Monday, September 17, 2007

A New Message for Senior Care Communities

The other day I had to stop by my physician’s office for a few inoculations before I take off on our upcoming trip to Indonesia. My plan was to run in, get my shots and run back out. My plan, as often happens, got waylaid – but this time for a very good reason.

Occupying a good share of the sidewalk in front of the clinic was a table loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables. A banner above the stand identified it as being from a local produce farm. The fruits and veggies looked fresh and fabulous. So I stopped – and I shopped. I brought home fresh corn on the cob, salad greens and nectarines – the best I’ve eaten all summer.

Since that day, the idea of stopping at the doctor’s office and picking up some fresh, wholesome produce on my way out has stuck with me. What an incredibly creative way to live your point: eat healthy, take care of yourself and you’ll need to see less of us! This was Kaiser Permanente, who is clearly living their new motto, “Thrive!”

Last week in Dodge City, Kansas, Kathy Greenlee, the Secretary of the Kansas Department on Aging spoke to a group of seniors about healthy aging. As reported in the Dodge City Daily Globe, the first question Ms. Greenlee asked the seniors in attendance was, “How many of you plan to go to a nursing home?”

Not surprisingly, no hand was raised. Ms. Greenlee went on to talk about the importance of taking responsibility of our own health, and eating well – lots of fresh fruits and vegetables being a key component of that advice – as one of the best ways to avoid needing long term care services.

Researchers have found that we can prevent many of the disease processes that cause long term disabilities and dependencies. The two most important things we can do to live long, healthy lives are getting regular exercise and good nutrition.

I have been wondering, as I reflect on the best produce I’ve had all summer, how we can incorporate this message in a meaningful way in our senior care communities.

What about sponsoring a walking club for residents, and inviting seniors in the general public to join in?

How about offering space inside our spacious lobbies or activity areas for local farmers to sell their produce?

What other ways can we creatively say to the public, “We’re here to help when you need us, but in the meantime, we’ll help you stay healthy, active and independent”?

This may be a message that helps move senior care from the dreaded place (“I’d rather die than move there”) to the mainstream (“I’m sure glad they were there when I needed them!”). It’s a message we need to be giving today, as we prepare for the needs – and the options – of tomorrow.

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