Commit to Authentic Engagement in 2020

Although New Year resolutions are sometimes quickly set aside, there is value in setting goals for ourselves. This is especially important in the resident engagement discipline where we have been struggling to implement measurable goals and monitoring progress toward them. This has been changing recently as we see more and more senior living providers trying to evaluate their work in creating meaningful experiences for the older adults they serve.

During the latest webinar in our Champions for Change series, I shared that the industry has now actively started establishing measurable goals, such as how many residents they are engaging meaningfully each month. I predicted that many providers would set a goal of meaningfully engaging at least 85% of their residents each month. To achieve this kind of goal, a provider must hold their team accountable and this means providing  them with the resources they need to engage residents in a meaningful and person-centered way. This would include helping staff find ways to overcome the challenges they are currently facing such as:

  • Lack of recognition from management
  • High staff turnover
  • Limited budgets
  • Few opportunities for ongoing professional development and training

You might ask, why isn’t engaging 85% or more of our residents each month already an industry standard? As activity directors we are supposed to maximize resident well-being with person-centered programming every day. The truth is that we don’t yet have all the tools we need to achieve this.  In fact, Linked Senior conducted a survey of activity professionals in December 2019 and we found that 75% of the 207 respondents do not have a tool that allows them to report on resident engagement in real time, instead they are using paper or excel for attendance tracking and some reported they don’t track engagement at all! How can we promise a customized experience to residents and their families if we can’t report in real time every day on who we have engaged and who we have not?

One step that we can take to improve is setting a goal and simultaneously establishing a way to measure our progress toward it. By doing this, it helps us understand how to adapt to the changing needs and preferences of the older adults we serve. For example, when Linked Senior speaks to providers, almost all of them recognize a need for implementing more one-on-one programming in their resident engagement strategy. It isn’t that group activities aren’t good, they’re actually great for socialization and staff efficiency, but there are older adults who aren’t fulfilled by socializing in a large group and others who would greatly benefit from extra attention as they work to find purpose in their day. This is an admirable goal but my question to them is always, have you put a strategy into place for measuring your progress toward that outcome?

As the new decade begins, it is time to move from the old standard of activities to one of authentic and measurable resident engagement. This type of engagement is only possible when all departments within an organization commit to understanding the needs and preferences of each resident and then offering them engagement opportunities that bring meaning and purpose to their lives.