General Sessions

Pioneering a New Culture of Aging Conference: General Sessions


Bill Thomas, one of Pioneer Network’s founders, tells us that “Well-being is a much larger idea than either quality of life or customer satisfaction. It is based on a holistic understanding of human needs and capacities. Well-being is elusive, highly subjective, and the most valuable of all human possessions.”


Just as Bill says, well-being has been elusive over the years as we have worked to advance the culture of aging, care and support. What better time than now, as we are reimagining our future, than to hold well-being as the compass that will point us in the direction we need to go. Identity, Connectedness, Security, Autonomy, Meaning, Growth, and Joy. Isn’t the desire to achieve these something we all share, regardless of our role in life, our age, or our abilities?

Pioneer Network believes it is, and so we have reimagined our time together, and are pleased to offer as our general sessions, Well-Being for All, a series of six sessions designed to bring us all together to experience learning, sharing, and an opportunity to shape the future.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 27 • 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM

Back in person again as Pioneer Network celebrates 25 years – what a cause for celebration! You won’t want to miss the chance to join fellow conference attendees for this fun and interactive experience. This will be a great place to find out what has been happening since we were last together – and begin to share our vision for how we are shaping the future.

In treasuring the present, Mary Fridley, Nicolette McDermott-Ketchum, and Brian LeBlanc from the Reimagining Dementia Coalition will share a special message and engage attendees in an interactive exercise, challenging us to join the movement to Reimagine Dementia. Vicki deClerk will join us to share her thoughts and a few exercises on centering, a technique used in the Validation Method which was founded by her mother, Naomi Feil. This will serve as a resource for attendees to use throughout the conference as we seek to get the most out of the conference experience. It will also serve as a valuable tool to use in our work with residents/older adults.

Traditions are important to Pioneer Network, and so we’ll honor the past with two very special traditions. The Roll Call of States, Provinces and Nations will be led by Pioneer Network’s co-founder and first Executive Director, Rose Marie Fagan, and then Pioneer Network co-founder Barry Barkan will share sage advice as he leads a very special learning circle.

So be sure to join us as we meet up with old friends, are introduced to new friends, and prepare to make the 2022 Pioneering a New Culture of Aging a person-centered experience for all!


THURSDAY, JULY 28 • 8:00 AM – 8:30 AM

Our time together will begin with opening remarks by Penny Cook, President & CEO, Pioneer Network, and a few special guests. Penny will share her thoughts on the journey we will be taking over the next three days as we explore Well-Being for All through a series of engaging and interactive sessions that are sure to stimulate thinking about where we have been, where we are today, and where we need to go in our individual and collective work to shape the future.


THURSDAY, JULY 28 • 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM

General Session with Deke Cateau, CEO, A.G. Rhodes

We will be begin our exploration of well-being with Deke Cateau, CEO at A.G. Rhodes and author of the book, Brush Fire: Covid-19 and our Nursing Homes. The customer service mantra of the long-term care industry has traditionally been that the resident is always right. While there is no doubt that residents are our primary consumer, Atlanta area non-profit nursing home provider, A.G. Rhodes, lives by the philosophy that if you care for your staff, they in turn will take quality care of their residents. Staff empowerment and enrichment are needed now more than ever as we face unprecedented challenges in recruiting and retaining staff. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted industry and organizational inequalities related to pay, race and leadership and exacerbated feelings of traumatic stress and compassion fatigue.

You’ll be inspired as you hear Deke discussing the legacy of A.G. Rhodes’ Care Partners philosophy, but he would be the first to say that it is your voice that needs to be heard, and so he will end the session with a lively question and answer session with fellow attendees and his special guest, Marvell Adams.


Deke Cateau

Deke Cateau is the Chief Executive Officer at A.G. Rhodes, a nonprofit organization operating three nursing homes in metro Atlanta. With more than 20 years of experience in long-term care, Deke is passionate about fostering a greater understanding of and appreciation for the aging population.

As a leader in the fields of health care and aging, Deke educates the community – through robust outreach and speaking engagements with local, national, and international audiences – about the complex issues surrounding aging and long-term care. In 2021, Deke published his first book: Brush Fire: COVID-19 and Our Nursing Homes. The book gives an open and honest account of the pandemic’s impact on A.G. Rhodes and on the nursing home industry as a whole. Dedicated to unsung health care heroes, Brush Fire is a book of inspiration and hope. Deke has also published previous articles on long-term care.

In addition to being a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, Deke is a certified dementia care practitioner, trainer, and educator. He serves on the Board of Directors for several organizations including LeadingAge, The Eden Alternative, Georgia Health Care Association, and the I’m Still Here Foundation. He also serves on the member committee for the Advancing Excellence in Long-Term Care Collaborative and on Kaiser Permanente’s Executive Employer Advisory Council. Deke is a Leadership Atlanta Class of 2019 graduate.

Deke holds a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Post Graduate Diploma in International Relations from the University of the West Indies St. Augustine Campus where he graduated as Valedictorian in 1997, and a certification in Global Leadership Development from the University of the Virgin Islands.


THURSDAY, JULY 28 • 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM

General Session with Dr. Susan Wehry, Chief of Geriatrics at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine

Susan Wehry MD, has been a friend of Pioneer Network since the beginning. A rebel in her own right, she has been on the forefront of efforts to reimagine aging and long-term care and to work hard for culture change. As she thinks and talks with others about how far we’ve come—and haven’t— and where we want to go— and will!, she has returned to her elders, her favorite fountain of wisdom. In this presentation, Susan will pass on what they advise: “a little kindness goes a long way” and describe why kindness and compassion work. She will discuss the science and spirituality of compassion, address the question “is compassion innate?”, and explain why she (and others) think the term “compassion fatigue” is a misnomer. Importantly, she will offer some pragmatic suggestions for creating the conditions in your life – and in your organization – that allow compassion to emerge and a sense of well-being to flourish.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
Dalai Lama


Dr. Susan Wehry

Susan Wehry, MD, a geriatric psychiatrist, is Chief of Geriatrics at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. She has authored research and articles on aging and mental health, including the Oasis 2.0 curriculum and a recent study published in JAMA, “Association of a Communication Training Program with Use of Antipsychotics in Nursing Homes.” Dr. Wehry is a nationally recognized speaker and workshop facilitator on depression, dementia, and healthy aging and her presentations combine over 30 years of experience with wisdom, compassion, and common sense, to engage attendees, help build skills, and use proven techniques.


FRIDAY, JULY 29 • 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM

General Session with Tim Knight, RN, BSHCA, CDP, Executive Director of Organizational Development & Training, Pebblebrook at Park Springs and Jacquie Hurt, CDM, CFPP, CDP, Licensed Assisted Living Administrator, Park Springs Health Services

As we continue to explore Well-Being for All – what it means, what it looks like – and whose life we are trying to bring well-being to, we are joined by Tim Knight and Jacquie Hurt from Isakson Living in Stone Mountain, Georgia. You may have heard of them, as they became well known to many of us the first year of the pandemic when staff moved into the Park Springs community for 77 days.

Moving forward from that experience, they are here to share lessons learned, including how the investment in their members’ (residents) and employees’ emotional well-being became a focus of training and education and how making space for people to have a voice and a safe place to communicate thoughts and feelings has been essential to moving forward.

This experience has changed their perception of what well-being truly means to members, and what team members learned about the impact they have on the well-being of others.

We will end this time together with an interactive exercise and a chance for you to lend your voice to the discussion.


Jacquie Hurt

Jacquie Hurt has held leadership positions in healthcare for over 25 years and is passionate when it comes to changing the culture of long-term care. She has been involved in culture change in hospitals, assisted living and nursing homes. She joined Park Springs-Isakson Living in January of 2017, excited to be a part of their culture change journey and has been involved with every aspect of the training and implementation of the SPIRIT model of care. Jacquie now serves as the primary trainer for the Household Model of Care and SPIRIT program for Isakson Living. She supports a memory care team that obtained the first Butterfly Home Certification in the United States. She develops and presents training topics that include dementia, person-directed care, diversity, and inclusion, ageism, ableism, household care models and mealtime experience. In addition to being a Certified Dietary Manager, Jacquie is a Certified Dementia Practitioner, Certified Eden Associate, Certified ServSafe Instructor and Registered Proctor and Licensed Assisted Living.

Tim Knight

Tim Knight began his healthcare career working as a CNA in long term care and later obtained his license as a Registered Nurse. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration. Tim is a Certified Eden Associate, a licensed Assisted Living Administrator, and a Certified Dementia Practitioner. Tim is originally from Maine and relocated to Stone Mountain, Georgia in 2017 to assume the position of Executive Director of Health & Wellness Services at Park Springs. In 2016, Tim served as the President of the Maine Culture Change Coalition and worked on several statewide projects that supported changing how traditional care is delivered.

In July of 2017, Tim led the Park Springs team in opening the new Pebblebrook Health Center and in August 2018, after collaborating with Dementia Care Matters from the United Kingdom, Pebblebrook Memory Care became the first accredited Butterfly Home in the United States.

Tim is currently working at the Isakson Living communities in the Atlanta area. (Park Springs in Stone Mountain and The Terraces in Buckhead). He continues his passion for culture change by providing education, direction and support of the Household Model of Care and person-centered, person-directed care in his current role of Executive Director of Training and Organizational Development.


FRIDAY, JULY 29 • 2:30 PM – 3:45 PM

General Session with Verna Cavey, Resident, Clermont Park, Moriah Bernhardt, Senior Director of Programs, Christian Living Communities (CLC)/ Cappella Living Solutions (CLS), Jim Laurie, President, Clermont Park Resident Assembly Advisory Board, Barbara Methvin, Vice-President, Clermont Park Resident Assembly Advisory Board, Andrew Sharp, Director of Community Life, Clermont Park, and Jill Vitale-Aussem, President & CEO, Christian Living Communities.

Back together to further exploration of well-being, we are joined by members of the team from Christian Living Communities who will explore the question, what does it look like when the domains of well-being shape the future of residents living in a senior living community? Residents and staff from Clermont Park will share the answers they have found – and how they are finding it through a new model of care based on Citizenship.

It begins with a resident directed culture that supports collaboration between leadership and team members, one in which residents are finding ways to contribute their gifts to the community in a fulfilling and meaningful way. They are creating a healthy balance of giving and receiving within the community while working to remove barriers to the outside community.

Residents and staff will share stories and best practices showing how they have moved beyond Person-Directed Care, creating a new level of connections and a community that is more vibrant than ever before. You will learn how, using Continuum of Person Directed Culture as a guide, they have moved beyond the long-held goal of a Resident Directed Culture, defining a new goal – Citizenship.

The session will end with a message from Jill Vitali-Aussem, President & CEO of Christian Living Communities, and author of “Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift”.


Moriah Bernhardt

Moriah Bernhardt is the Senior Director of Programs, supporting 22 CLC-CLS communities with engagement and dementia trainings and growth development. She began her career at CLC in 2010 as the Director of Community of Life at Clermont Park, where she helped integrate the Eden Alternative and Masterpiece Living into the inclusive cultural fabric of the community. Moriah is a professional licensed therapist, a registered art therapist, Independent PAC consultant and an Eden educator.

Verna Cavey

Verna Cavey is a retired educator, an elder advocate and an independent living resident. Her graduate work was at Johns Hopkins University and the Maxwell School, Syracuse University. She has been involved in the aging field – teaching, programming, research, writing, sitting on elder and anti-ageism committees and presenting locally, nationally and internationally.

Jim Laurie

Jim Laurie is currently the President of the Clermont Park Resident Assembly Advisory Board. He retired as Executive Vice President of the Samaritan Institute, an interfaith organization providing consultation and resources to more than 100 outpatient counseling programs in the United States and Japan. He has also served as board chair of various community organizations.

Barbara Methvin

Barbara Methvin is the current Vice President of the Clermont Park Resident Assembly Advisory Board. She has traveled and worked around the world and is the mother of two including an adopted Black daughter. Her experience includes health care administration, Peace Corps volunteer (HIV-Aids), science professor in universities for 20 years and volunteer in many community organizations dealing with multiple social problems.

Andrew Sharp

Andrew Sharp is Director of Community Life at Clermont Park, a Christian Living Community. He began his career in senior living in 2013 as Resident Services Director at a community in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 2017, he moved to Denver and was a Life Enrichment Coordinator at Someren Glen until the transition to his current role. Andrew has always had a passion for fostering resident-driven community and finished Certified Eden Associate Training in 2017 feeling encouraged and equipped in this endeavor. He became a certified Eden Educator in January 2020 and is excited to continue helping to create communities where aging is honored and celebrated.

Jill Vitale-Aussem

Jill Vitale-Aussem serves as President & CEO of Christian Living Communities, a Colorado-based, not-for-profit, faith-based organization serving more than 3,000 older adults and their families through its 23 owned and managed communities located in six states as well as its services of adult day, home care and consulting.

Jill has over twenty years of experience leading nursing homes, assisted living and life plan communities. Prior to joining Christian Living Communities, she served as President and CEO of The Eden Alternative, an international non-profit organization focused on creating quality of life for older people and their care partners. She is a licensed nursing home administrator and a Reframing Aging facilitator.

Jill is the author of Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift and speaks internationally on topics including ageism, leadership and culture change.


FRIDAY, JULY 29 • 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

General Session with Penny Cook, President & CEO, Pioneer Network, Susan Ryan, Senior Director The Green House Project and their special guests.

In the final session of the day, join Penny Cook and Susan Ryan as they gather around a traditional Pioneer Network campfire for a lively exploration of community and its true meaning: how we have honored and grown community in the past, how we treasure it today, and how it will help us to shape the future.

Joining Penny and Susan around the campfire will be Barry Barkan, Jennifer Carson, Dr. Al Power, Joe Carella and perhaps a few surprise guests! We promise that the learning will be fun, and that you will leave the campfire feeling the warmth of knowing that together, we will continue to tend and feed our righteous fire while creating new visions for the future – for the next 25 years and counting!

Penny Cook

Penny Cook’s commitment to changing the culture of aging and long-term care began early in her professional career as a social worker in Rochester, New York and continued as she moved to Colorado. She strongly believes that the care we provide to elders is directly related to the way we, as a society, view aging. She is passionate about spreading the message that we are in the midst of a revolution about how we age and where we do it. Penny comments that, “no matter whether people live, in nursing homes, assisted living communities or in their family home, we all deserve and should expect respectful and dignified care and support that is centered, directed and tailored to us as individuals.”

Penny previously served as the Manager of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program in the Denver metropolitan region and as the Executive Director of the Colorado Culture Change Coalition. There she expanded the Coalition’s reach to look beyond nursing homes and brought the message of culture change to assisted living communities and home care organizations. Most recently she was the Director of Long Term Services and Supports for Colorado Access where she managed a state Medicaid contract to connect individuals to long-term services and supports. Penny received her Master of Social Work degree from the State University of New York at Albany and her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Binghamton University.

Susan Ryan

Susan Ryan serves as senior director of The Green House Project, leading the non-profit on its; mission to fundamentally transform eldercare in America and around the world. As a member of the Green House team since 2008, Ryan has become an internationally recognized leader long-term care reform – with a particular focus on the organization’s vision for small-home & eldercare communities that provide person-directed alternatives to traditional nursing homes. Throughout her 35-year career in eldercare, Susan has sought to champion the quality of life for elders in a variety of settings across the continuum of care, including the expansion of home and community based services. At The Green House Project, she works to create a future where every elder is able to access high-quality, person-directed living in the setting of their choice.

Al Power

G. Allen Power, MD is a board-certified internist, geriatrician, and Schlegel Chair in Aging and Dementia Innovation at the Schlegel-U. Waterloo Research Institute for Aging in Ontario, Canada. He is also clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Rochester, New York, a Fellow of the American College of Physicians / American Society for Internal Medicine, and an international educator on transformational models of care for older adults, particularly those living with changing cognitive abilities.

Dr. Power’s second book, Dementia Beyond Disease: Enhancing Well-Being was released in 2014 by Health Professions Press. His debut book, Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of Care won a 2010 Book of the Year Award from the American Journal of Nursing. Dr. Power co-produced two DVDs with Dr. Richard Taylor and Brilliant Image Productions: Living with Dementia and 20 Questions, 100 Answers, 6 Perspectives. Dr. Power was named one of 2013’s “Five Leaders of Tomorrow” by Long-Term Living Magazine.
Dr. Power was a member of the Scientific Program Committee and a Keynote speaker for Alzheimer’s Disease International 2015, held in Perth, Western Australia. He was interviewed for the film Alive Inside (winner of the Audience Award for Best U.S. Documentary at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival), and for the 2018 PBS documentary Revolutionizing Dementia Care. His 2-day course, “Dementia Beyond Drugs” has been taught in fifteen U.S. states and six other countries on four continents.

Dr. Power was awarded a Bellagio Residency in Italy in 2012 by the Rockefeller Foundation, where he worked with Dr. Emi Kiyota on developing guidelines for sustainable communities that embrace people of all ages and abilities. Dr. Power has a 20-year history of implementing culture change in aged care settings, primarily through his extensive work with The Eden Alternative and The Green House Project.

Dr. Power recorded introductory material for the CMS educational package, “Hand in Hand,” designed to help direct care staff to better support people living with dementia. He has served in an advisory capacity with CMS and worked with the U. S. Dementia Action Alliance to produce two white papers on new approaches to dementia. His “Dementia Beyond Drugs” seminar has been awarded several national and state grants to educate both nursing home staff and surveyors.

Dr. Power was interviewed for the books Where Memories Go: Why Dementia Changes Everything, by BBC’s Sally Magnusson, and Old Age in a New Age: The Promise of Transformative Nursing Homes, by Beth Baker.

Dr. Power is currently co-authoring a book with Dr. Jennifer Carson on creating inclusive communities for people living with a diagnosis of dementia.

Dr. Power is also a trained musician and songwriter with three recordings. Peter, Paul and Mary performed his song of elder autonomy, “If You Don’t Mind,” and Walter Cronkite used his song, “I’ll Love You Forever” in a 1995 Discovery Channel profile of American families. His most recent project was composing music for Anne Hills’ new album, Accidental August.

Jennifer Carson

Jennifer Carson, PhD, is Director of the Dementia Engagement, Education, and Research (DEER) Program in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her career and scholarship encompass gerontology, dementia, long-term care, culture change, and leisure and aging. She has a strong commitment to partnerships and participatory approaches to research and practice, and works to improve the inclusion and well-being of persons living with dementia and care partners. Dr. Carson is also Director of the Dementia Friendly Nevada initiative; Director of the NEST Collaborative, a statewide effort that provides volunteer-hosted, virtual social support and technology assistance to older adults, adults living with disabilities, and veterans; and author and facilitator of Bravo Zulu: Achieving Excellence in Relationship-Centered Dementia Care, a comprehensive, 12-hour dementia education program developed in partnership with the Nevada Department of Veterans Services. She also partners with the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine’s Sanford Center for Aging on a U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program grant.

Barry Barkin

Barry Barkan is a co-founder of Pioneer Network. In 1985 he co-founded The Live Oak Regenerative Community as a model to transform patients to elders, empowering them in the management of the home and in the wider community. Barry also co-founded the Elders’ Guild to engage emerging Elders in a culture that promotes community, deepening wisdom, and championing the future.

Joe Carella is the Executive Director of the Scandinavian Charitable Society of Greater Boston; parent company of the Scandinavian Living Center and Scandinavian Cultural Center.  The design and development of the Scandinavian Living Center in Newton, Massachusetts, is based on the research and principles from his first book, “Unlimited Options for Aging”. He has shared these concepts on a national stage. His second book, “Creating Unlimited Options for Aging, The Path Forward” introduced the critical concept of community centered living. He has been a guest speaker at national and international conferences and has written several articles.

Joe Carella

Joe has an MBA from Babson College and an undergraduate degree from Northeastern University. He was a founding board member of the Newton Cultural Alliance, which supports the performing and visual arts in the Newton and Boston area.


Saturday, July 30 • 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM

General Session with Christopher Ridenhour, Founder/Chief Encouragement Officer, ChristopherMotivates

This session is one you won’t want to miss. The “Praise and Purpose Party” is designed to honor YOU! It’s a special recognition for your dedication, commitment, and the sanity you’ve managed to maintain during these “unprecedented” times. The yard signs and billboards that expressed appreciation since March of 2020, failed to recognize that you were “heroes”, “champions”, and “warriors” long before the world went sideways. Attendees will leave this “party” filled up, celebrated, and even more prepared to face the challenges of your day or night. If there was ever a time when you deserved a respite or momentary oasis, this is it!

Along with music, tributes, and games, attendees will also receive tools, tips, and techniques to move from crisis to confidence, and from struggle to strength. This is a unique gift unlike anything you’ve professionally experienced! And what party is complete without favors? Attendees will leave with a “Resiliency Swag Bag” filled to the top with:

  • Methods to stay inspired despite challenges, conflicts, and changes.
  • Skills to exercise more courage while influencing others with positivity.
  • Approaches for how to keep your peace and poise amidst turmoil and avoid burnout


Christopher Ridenhour

During the last two decades, Christopher Ridenhour has led wholesale culture change as the Chief Learning Officer for two multi-site healthcare companies. His primary responsibilities involve building Corporate Universities and “actionizing” the Mission, Vision, and Values into daily commitments. Additionally, he directs system-wide Onboarding, Retention, and Engagement strategies resulting in above- industry increases in the tenure of new and seasoned team members. Christopher’s passion and effectiveness has earned scores of opportunities to travel nationally as a Conference Keynote, and Performance Improvement Trainer. He is a perennial presenter at Pioneer Network, LeadingAge, Argentum, AHCA/NCAL, NADONA, AHE, among other organizations. His deepest passion lies in supporting organizations seeking to level-up and skill-build the courage, compassion, and communication necessary to create cultures of belonging and inclusion. Christopher asks us to imagine the positive outcomes for our elders resulting from every team member, at every level and walk-of-life, feeling cherished and fired up to serve!


Saturday, July 30 • 9:45 AM – 1:00 PM

It’s Not Over Yet!

Perhaps you would like the opportunity to engage in one more brainstorming session with fellow attendees, exploring opportunities for Cultural Transformation. Maybe you would like to renew your spirit on a guided walk through Downtown Denver, exploring nature and the sites of the city. Or it could be that you are a bit more adventurous, and you’d like to see a little more of Colorado before you head home, in which case you can join fellow attendees for an excursion to Red Rocks. Whichever you choose, you’re sure to end the day renewed, refreshed and revitalized! More information is coming soon!


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