Envisioning the Future: Finding Meaning and Purpose Symposium

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Cathy Lieblich
Director of Network Relations
Pioneer Network

Last Wednesday, a large group of pioneers gathered virtually to learn and share about the importance of meaning and purpose for all of us, especially those that live and work in senior living and care communities. The guides for the day included residents and innovative providers, consultants, and companies committed to helping people find meaning and purpose now and in the years to come. The topic of meaning and purpose is close to my heart as my work at Pioneer Network and throughout my career and my volunteer work have provided me with the meaning and purpose that we all strive for.

I learned a lot during that symposium that I would like to share with you, people who share our passion about the importance of meaning and purpose in our lives and the lives of others.

The first session of the day, “Engagement through the Eyes of the Residents”, sponsored by Joy for All, featured three residents, Win Barnard, Verna Cavey, and Sandra Folz, who shared how they found meaning and purpose before and during the pandemic. Scott Smith from Five Star Senior Living described the “Club Model”, a program based on knowing the person and their individual preferences and interests, making connections based on shared interests, and turning over control to the residents. Highlights included: developing a “Buddy Club” to welcome new residents and help them get acclimated to the community and practicing a” Citizenship” Model  (see Verna’s blog). All agreed that when hiring staff, an important skill is being a “connector” who helps residents and staff build relationships.

The second session, “A New Look at Community Commitment: It’s All About Making Connections”, sponsored by Wish of a Lifetime from AARP, featured past Community Commitment Award recipients and the Heart to Serve program from Rockport Healthcare Services which inspired the award. Highlights included: an update from Mary Knapp on Foulkeways at Gwynedd’s Senior Scholars Program in which resident’s serve as faculty for nursing students as well as those from other disciplines. Throughout COVID, this program not only survived; it thrived!

Annie Dunlap shared about her work supporting Rockport Healthcare Services’ Heart to Serve program in which nursing home residents help prepare and serve food to homeless people. She stressed that it’s not just about the food but the connection that the residents and homeless people make with each other. Unfortunately, Heart to Serve has been on hold due to the pandemic, but the team at Rockport didn’t let that stop them from finding ways to connect with the greater community in the “Adopt a Window” program.

Connections abound in ResoLute (Resident Empowered Solutions on Living Until the End), a program from Empira that was shared by Kelly Klund.  It’s about supporting residents as they embrace the process of aging with purpose, determination, and an unwavering commitment to uphold what matters in the late stages of life. I especially enjoyed Kelly sharing about “The Wise Guys”, one of the ResoLute peer support groups.  These gentlemen found meaning and purpose by giving back to the broader community, making “Welcome Home” signs for an organization called “Solid Ground” which helps homeless people find homes.

Making connections is so much a part of the work of Wish of a Lifetime from AARP. Jared Bloomfield shared how they have supported opportunities for residents to realize their dreams, and how you can apply to have a wish granted for an older adult in your life.

I’ve always believed, like so many of you, that doing the right thing is good for business. The third session, “The Cost of Meaning and Purpose: Selling Value from the CNA to the CEO,” sponsored by Eversound and iN2L, and featuring senior living and care community leaders who have supported meaning and purpose for residents and staff validated my belief! Speakers shared how they have realized that supporting meaning and purpose also supports the bottom line since it resulted in resident and staff satisfaction and recruitment of new residents and staff.

Joe Carella, CEO of Scandinavian Living Center, shared the story of his community, and how despite those who told him it couldn’t be done (including some of the Center’s members (residents and staff), community-based living is the right thing to do. Scandinavian Living Center features a café that is open to the community and the residents and offers space for organizations to meet. I loved hearing about the 98-year-old resident who calls elders in the broader community to check on how they’re doing!

Angie McAllister from Signature HealthCARE stressed something else that I am passionate about, human connection and relationships and how staff needs to help make connections happen. She reminded us about the importance of meaning and purpose for staff and how that can result in staff retention and help with recruitment of new staff.

Michelle Daniel, VP of Philanthropy & Strategic Implementation of Methodist Senior Services, stressed the importance of making fundraising fun for residents, staff, and volunteers. She recommended being clear about what you want/need and show how passionate you are about it.  Find others, including residents and their families, who are interested in the endeavor and get them involved in a meaningful way. Remember that people give to people. It’s about “relational giving”, not “transactional giving.” And best of all, she introduced us to Alice, a resident, who is one of the organization’s star fundraisers. I think every person who participated in the event left with the goal of finding their Alice!

The fourth session, “Meaning and Purpose for Staff: Goals with Soul,” sponsored by DRIVE, was filled with Denise Boudreau-Scott’s wisdom gleaned from her life experience and work with senior living and care communities on their culture. Denise shared how she learned the hard way (after having a mini stroke at age 49) that the incongruity of one’s own personal values and the unrelenting daily “grind” can have heartbreaking results. Her message was to use your personal values as your guide to unlocking your passion and connecting to a deeper meaning in life and work. Attendees completed a Personal Values Assessment and then were challenged to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Does my work align with my values?
  • What’s something that I’m not doing now, that I can start doing?
  • How can I change what I’m doing and how I’m doing it if it doesn’t align with my values?

After doing the values assessment myself, I realized even more than I had before, that my work and my entire career have aligned with my values. Thank you, Denise!

The icing on the cake was ending the day by having all our speakers together as Penny Cook facilitated a discussion, Bringing the Vision Together. We were all reminded of the value of the lessons learned throughout the day, but more important how the real value comes from what you do with it!


2 comments on “Envisioning the Future: Finding Meaning and Purpose Symposium

  1. Cathy Lieblich on

    Great to hear, Peggy, thanks! If you’d like to watch the symposium sessions on demand, you can register to do that at https://www.pioneernetwork.net/envisioning-the-future/. I miss seeing you as well! I’m so glad to hear that you’re on the Board of VOICE! Kathy Ardekani is my lead contact there and, of course, Pastor Gary is a close friend of Pioneer Network. If you’d like, I’d be happy to add your name to my Coalitions Contacts list to invite you to our virtual Coalitions Networking Meetings and for you to receive other emails that I send to the coalitions.

  2. Peggy Brenner on

    Hi Cathy,

    I missed the seminar, therefore I greatly appreciate the information. As a member of the Board of Directors for VOICE ( once called the PA Culture Change Coalition), this information was truly valuable in planning topics for our annual ACCORD.

    Hope all is well. Miss seeing you annually, Cathy.

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