Making a Revolution: One Person at a Time

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Ruta Kadonoff, Executive Director, Pioneer Network

Our national conference closed last Wednesday in New Orleans. Those who were present know, of course, that our theme was Revolutionizing the Culture of Aging.  As I noted in my closing remarks, it’s a bold statement — one that sounds like a massive undertaking, maybe even intimidating in some ways. After all, who are we to cause a revolution?
But as our guides and attendees clearly demonstrate, a revolution at its core boils down very simply to individual people, their choices and their actions.  As I hope those of you who were fortunate enough to be there in person to hear the stories of our keynote speakers, Bob Goddard, Hannah Hedges, and Corey Rotella, aka CNA Edge and Francis Njuakom took away, an individual with a vision and a commitment has tremendous power to begin, grow and sustain revolutionary change.
Pioneers demonstrate daily the Pioneer Network values statement that each person can, and does, make a difference. It is up to each of us to choose, each day, what kind of difference we will make — in another individual’s life, in our community, and ultimately in our world.
As I challenged conference attendees I ask you now, too, to consider what might be possible if every morning, each person reading these words took a moment to commit to doing one specific thing that would advance the vision of a culture of aging that is life affirming, satisfying, humane and meaningful? And then proceeded to live that commitment? What could we collectively accomplish? I believe the possibilities are bigger than any of us can imagine!
What could that one revolution-making thing look like?  It might be something you do at work — posing a new and provocative question that starts others thinking and acting differently, sharing something you have learned in the course of your culture change journey with your colleagues, or just taking a few moments to do something meaningful for one of the people you interact with daily — an elder, a staff member, a friend or family visitor.  Or it might mean looking beyond your workplace to think about how what you are already doing, learning and living and the power of a new culture could be shared with your larger world — to raise awareness and engagement in changing society’s perception and culture when it comes to aging. You could offer to lead a discussion session or a book group or a learning circle with members of your faith community, at your local library, or with a group of your friends. You could reach out to local organizations to develop relationships that bring together the elders you work with and their surrounding community. You could work to identify people in your neighborhood who may be interested in starting up a grassroots “Village” model project to facilitate neighbors helping neighbors. You could offer to speak at your child’s school about your career and the opportunities in aging services. Or explore creative ways to bring local children of all ages into your workplace to allow them to witness our field for themselves and to engage with elders.  The possibilities are truly endless.  All it takes is commitment and creativity.  I’m betting you have lots more ideas than I could possibly think of or list here…
The specifics of what you decide to do matter less than just doing something, each and every day that brings us one step closer to the world we ultimately want to see – that consistent application of our values and principles over time. This is what I believe will create the kind of world that each of us can truly embrace aging into.
For those of you who could not be with us this year, I invite you to save the date now for next year’s conference, marking the 20th anniversary of the original gathering of what were then referred to as the Nursing Home Pioneers!  We will come together, as Pioneers have regularly now since 1997, to collectively celebrate our accomplishments, share with and learn from one another, draw inspiration and strength for continuing the journey, and enjoy the fellowship of a wonderfully diverse group of people who share a single vision — a culture of aging that is life affirming, satisfying, humane and meaningful!
Join us for what we promise will be a unique and engaging experience that draws from the richness of our past to inform and focus us for the next leg of our collective journey over the next 20 years.  We invite you all to Be the Future!
And between now and then, please join us in continuing the Revolution!