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Participants on the Housing Study Tour at Cathedral Square.

The IAHSA and LeadingAge Housing with Services Study Tour was inspiring, informative and interesting.  Each of the five communities we visited brought something new to the table and showed what dedication and commitment can do for senior living.  

The most important lessons we took with us are seldom taught, and less often shared.  The leaders of Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, Hebrew Senior Life, Sanborn Place, Cathedral Square and Hearth Inc taught us the following:  

1)          You can make anything happen with volunteers.

  • Many of the services we saw including fitness, educational initiatives and caregiving were conducted not by paid staff, but by willing volunteers.  Students, retired seniors, community centers and relatives can be found all around us.  Why not utilize their talents and time to enrich your community? 

2)          Maintenance Staff are the eyes and ears of your community.

  • All of the sites we visited recognized the value of their maintenance staff, and for good reason. While it may take time for residents to warm up to nurses and staff, maintenance personnel are invited right into the home.  They are there in a time of need when something goes wrong, they have daily contact with the residents which helps them identify risk concerns and can report incidents as they occur. 

3)          If you don’t ask, you won’t receive.

  • Finding funding opportunities is an arduous task of piecing together various resources.  A large support can come from private donors, annual pledges, rotary clubs and old fashioned fundraising.  People love to make a difference, help them find a way by talking to them about it.  One donor at Hebrew Senior Life said “I wanted to give back to an organization that gave my mother so much happiness in the later years of her life.”

4)          Take risks.

  • Jacqueline Carson, CEO of Sanborn Place in Reading, Maryland, has a unique and bold approach.  As her residents age, she remains flexible to adapt her community to their evolving needs.  If something doesn’t work, she finds an alternative that does. 

5)          Intergenerational programs are essential, not optional.

  • These programs aren’t just for seniors.  Intergenerational programs strengthen communities by enhancing the lives of youth and children, spread positive thinking about ageing, encourage cultural exchange and can even maximize your financial resources through partnerships.  They can also help you with point #1.

6)          Invite your greater community in.

  • While your senior community may not be able to parade around the town, your local leaders can certainly tour your facilities and get to know their supporters – after all, seniors vote! Nancy Eldridge frequently hosts events in her buildings and identifies concerns for her local leaders to address so that they stay involved and stay committed.  Her program, SASH (Supports and Services at Home) is an exemplary framework for coordination a the community level.

This year we at IAHSA are particularly well positioned to look forward to spring by connecting with colleagues at IAHSA’s Second European Conference – Our Future: Quality Ageing Services – in Vienna, Austria, 22-23 May. While this programme is devoted to sustaining, enhancing and expanding ageing services, and the formal presentations will be top notch, I think that the programme structure and networking opportunities will once again be the features that participants end up valuing most.

IAHSA education programmes emphasize shared learning and our European Conferences are structure with facilitated roundtable discussion groups. We aim to create educational environments that enable participants from diverse backgrounds to share with and learn from one another’s real-life, hands-on experiences. Our guiding programme principles include:

  • Interactive Participation: exercises that involve the learner and facilitate inter-personal exchanges to stimulate collective observation and thought.
  • Problem-Solving: activities that encourage inquiry, reflection and exploration of a common challenge or opportunity.
  • Blended Models: approaches that combine a variety of events and learning delivery methods to develop applicable skills over time.
  • Relationship-Building: discussions that generate possibilities for fellowship, collaboration and action.

I hope that you will agree with IAHSA that the best way to ensure Quality Aged Services and a better future for our elders is to advance the field by sharing our collective wisdom and experiences. With this in mind, I invite you to join us at IAHSA’s Second European Conference – please visit the Web site to register for Vienna!

About this blog

IAHSA’s Global Ageing Network Blog was created because of you!! We got your message loud and clear – “Provide us with a quick and nimble communications vehicle so we can stay connected and create community across borders".

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Virginia Nuessle, Study Tour Director

Majd Alwan, Director, CAST

Alla Rubinstein, Program Administrator, IAHSA

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