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Voices: Kelly Stranburg, Principal Consultant, LE3 Solutions

This article is sponsored by Sentrics. In this Voices interview, Senior Housing News sits down with LE3 Solutions Principal Consultant Kelly Stranburg to learn how LE3 is addressing resident well-being on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stranburg also shares a framework to help operators engage residents on a deeper, more personalized level, and discusses the critical steps to revolutionize engagement strategy.

Senior Housing News: What experiences do you most draw from in your role at LE3?

Kelly Stranburg: My day-to-day interactions with residents have played a significant role in my career over the years. I’ve had the good fortune to work at both the community level and in a corporate support role, with the most valuable experience coming out of creating and nurturing those relationships.

What are the top two to three lessons in senior housing that you took away from last year?

Stranburg: One lesson we have known, but came full circle on, is that engagement is about an individual’s preferences, needs and aspirations. While we knew that prior to COVID, the pandemic reinforced how important engaging residents as individuals is to their overall well-being.

We learned that we can’t let age influence our willingness to adopt tech-based solutions and tools. We saw residents embracing new tools and technologies, such as Zoom, virtual offerings and even tech-based resident platforms to order food or even conduct telehealth appointments. Age shouldn’t influence our business decisions if the solutions have the potential to assist residents.

The third lesson is that downtime in a community is not a negative. Historically, we have created robust calendars of programs and events. When communities couldn’t do that, they discovered that free time or downtime enables residents to celebrate the pursuit of personal passions, hobbies and commitments. Without pausing, we can become fueled by stuff that entertains or distracts, to keep people busy instead of having deeper conversations and discovery focused on the individual resident journey. By having some downtime, residents were able to go back to the passions that truly mattered to them.

Moving forward, we should keep the pursuit of individual hobbies at the forefront of programming and promote autonomy within the day-to-day lives of residents. When we leave time for discovery and conversation, we become more closely connected.

What are the top priorities for addressing resident well-being?

Stranburg: Before communities reintroduce or grow programming, it is important to define or redefine an organization’s well-being philosophy. The next step is to determine how that philosophy supports and complements the full journey of a resident. What does a successful journey look like? What does optimal resident well-being look like? How would you measure or assess it? How do programs, amenities and the environment support the resident through body, mind and community?

Top priorities should integrate a sense of community and create opportunities to support mobility, independence and emotional well-being. In addition, it is important to get residents involved. We need to have them weigh in on their comfort levels and voice what they would like to see return first, if at all.

New programming must encourage people to re-engage in movement or exercise opportunities, and not just seated movement. While seated exercise definitely has a place in programming, residents need standing work so they engage the body from head to toe. That focus will impact overall mobility, which impacts independence. I think we can all agree we want to maintain our independence for as long as possible, and the physical state is a critical piece of that.

There’s also been a lot of loss over the last year that we can’t just ignore. Everybody experienced loss. We often avoid those tough areas of the human psyche and we really should address them head-on. Communities can offer onsite support or social work, or even partner with faith-based organizations. It’s important to connect and get through some of the hard stuff that happened last year. Every event, positive and negative, impacts the resident journey, and it may not be captured during group programming.

What do operators and their communities need to do to make those priorities a reality?

Stranburg: A well-being foundation must be established to help ascertain residents’ interests and needs on more personalized and even aspirational levels. Our residents are a wealth of knowledge to drive both their personal needs and the community’s programming and daily operations and programming.

A well-being foundation must serve to first establish trust and then grow with the resident during what we call their journey within a community. That growth should be based on the resident’s own personal challenges, positive events and unspoken needs. A community must go beyond the rapport-establishing questions about a resident’s history, background and hobbies. They need a way to build trust, collect information from the resident consistently and a way to use that information to support the resident. Only then can they help the resident activate their best day.

Let’s explore this idea to help a resident activate their best day and wake up with excitement. List and explain this approach.

Stranburg: Every community should use a formal well-being foundation to both guide programming and measure its impact on residents. While there are several models, we prefer the simpler, four-pillar model of purpose, autonomy, resilience, and connectedness, or PARC.

PARC is a personalized approach to design, build and measure a resident’s overall wellness. It leverages a resident’s own responses to questions about their purpose, autonomy, resilience and feelings of connectedness to help them activate daily well-being. PARC helps us get to know a person on a deeper level and understand what drives and inspires them to live a fulfilling life on their own terms.

This is the LE3 vision for resident activation and engagement, which mirrors Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid, you have the basics of safety, shelter, food and water. At the bottom of our “pyramid,” we have individual interests.

We move to the next level of matching personalities and interests to foster interaction. We know it doesn’t stop there. Just because people have similar interests doesn’t mean they will form a connection. Once we’ve established some trust with residents in the community, we take the next step of individual discovery through PARC questionnaires. This opens a view into the psychosocial behaviors and the path a resident can take to follow each of the four pillars.

Most communities do a great job asking initial questions about resident likes and dislikes. Communities with strong experience programs take that to the next level by asking questions that are more impactful and help the community leaders and staff understand how to help a resident stay engaged and connected long term.

To help a resident “activate their best day,” we need to use all the information collected in the resident journey, not just a list of interests or demographic qualifiers, which is equivalent to the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid. Being able to activate one’s best day generates a sense of purpose and vitality similar to that top level of self-actualization.

It is not by happenstance that one’s environment and their relationships yield a higher quality of engagement. Communities are built on a sole foundation, just like basic needs, but our discovery of an individual rarely transcends surface-level questions asked once, at the time of move-in. We must cultivate a similar pyramid through ongoing discovery — the resident journey — to yield the end goal for daily activation of well-being.

We know many communities stop at the first foundational level because the information is rarely accessible to all staff . How does a community use PARC to structure and measure a well-being foundation?

Stranburg: PARC is an innovative process that builds and supports community by personalizing the individual residential experience. When a community gets to know an individual on a much deeper level — an understanding of what drives them, inspires them, or even what they aspire to — a community can then better support how they choose to live in their setting.

To leverage PARC, internal processes must first build trust and authentic relationships that allow residents to be vulnerable and answer questions honestly. The best way to do this is to ask a series of thoughtful yet noninvasive questions that build over time.

We create a PARC benchmark and measure the resident and community’s well-being against that score. The community then supports the resident’s needs based on his or her PARC score. These scores help us create programs that become more personal and more meaningful to the residents, which in turn improves their overall resident journey.

What then is the next wave of resident engagement?

Stranburg: Communities will rethink their engagement strategies. They cannot go back to the completely filled calendar they had before. If they do, they learned nothing during the pandemic. They need to start driving resident engagement that is personalized and individual. And that will require knowledge about a resident that goes beyond staff knowledge and traditional data capture. Communities will get much more sophisticated about using technology to capture and guide engagement choices.

Virtual programming will trump group events. I am not saying that group events will go away, just that they will become less important as we allow residents to focus on their own passions in addition to group events.

Families will continue to take a stronger role in their loved one’s communal living. They want data transparency about how “Mom” is spending her time so they can help drive a different outcome. 

Entering this year, no one knew fully what to expect. What has been the biggest surprise in senior housing, and what impact do you think that surprise will have on the senior housing industry for the remainder of the year?

Stranburg: The biggest surprise to me is that no one is yet talking about what COVID did to us. It makes me think about 9/11, when airline travel was completely disrupted, and we went through a series of unprecedented changes before we settled into a new normal.

COVID has been so disruptive that we can’t yet talk about the long-term effects. It will be a pivotal moment when we have those conversations and use COVID to accept and drive change. We knew it was disruptive short-term, but what it’s doing to staffing, engagement and physical planning has disrupted every facet of our business. We have yet to understand how much it will change the landscape long term, and the pivots it will drive within the industry.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Sentrics delivers a comprehensive suite of data-driven solutions that provide a 360-degree view of residents to help senior living communities transform their operations from reactive to proactive care. To find out how, visit Sentrics.net.

The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact sales@agingmedia.com.

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