by Tim Rowan
There was quite a collection of brain power in Redondo Beach, L.A. this week when Honor hosted its first annual "Sage" conference.
Dr. Bill Thomas is a global leader in the effort to challenge ageism. Founder of the "Eden Alternative" and the "Green House Project," Dr. Thomas' three decades of work culminated with a four-year journey across North America, when he engaged elders in conversations in 140 communities about what concerns them the most.
Yoky Matsuoka, Ph.D., is a Google VP who has been a university professor and co-founder of "Nest." She received the MacArthur Award, was named one of the "Brilliant Ten" by Popular Science magazine and recognized as one of the "Top 10 Women to Watch" in 2010 by Barbie. (Yes, Mattel’s Barbie has an award to honor successful women.) Dr. Matsuoka has over 300 issued or pending global patents.
What do older people want to be called?
The discussion at Honor's meeting turned to the language of aging. Surveys are revealing which descriptors to dump, which to use, and which might be coming next.
"The only people who want to be called 'Senior' are high school freshmen and sophomores."
"Elderly," "geriatric," and "senior citizen" are out."
An NPR survey found preferences for "older adults," "agers," and "Boomers" (but not Baby Boomers).
On the fringe, some politically correct suggestions included:
The list of speakers and panelists goes on and on. Better to quote them their most memorable statement than to call up each one's bio. Attendees were mostly personal care home care agency owners. They heard research and opinions like the following from these two and from other aging specialists from the motion picture industry, the Alzheimer's Association, medical school professors, and an Anaheim city councilman who is also a home care agency owner.
Yoky Matsuoka came to this country from Japan to become a professional tennis player. When injuries interfered, she discovered a love of technology. Over the years, she found that one thing can interfere with one's best-laid plans there as well: human behavior.
A brilliant robot for healthcare worked find in institutions but the Wi-Fi-enabled machine failed in home care. "I forgot my Wi-Fi password." "I don't know where I left my phone." Etc. So she pivoted to a thermostat managed by artificial intelligence to save energy. It did not. In fact, it wasted energy.
"We would set the cooling system at 72 and very gradually raise it to 76 throughout the day," she said. "The elders in the trial would walk past the thermostat and freak out. '76! Oh, no!' And they would manually crank it down to 68. We abandoned that AI product."
She also had advice for inventors and entrepreneurs. "It is hard for a giant like Google to innovate. They set a direction and need to focus on selling what they have, not immediately replacing it with something a little better. The ideal situation is for small startups to do the innovating and then be acquired by a giant."
She frowned and added, "You just have to hope they didn't acquire you in order to kill your idea so it wouldn't compete with theirs. That is often how it works."
Swallow hard and read on. Among all the excellent panel discussions, the details of staffing were the hardest to hear. Moderator Andrea Cohen, Co-Founder and CEO of HouseWorks, and panelists Shannon Sedgwick, Senior Economist with the L.A. County Economic Development Corporation, Jessica Ku Kim, Senior Director of Workforce Development at the same County department, and Jenna Hauss, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Community-Based Services for ONEgeneration, a non-profit that puts seniors and infants together for mutual benefit, laid out the facts for all to hear, whether they wanted to or not.
One last piece of wisdom emerged from these discussions that every home care owner needs to hear and take to heart. Scholarly research into staff retention has found that low-wage, low-skilled caregivers stay with an employer for three reasons. In order of importance:
Owners surprised to hear results essentially upside-down from their own assumptions questioned survey findings but were assured that the research is valid that found a higher departure rate by care workers who are not treated like professionals and who do not hear frequent expressions of gratitude and admiration, even if they are paid more.
©2019 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. homecaretechreport.com One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only. firstname.lastname@example.org