Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living – A Mindshift

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Ageism is everywhere

Ageism is truly one of the last widely accepted prejudices in our society. Fighting it is the most important work professionals in our field can do.” –Jill Vitale-Aussem

From greeting cards that mock the advent of another birthday to hair coloring and anti-wrinkle creams, we are told constantly and without apology that being old is something to be avoided at all costs. The negative messaging works. As a nation, we spend billions of dollars on anti-aging treatments. Our deep-held and often unconscious prejudices and beliefs about aging translate into a perception that once older people enter senior living housing, they have nothing meaningful to contribute to society. And it’s just not true.

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By Jill Vitale-Aussem, LNHA, MMH

With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, the need for senior living is growing at a steep rate, and the aging services field has been hard at work preparing for these new customers. Current practices aim to bring the kind of comfort and amenities enjoyed at hotels and resorts to the settings we create for older adults to live in. But what if these efforts are misdirected?

Interweaving research on aging, ideas from influential thinkers in the aging services field, and the author’s own experiences managing and operating senior living communities, Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift challenges readers to question long-accepted practices, examine their own biases, and work toward creating vibrant cultures of possibility and growth for elders.

Shining a light on her own professional field, Jill Vitale-Aussem exposes the errors of current thinking and demonstrates how a shift in perspective can effect real cultural transformation. Her book delves into society’s inherent biases about growing older—where ageism, paternalism, and ableism abound—and provokes readers to examine how a youth-obsessed culture unconsciously impacts even the most well-meaning senior living policies, practices, and organizations. Deconstructing the popular hospitality model, for example, Vitale-Aussem explains how it can actually undermine feelings of purpose and independence. In its place, she proposes better ways to create opportunities for older people to exercise choice, autonomy, and self-efficacy.

Filled with empowering stories of elders who find purpose and belonging within their senior residences, Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living builds on AARP’s disrupt aging work and demonstrates that to truly transform senior living, we must dig deeper and create communities that promote the potential and value of the people who live and work in these settings.

216 pages, 6 x 9 paper
© 2019

Reviews of Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift

Sister Imelda Maurer, CDP
In Service to Our Own

In a recent conversation about culture change, a friend and colleague made the point that “you can’t teach a chapter on Culture Change because culture change principles underlie everything. From changing a pressure ulcer dressing to helping someone have a second cup of coffee at breakfast.” This is the same as recognizing that a list of really good policies does not ensure the transformation of traditional senior living communities. What is required is a mindshift — a transformation that will impact “everything.” And that is what Jill writes about and teaches in her book, Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift.

Jill examines commonly accepted mindsets with their subsequent impacts in traditional (really “good” traditional) settings and reflects on the underlying governing principles. Finding them to be deficient, and harmful to full human development, she offers a different “mindset” which will/does disrupt the status quo in a way that honors older adults as individuals with innate dignity, with agency and as members of a community.

In a transparent manner, Jill tells stories of how she has changed in her leadership and in her operational practices because she came to realize that change was necessary. It is a characteristic of the author that I find so necessary for transformative leadership: a level of self-awareness that leads to a willingness to learn that another way may be the better way.

Written in a flowing, accessible style, Jill addresses many areas that call for a mindshift and includes how to make it happen: transformative leadership. It is the best book on culture change that I have read in a long time. It should be mandatory reading for any leader of an aging services community.


Terry Rogers
President & CEO,
Westminster Communities of Florida

Highlighting the limitations of the current hospitality model for senior living gives all of us in the field new perspectives on the mindshift that must occur to be successful with future consumers. New and seasoned professionals in aging services are sure to gain insights and perspectives on how together we can create fresh possibilities for the field and eliminate ageism for the next generation.