LeadingAge Magazine · July-August 2017 • Volume 07 • Number 04

Preserving and Building Connections

July 18, 2017 | by Gene Mitchell

From the Editor: A look at this issue of LeadingAge magazine.

Gene Mitchell, editor
Gene Mitchell

The theme of this issue, “Creative Connections,” was initially, in my mind, a matter of making connections. How can we connect older adults to their communities, to young people, to better services? How can we reconnect people with dementia to the people and things that made their lives unique and enjoyable?

As the issue came together, however, I realized the work of LeadingAge members is often not so much about making connections—after all, people by their very nature are born to do that—as it is about preserving them. In other words, the greatest service might be to avoid breaking the natural connections people already have.

A good example of this is outlined in our Vision column, “Bringing the Outside In.” A Boston-area LeadingAge member, Scandinavian Living Center, has designed its building and its approach around allowing the seniors who live inside its walls to remain a part of the surrounding community. In other words, residents aren’t living in a “place apart,” and the integration is so complete that a number of residents come from the immediate area and saw their move as a natural progression of life rather than an unfortunate change to their independence.

Another of our articles, “Community Connections: How to Help Make Your Community Dementia-Friendly and Age-Friendly,” also illustrates this idea. It’s a look at the work of Dementia Friendly America, an organization that LeadingAge co-founded, and the Age-Friendly Cities movement that has been raising its profile all over the world. Again, the idea of making our towns, cities and country more welcoming to elders can be seen as a way of preserving the community bonds that people have always lived with—to avoid having to re-make connections that were artificially broken by separating some seniors from their communities.

The same approach applies to “Strengthening the Generations Through Connections.” Are the goals of intergenerational programs really a matter of new connections, or do they involve rediscovering relationships common to the majority of human history, when multiple generations of people lived together?

The best intergenerational programs feature personal, one-on-one contact between individuals to build relationships of trust. So do creative approaches to caring for those with dementia. See “Personal Connections as the Key to Memory Care” to see how providers are connecting memory care residents with their own pasts and with trusted caregivers to offer customized care.

One of LeadingAge’s stated values is the need for our field to be a catalyst—for change, connection and growth. In “Organizations as Catalysts” you’ll read about some members that take that role seriously: One by facilitating the development of its employees’ innovation “muscles” and two that are learning from each other as they expand their services to affordable housing residents.

(The “catalyst” role for aging services providers is a fertile topic area that we will continue to explore in future issues. We’re interested in learning about more examples of members catalyzing change. Contact me directly with your story at gmitchell@leadingage.org or 202-508-9424.)

Get Ready for the ‘Experience Era’” is a look at the “patient experience” concept that has become popular in the acute-care sector, and will probably gain adherents in our field. Given our long attachment to person-centered care, the approach seems like a natural fit.

Our creative connections theme is reflected in this issue’s “This I Have Learned” article as well. Two veteran aging-services leaders give us their take on the people—the catalysts—we work with, and why understanding, respecting and developing them is what makes our work possible, and what our leaders must prioritize.

Finally, see “Skaters, Translators and Activists: These are the People We Serve,” our members’ celebration of the amazing people they work for.

Gene Mitchell is editor of LeadingAge magazine.