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From Robots to DEI: Exploring Innovations in Senior Living

By: Angelica Flynn, Associate Vice President

Walking through LeadingAge PA, I ran into a robot.

Actually, I ran into two.

There was plenty of lively discussion on what’s new in senior living in the exhibitor hall, where AKCG connected with fellow senior living professionals. But there were also real examples of innovations in the field, including robots built to serve senior living organizations.

I reflected on the impact of innovative thinking like this during a session I attended during the conference led by Marsha Coleman, Director of Learning and Development at Friends Services Alliance, on how senior living providers can take a holistic approach to diversity.

In 2020, organizations were all in on addressing DEI issues. They wrote statements, built committees and took action. Yet, three years later, the powerful push for DEI has slowed. Tackling DEI efforts may now feel like we are simply checking off a box. And we might be. If we are too busy in our day-to-day, we may be approaching DEI as a task rather than incorporating it into our organizations’ strategic operations.

It requires creative positioning to challenge senior living professionals to reconsider their views and approach to DEI to keep DEI from falling by the wayside. Marsha posited that by approaching diversity with your head (data), heart (empathy) and soul (higher purpose), senior living organizations can build more inclusive workplaces and communities that will yield positive cultures, collaboration and innovation.

Here are five takeaways for how senior living organizations can re-energize DEI efforts.

  1. Acknowledge the emotional work it takes to have conversations about DEI and create brave spaces by actively listening, leaning into discomfort and maintaining confidentiality.
  2. Position DEI efforts as a component of professionalism. DEI work is not about creating an agreement on social and political views. It is about creating inclusive spaces where individuals feel comfortable and respected. Senior living leaders should emphasize how DEI relates to how we treat and respect one another in the workplace.
  3. Acknowledge the advantages of your dominant position and ask yourself: How can I share my resources? If DEI comes as workplace professionalism, it should come from a place of warmth, keeping commitments and being passionate about others’ growth and career development.
  4. Practice empathy by thinking about when you have been in places where you were not in a dominant role – due to such differences as generations, language or physical abilities – and reflect on how you felt. Then, consider how others feel “othered” due to differences. By practicing self-reflection, you put yourself in circumstances where you can stretch, allowing yourself to grow.
  5. Approach DEI efforts with an open head, heart and soul. When we do this, we’re in a learning stance. And when we’re learning and open, we can change for the better. Our organization becomes more innovative through this process.

At AKCG, we work with Life Plan Communities in their efforts to strengthen their communications around diversity, equity and inclusion. We support our clients in expressing their commitment to building inclusive communities and sharing how these efforts benefit their residents and staff. And while DEI efforts certainly positively impact the senior living industry, we understand the social influences and attitudes that provoke questions from a senior living provider’s stakeholder. Our skilled team of PR counselors has deep experience communicating about challenges related to DEI efforts and can help manage these instances.

This fresh, innovative thinking surrounding our everyday work is what senior living providers need to continue serving residents, staff and communities. If this is the approach senior living providers take when it comes to building culture, we know the field will continue evolving to meet the needs of tomorrow’s older adults, and AKCG is thrilled to work alongside our senior living partners as they work to achieve this mission.

Looking for fresh ideas to elevate your brand? Get in touch with the AKCG team.

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