Young people, video cameras, and nursing homes for the win!
BY JACK YORK
Lots of us have upsetting memories of our first childhood experiences visiting nursing homes. For me it was the “convalescent hospital,” a nursing home in southern California where my grandmother lived and eventually died.
I have vivid, haunting memories of the weekly visits Mom would insist I join. I loved my grandma; she was a bit eccentric but treated me like a young prince. But the woman I knew as a child had little in common with this frail, virtually unconscious person. She could barely communicate. Her white room was heartless and depressing. The facility looked horrible and smelled worse. I’d walk in and count the minutes until the ordeal was over. Those memories stay vivid in my mind to this day, and shaped my perspective of aging.
Fast-forward about 50 years to the experience of high school students walking out of interactions with a memory care community in a positive frame of mind. It’s thanks to an idea conceived of by a remarkable woman, Denise Rabidoux, CEO of EHM Solutions.
“She is seeing firsthand the growth of dementia within her client base and wanted to find a way to shine a light on that reality in a positive way, and get younger people involved.”
EHM’s vision of senior living goes outside the box and beyond the bricks and mortar of the facility. Denise has always wanted to involve the community in projects with her residents. Those projects (as is usually the case in senior living) have a tendency to gravitate towards the more independent residents. She is seeing firsthand the growth of dementia within her client base. She wanted to find a way to shine a light on that reality in a positive way, and to get younger people involved.
Her answer was to create a project that enticed high school students by appealing to their interest in technology. She believed that if students were offered a program with an interesting technology opportunity, their interests in aging and dementia would follow.
Denise invited iN2L to participate in her plan. Zack Mejias, our brilliant young videographer, helped lead the charge. The concept was to teach high school students filming techniques with the goal being to tell the story of residents living with dementia, while filming local landmarks that would be relevant to them.
Video clips here show how successful the project was for residents, their families, the staff, and the students. The technology was delivered on our easy to use FOCUS tablets; we saw this as a quality of life enhancement and a great business opportunity for our company.
But the profound impact of this story can be summarized in the changing perspective of one student. Sabrina, poised, articulate, and strong-willed, began the project with an interest in learning more about technology, and maybe meeting some cool older adults. But through her positive interactions with resident Arlene, Sabrina’s perceptions of aging and dementia, and even her career aspirations, changed markedly.
Initially we thought of this as a one-off for iN2L, a chance to help expand our work with one of our favorite customers. But the ramifications of this are profound, and could help solve the problem of the caregiving shortages that plague senior living. Through technology hundreds if not thousands of high school students can be exposed to the positive side of aging. That positive experience could easily lead to multitudes of these students looking for a meaningful career outside of what is traditionally offered to them. What a win – win outcome.
“And Grandma, thank you for being you so many decades ago…”
Denise, thank you for your vision and for allowing us to come along for the ride. Sabrina, thank you for your passion, and your openness to having your perspective of aging altered. The greatest generation invented the backbone of this technology that we all now take for granted. It’s an honor and a privilege for iN2L to be a part of letting them enjoy the fruits of their labor. And Grandma, thank you for being you so many decades ago.
People like Denise and Sabrina are paving the way for the visits to come see our grandmas being so much more meaningful and enjoyable that what many of us experienced years ago.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – JACK YORK
Jack York is president and founder of Its Never 2 Late, a highly successful technology company serving thousands of elder citizens and the communities who provide their care; Jack is also a man on a mission to help spread the words and deeds of real humanitarians that inspire, educate and motivate.