With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, the need for senior living is growing at a steep rate, and the aging services fieldhas been hard at work preparing for these new customers. Current practices aim to bring the kind of comfort and amenities enjoyed at hotels and resorts to the settings we create for older adults to live in. But what if these efforts are misdirected?
Interweaving research on aging, ideas from influential thinkers in the aging services field, and the author’s own experiences managing and operating senior living communities, Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift challenges readers to question long-accepted practices, examine their own biases, and work toward creating vibrant cultures of possibility and growth for elders.
Shining a light on her own professional field, Jill Vitale-Aussem exposes the errors of current thinking and demonstrates how a shift in perspective can effect real cultural transformation. Her book delves into society’s inherent biases about growing older—where ageism, paternalism, and ableism abound—and provokes readers to examine how a youth-obsessed culture unconsciously impacts even the most well-meaning senior living policies, practices, and organizations. Deconstructing the popular hospitality model, for example, Vitale-Aussem explains how it can actually undermine feelings of purpose and independence. In its place, she proposes better ways to create opportunities for older people to exercise choice, autonomy, and self-efficacy.
Filled with empowering stories of elders who find purpose and belonging within their senior residences, Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living builds on AARP’s disrupt aging work and demonstrates that to truly transform senior living, we must dig deeper and create communities that promote the potential and value of the people who live and work in these settings.
Ageism is everywhere
“Ageism is truly one of the last widely accepted prejudices in our society. Fighting it is the most important work professionals in our field can do.” –Jill Vitale-Aussem
From greeting cards that mock the advent of another birthday to hair coloring and anti-wrinkle creams, we are told constantly and without apology that being old is something to be avoided at all costs. The negative messaging works. As a nation, we spend billions of dollars on anti-aging treatments. Our deep-held and often unconscious prejudices and beliefs about aging translate into a perception that once older people enter senior living housing, they have nothing meaningful to contribute to society. And it’s just not true.
“This book does an amazing job of setting the groundwork for disruption in our field. Tying aging services research and current culture change efforts to real life stories from Jill and other professionals gives the reader a clear understanding of where we are and where we must progress.
Highlighting the limitations of the current hospitality model for senior living gives all of us in the field new perspectives on the mindshift that must occur to be successful with future consumers. New and seasoned professionals in aging services are sure to gain insights and perspectives on how together we can create fresh possibilities for the field and eliminate ageism for the next generation.”
President and CEO
Christian Living Communities / Cappella Living Solutions
“This is a captivating glimpse into the world of senior living. Jill’s examples and stories from her own work and personal experiences help us to understand that we alone don’t have the answers, that we need to ask the people living and working in our communities. It shows us that trial and error are part of change and that change is a process. But if we want true homes for people, we need to do things differently, we need to ‘disrupt the status quo.’ This book is honest and authentic and should be a must-read for anyone working or interested in the area of senior living.”
President and CEO
“With warmth, humility, and candor, Jill Vitale-Aussem provides a much-needed challenge to retirement and assisted living communities who may not consider themselves to be ‘institutional.’ Jill’s book gets to the heart of the matter—the underlying mindsets and biases that lead us astray—and offers a tableau of possibilities for operationalizing new approaches to supporting meaningful lives for our elders.”
—Al Power, MD
Author of Dementia Beyond Drugs and Dementia Beyond Disease
“This is a great book that connects the dots between the isms of aging, the essential human components of living that we have often neglected in the systems we have developed, and where we need to go to better support each other as we grow older. It is filled with so many of my favorite things on these topics – the importance of community, authenticity, humility, and paradigm shifting, with a wealth of different perspectives, engaging stories, and practical examples.”
—Sonya Barsness, MSG
“Through real life stories and researched examples, Vitale-Aussem challenges our thinking about meeting the needs of older adults. From inviting us to reconsider the role of hospitality in our field, to a thorough exploration of surplus safety, I applaud Vitale-Aussem for raising such important issues.”
—Kirsten Jacobs, MSW
Director of Dementia and Wellness Education
“This book is a disruptive force that will challenge those in senior living to rethink current practices and will help guide the conversations necessary for staff and residents to work together in building real communities with purpose and meaning.”
—Tracey Gendron, MS, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Gerontologist
Department of Gerontology
Virginia Commonwealth University
“Jill is a Delphic voice with an unambiguous message for all of us in senior living: The new older adult will not tolerate the current culture we offer. Yes, it is disruptive to acknowledge that what has been a long-standing tradition is no longer valued; that what has been an accepted, even revered approach to aging is potentially harmful; that it is time for a radical shift in our view of aging. Jill is not an outsider throwing uninformed criticism at our sacred institutions. She is an insider, one who is passionate about providing healthy, stimulating environments for our current elders and for the ones we all will become. She is a courageously introspective observer who is ethically and authentically dedicated to a world where older adults can age successfully no matter what challenges they face. This book is not a wrecking ball, it is a tough love guide to doing the magnificent things we all do in senior living in a better way.”
—Roger Landry, MD, MPH
President, Masterpiece Living LLC
Author of Live Long, Die Short: A Guide to Authentic Health and Successful Aging
Barraged from childhood on with negative messages about age and aging, most Americans absorb these beliefs and never think to questions them. People in aging services are no exception. This internalized ageism corrupts building and services design, and undermines community-building. Drawing on decades of leadership in the field, Jill Vitale-Aussem illuminates these issues and explains why profound culture change in senior living is both necessary and possible. This book is a must-read for anyone who cares about the well-being of older people.”
Activist and author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism
“Jill Vitale-Aussem’s perspective on aging is profound and timely! Her ability to blend insights from her own experiences, leadership theory, and philosophies on successful aging make Mindshift a read that needs to be on our bookshelves.”
—Michele Holleran, PhD, MBA
CEO and Founder, Holleran
Former Chair, Larry Minnix LeadingAge Leadership Academy
“Seasoned and new leaders alike will be edified by this book. Filled with honesty and wit, Jill Vitale-Aussem holds up the mirror and takes us on her journey as a self-reflective leader as she grows from a successful master of hospitality into a genuine community builder and social architect. More importantly, she helps us understand why this fundamental shift is vital to the well-being of elders as their role as active citizens is restored and empowered. Confronting ageism, ableism, paternalism and segregation head-on, Jill equips the field of senior living and everyone in it with an arsenal of resources—from provocative questions and powerful stories to the latest research—to drive a deep transformation of culture and build inclusive communities everywhere.”
—Jennifer Carson, Ph.D.
Director, Dementia Engagement, Education and Research Program
School of Community Health Services
University of Nevada
“Jill Vitale-Aussem opens up to the readers by sharing her personal journey of growth and learning. The stories she weaves together are compelling and illustrative of the need for foundational change in the philosophies and operational approaches to supporting the well-being of elders. She clearly highlights the role of our culture’s negative perception of aging as the culprit for suffering in an otherwise natural life process, and promotes the importance of community, inclusion, and genuine belonging as opportunities for change. This book offers direct insights into where we are and where we could go if we are open to the possibilities that could result from ‘disrupting the status quo.’”
—Dr. Peter Reed
Professor and Director, Sanford Center for Aging
University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine
“As articulate and insightful as it is informed and informative, Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift is a timely and valued contribution to our on-going national discussion with respect to the demographic aging of our general population and the increasing strain that presents with respect to the demand for sheltered living accommodations and the role of seniors in our general public discourse. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift is unreservedly recommended for personal reading lists as well as community, senior citizen center, and academic library Aging & Senior Living collections.”
—Margaret Lane, Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“[Jill Vitale-Aussem’s] honest admission of her own mistakes and their deleterious outcomes for residents, coupled with her process of continual learning and growth, make the book enjoyable to read and provoke ideas on what may be transferable to other communities.”
Review by Noreen A. Shugrue, UConn Health Center on Aging, Farmington, Connecticut
“This 175-page book is an easy read. The chapter titles clearly identify the topics, which are well written and well organized. The author includes experiences that are personal in nature. She demonstrates how these relate to the lives and struggles of the seniors she serves. The questions at the end of each chapter are thought provoking and challenge readers to think in new ways.”
—Doody’s Book Review
Reviewed by Deborah J. Pool, BSN, RN, MU Sinclair School of Nursing