Our found family is diverse, imperfect, and loving in every single way.

Cultures of Caring

What do you find when you start to look closely at assisted living communities? You find a treasure trove of love, kindness, and caring.

During National Assisted Living Week, I produced a campaign to share the joys, celebrations, and greatness of the people that make up our communities. I asked the administrators of our 20 senior living communities to send me photos, wisdom from their residents, and examples of what living in assisted living can really be like. When we looked at what they were sending and sharing on Facebook–we were overjoyed at the beautiful people caring for one another everywhere we looked.

Employee appreciation day at Sun Oak in Citrus Heights, CA

Caring for employees So often senior living companies call their employees “caregivers”. But, who cares for them? We believe that caring is a reciprocal relationship–that the care team and the elder are in a partnership to care for one another. Where one perhaps benefits from physical support, another benefits from emotional support or wisdom earned through many years of life experience.

PT_grandparents day family photo.jpgCaring for family
Families of elders living in our communities are often providing the hands-on care until mom or dad move into a supportive living environment. That’s when assisted living can really support families–by taking care of the daily needs so they can get back to having a relationship with the elder. Throughout the week, we saw many moments of caring for the families that have become part of our reciprocal care culture.


Caring for furry friends

SO_pet daySeveral of the communities recognized the role that furry family members play in our lives through events such as fundraisers to care for homeless pets and bring your pet to work day.  They are the companions that never complain, love unconditionally, and provide that unexplainable emotional care that only a pet can provide.

Elder participating in the Relay for Life in Florence, Oregon at Shorewood Senior LivingCaring for the community
It never ceases to amaze me at how much energy the elders and employees have for giving back to their communities. Alzheimer’s Walk fundraisers, homeless pet fundraisers, school supply drives, Boys’ and Girls’ Club support–the list goes on and on for the causes that our communities support to not only stay connected but care and love the communities that have loved them.

Caring for eldersouting at Carolina Assisted Living in Appleton, Wisconsin

And, of course, we can’t forget the elders that are at the core of what we do. During this week, the demonstrations of love and care for the elders that we learn from and feel loved by was overflowing. And, our teams gave back as much as they could through massages, parties, happy hours, dances, and recognition that we make up this family brought together by a common circumstance. And, have become much more than that.

Thank you to everyone that makes every day a culture of caring day!

Take a look at the week in review here.

About the Author:  

Photo on 9-7-17 at 4.53 PM

Amira T. Fahoum is the Director of Marketing and Director of Operations, Northwest Region for Compass Senior Living located  in Eugene, Oregon. Her path to senior living started when she simply decided to be open to possibilities in life. Possibilities are what led her to what is now a career in serving elders and families. Possibilities also led her into the world of becoming a Certified Eden Associate, Certified Validation Worker, Levels I and II, and a licensed Assisted Living Administrator in Oregon. On her journey with Compass, she has found true reward in working with, and for, the people that care for others.

elders painting class

#TrueNorthElderhood and #NALW

What does it mean to be a True North Elder? 

Elders are pushing boundaries and shaking things up every day. Stories are plentiful of elders that are meeting at the gym, playing on basketball teams, or earning their high school diplomas at age 92. They teach us that we as humans can always learn, grow, adapt, and overcome the changes of aging. This is a True North Elder to us. Connecting with these experienced individuals brings us a sense of joy, love, and feeling of reward that is greater than the money we may earn by caring for them. They become part of our families–not by blood, but by relationship. Maya Angelou once said:

Family isn’t always blood, its the people in your life who want you in theirs: the ones who accept you for who you are, the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.

Celebrating our ‘family’

This week is National Assisted Living Week® and Compass Senior Living communities are participating by celebrating this year’s theme Family is Forever. Employees, residents, and families are spending time embracing this found family and the True North Elders in our midst. Throughout the week, we’ll be sharing stories, tidbits of wisdom and photos from the events that take place each day– and the lessons that our elder families can teach us.

We invite you to join us for events in your area and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for updates and use #TrueNorthElderhood to share your story about an elder in your life that is a True North Elder in your family–however that may be defined!

What is the Perennial Generation

“That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another.”Adlai Stevenson

So much is written today about how to recruit, educate, and inspire the Millennial generation.  We have talked about it in our leadership team meetings, and we have examined our policies and procedures.  I asked our payroll specialist to run a list of our 600 employees by age and found that 52 percent of our employees are under age 35.  According to the Pew Research, Millennials are now the largest labor force in the United States at 53.5%.

We researched things that would attract Millennials such as

  • Fair working salary and benefits
  • Flexible work schedule
  • More frequent feedback and coaching
  • An authentic mentor-leader that inspires them to greatness
  • A cause greater than themselves
  • Opportunities to continually grow and learn.

As I looked at this list, I thought to myself, What is good for the Millennials is actually good for  all of us!”

I also realized that our society has begun to label and judge prospective employees by their generational characteristics. We all read about Millennials as ‘tech savvy,self-centered, lazy, entitled, know-it-all.’ Generation X  is referred to as ‘cynical get-it-done innovators’, and Boomers as ‘idealistic, dependable  work ethic.’  If we, as a society, and in our business, label people in generalizations, we lose the insight into the capabilities of each person to be instrumental in creating successful workplaces.

My role in our company is education and innovation.  As I travel around the United States and connect with the care teams, I found that these labels are simply labels. In fact, each individual is truly unique.  I have worked alongside some amazingly committed 25-year-olds –  and I  have worked with some 55 year old Boomers who did not have a good work ethic.  So the stereotype is just that.

I also learned, that no matter what the age of a person, there is a desire to be inspired by leaders who allow them to grow, learn and discover their paths to becoming the best they can be.  Most also want to be a part of a cause greater than themselves. They want to find their tribe within the workplace where they feel valued, protected, and loved.

In examining and studying the Millennials, I had an ‘aha about our roles as leaders. The Millennials shined a new light on my own discriminatory language and perceptions. Although I am an elder advocate, and I have spent years speaking out against ageism and labeling elders based on their age or  cognitive or physical capability – I have been guilty of applying ageism prejudices when categorizing our team members into age groups and stereotypes.

I decided, “Labels be-gone!”  It is not about the generational differences, it is about our leadership and our power to transform ourselves and others by our words and actions!  I recently heard a term referring to people as perennials’, meaning people who can cross over different age groups, and are able to relate to everybody.

Gina Pell, Content editor for The What – a clever list for curious people gave this definition:

Meet the Perennials. We are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current, and have friends of all ages. We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against our growing edge. We comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic.”

Yes!  There is no need to label people – we are all ever-blooming and growing! We are perennials.  What a beautiful way to frame a workplace, with people of all ages, backgrounds, experience, and talents.

Inclusive – not divisive.

As a family of perennials – elders, middle-aged, and  younger people come together as one to care for and grow one another in an intergenerational vibrant community making friends of all ages.  This shift in thinking requires wise and courageous transformative leadership, an open mind, and a full heart. Together really is better.

The challenge to each of us as leaders in senior housing is to put away discriminatory labeling of others and work together. We must  create communities where elders, families, and employees are growing, teaching, discovering, experimenting, contributing, and trusting one another to do the right thing in the spirit of honor and love.

Trusting relationships are the most basic of human needs and the strongest foundation for caring for one another.

Perennial Definition:

1. lasting for an indefinitely long time; enduring: her perennial beauty.
2.having a life cycle lasting more than two years.
3.lasting or continuing, as a stream.
4.perpetual; everlasting; continuing; recurrent.

 11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” ― Mother Teresa

Pat Monahan led a pop tabs project in partnership with Ronald McDonald.  She saw a need and decided to see if her friends and family could help fill that need.  After decades of giving this elder feels like she has just begun to give!

As a life enrichment director of an assisted living in Redding California, it was a life-changing epiphany to realize that my job was not to entertain our elders, but to create avenues to bring purpose to their lives. I have the privilege of working with the most generous and sacrificial generation.

  • A generation who gave through coming together and surviving the Great Depression.
  • A generation who served and defended our nation through World War II.
  • A generation who created a stable and thriving economy through hard work and ingenuity after the war.
  • A generation  who  ran households and who created and grew businesses.
  • A generation of war heroes who deserve to live with purpose and joy.

In retirement, though many of these elders enjoy and pursue hobbies, interests. and other goals time now allows; they still innately love and desire to share a legacy and a spirit of generosity to give with purpose.

As this epiphany of bringing purpose to the forefront began to sink in, we began to intentionally create opportunities for our residents to give, and our residents came alive in ways we had never seen.

Residents who did not usually participate in our games, parties, or activities, would come to events centered around helping others.

  • We gave 25 backpacks to local children in need.
  • We adopted a kindergarten class in a local elementary school for whom we threw monthly parties and gave lots of hugs.
  • We raised enough money to give 35 families turkeys for Thanksgiving.
  • We collected the largest shipment of pop tabs used to raise funds that the Northern California Ronald McDonald House in Sacramento has ever received.

This was all accomplished by a group of 45 elders, their families, and our Sundial Assisted Living team. This generation does not see elderhood as a time just to sit back and receive after decades of hard work. They want to continue giving and growing through helping others and passing on this spirit of generosity to following generations.

About the guest author:  Holly Heleniak, Community Relations Director, Sundial Assisted Living, Redding California

holly-head-shotHolly says, “I consider myself truly blessed to have a job which allows me to spend time having fun and creating memories with incredible people.” Previously, Holly was a part of an international Christian ministry for ten years, traveling around the United States and abroad. She is a graduate of Texas Tech University and proudly hails from the state of Texas. Outside of work, Holly enjoys traveling, interior decorating, sports, being an aunt, and very soon a mom for the first time! . She also enjoys being involved in her local church. And of course, a great joy is singing and entertaining  residents with other Sundial team members!

The myth of the grumpy old man

Grumpy old men and crotchety old women are often the labels jokingly given to older adults.

When the film Grumpy Old Men debuted in 1994, the premise was funny. Two elderly neighbor men putting on their best stereotypical crochety ‘attitudes, sniping at each other and at others around them. It was so funny, in fact, that a sequel soon followed – Grumpier Old Men. More guffaws. Leave it to Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon to make us all laugh!

“If you want to be happy, be.” Leo Tolstoy

I have the honor to meet and chat with elders in their 80’s 90’s, and a few in their 100’s.  Some are physically and cognitively fit who find happiness and purpose in community outreach.  They have amazing senses of humor, and they laugh and dream, aspiring to make the world a better place. Those who need some physical or cognitive assistance also have the same desires to laugh, connect, dream, learn and to make a difference! We are there to support them to be their best selves  – with the joy and happiness of  a mindful and purposeful life.  Elderhood is the crecendo of a lifetime!man-in-garden

  • Newsflash!   It turns out that everything does not go downhill as we age – the golden years are really golden!
  • That’s according to eye-opening research that found the happiest Americans are the oldest; and older adults are more socially active than the stereotype of the lonely, grumpy, crotchety  senior suggests.
  • Attitudes like self-esteem, quality relationships, defining life as meaningful, and exercising some independence can help people age well and to something positive even in the face of adversity.”

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” Omar Khayyam

In 2002 the National Institutes of Health held a “Successful Aging” seminar. In synthesizing the information presented at the seminar Dr. Judy Selerno, who directs the NIH’s National Institute on Aging, concluded, “Disease and disability are not inevitable consequences of aging.” In other words, simply seeing signs of aging doesn’t have to lead down a slippery slope of hopelessness or despair.

  • There is a national movement from many different organizations to change the paradigm of aging from the image of the grumpy, crotchety old person  to the truth of the wholeness in elderhood with the capacity to learn and grow and make a difference in the world.
  • I really admire the work of Saging International.  They were inspired by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (28 August 1924 – 3 July 2014), who, in 1992 wrote the book From Aging to Saging: A Revolutionary Approach to growing older.
  • Saging International is a non profit organization looking at life in a new way as we age. They are exploring ways to harvest the wisdom of our lives, finding ways to transmit that wisdom as a legacy to future generations and to give back through service.Their goal is to help each one of us achieve our very best selves into elderhood.
  • Having a purpose in life and giving kindness can make ALL of us happier!

“Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won’t have to hunt for happiness.” William E. Gladstone

If you want to experience real joy in your life, start giving away, start giving out… Retired couple Peter Grazier and Nance Cheifetz decided that they wanted to become full-time Fairy Godparents, so in 2003, they sold their Lexus and bought Bodhi, their 1990 Volkswagon kindness van, and have been hitting the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area with lunch and hot chocolate. “Adults should have more fun than they do,” says Cheifetz, who encourages everyone to join in the delight in giving.

11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author:    Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living  , located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years experience in not-for-profit and for profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living.

Let this 2-minute video of kindness given by this senior couple just make your day a little happier!