performing communities.

[ii] http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-senior-housing-raises-concerns-supply-will-outpace-demand-from-baby-boomers-1439285401

[iii] See “Successful Aging” by John Rowe, M.D. and Robert Kahn, Ph.D, published by Masterpiece Alliance Foundation, Inc., 1998

[iv] With a thank you to Sara Elizabeth Hamm who first “coined” this phrase.