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The Pioneer Conference 2016: Revolutionizing the Culture of Aging

Posted on September 23, 2016 in General
Attendees:  Daniella Pantal, Mary Traver, Teresa Vaughan, Liz Harris, Janice Vare, Lorraine Pasadino

Attendees: Daniella Pantal, Mary Traver, Teresa Vaughan, Liz Harris, Janice Vare, Lorraine Pasadino

The Pioneer Network Conference is the nation’s most influential annual gathering of individuals and organizations that share the mission of culture change within the realm of aging services. The network advocates resident-centered care, a model of care that emphasizes the importance of the resident above all else.

The Pioneer Network Conference is just one of many efforts Pennswood Village has participated in through the years to cultivate a resident-centered culture. Pennswood’s culture is evidenced through its representation at the conference by, not just staff, but residents as well. Residents’ valued participation in shaping the community is a truly unique addition to the network that makes it much richer.

Pennswood resident Lorraine Pasadino attended this year’s conference, and she wrote the following piece about her exceptional experience:

About the Pioneer Network

Pioneer Network, founded in 1997, advocates for elders and a culture of aging that supports the care of elders in settings where their voices are heard and their choices are respected — whether it is in nursing homes, transitional care settings, or wherever home and community may be.  Cultivating a community of relationships is important at every phase of life, but especially critical for elders and the aging, many of whom may need a network of partners to live life to its fullest.

A Resident’s Experience of Participating in the 2016 Pioneer Conference

Finding certain words in the conference title interesting — Pioneer and Culture of Aging –I agreed to be a resident representative for Pennswood Village. Since blogs are best suited to brevity, here are several “little did I know-s.”

Little did I know that:

  • traveling out west to New Orleans, our cohort could have travelled faster on a stage coach than we did on a plane! But that tale has morphed from an unbelievably frustrating one to an unbelievable funny one for future telling.

Little did I know that:

  • attending the conference was really work! We met as a group before the conference with supervisors, and during the conference we gathered several times. Each of us had specific sessions to attend, notes to write and share with each other, and when we returned, with our community. No free rides here!

Little did I know that:

  • Pennswood’s Quaker value of inclusivity, as it extends to residents, would be so revolutionary! When attending a session, presenters would begin with an informal tally of the variety professions in attendance: CEOs, social workers, nurses, nutritionists, service activities, etc. In one session, the presenter went through a list of positions on her PowerPoint slide. The final position was listed as “Other.” I raised my hand. “So what do you do?” she asked. “I’m a resident.”Shocked, she blurted out: “A resident? We’ve never had one before!” She ran down the isle and hugged me. The whole room laughed and clapped. Continuing I said: “Well, there’s more. I live in Pennswood Village, a CCRC, and they have invested in my attendance at this conference, so I can bring what I’ve learned back to the community.” Unheard-of! In fact so unheard-of, the Senior Editor of Long Term Living, approached me and asked for an interview. Jennifer Doone, Pennswood’s Director of Marketing, and I had an hour-long interview with her. The editor was astonished at what goes on here! She spoke with CEO, Ben Hoyle, and wishes to speak with other residents. Pennswood already revolutionizing the culture of aging? Amazing!

Little did I know that:

  • during a session named “Sage Conversation” my heart would be so deeply touched that my eyes would overflow with tears. The “why” is a personal one. During the Pennswood interview process, potential residents are asked about their interests, which later appear in the People of Pennswood Directory. I said my interest was “shifting cultural perspectives from age-ing to sage-ing.” The questioner gave me a puzzled look. Understandably so! Yet, that is a heart-rooted mission for me . . . So onward to the “Sage Conversation.”This session was not the one for which I registered. Due to fire codes, I was turned away from that one. Disgruntled, I checked the program, and made a 2nd choice (or was I led to it?), a “Special Sage Conversation: Tapping Root Wisdom.”

    Entering the room, I found it crowded with participants sitting in an enormous circle. Barry Barkan, a white haired, bearded man, wearing a yarmulke and welcoming people, was our “Sage Elder.” Barry is also a futurist and a gerontologist who founded the Live Oak Institute in California.

    Tapping into root wisdom is, as Barry explained, a wisdom that is both ancient and contemporary. If we embrace it, it can permeate our actions. I found myself totally resonating with his words of wisdom, especially about championing a cultural shift to eliminate age-ism in our country.

    At age 66, I choose Pennswood as my home. Although told I was “crazy,” for reasons close to my heart, I wanted to be part of that culture shift. And now with the richness of my learnings from the Pioneer Conference, my heart-driven mission has been “deployed.” Certainly not for a revolution, nor erasing or dismissing everything that has been done in the past, or is currently being done. No! That’s not the stance to take. Why?

Because this I do know:

  • A shift here at Pennswood Village would be cultivated from a place of integrity. Change is never easy no matter one’s age – 5 or 75. We are attached to our comfort zones. Hence, compassionate patience needs to be a lubricant for the shift. Investing in education, mentoring, coaching, and collaboration would bring an heightened awareness of “the light within” every person, our oneness with others inside and outside our community and, of course with Mother Earth.

Most importantly, I know in my heart, our community will continue to sink deep roots, grow strong branches, and the only delicious, nutritious fruit it will bear for present and future generations is that of Pennswood’s #1 guiding principle . . . Love!

Lorraine Pasadino
September 2016