SeniorAdvisor is proud to announce the winners of our 2019 Future of Assisted Living Scholarship!
We had over 200 entries and picking just three winners was a difficult task. Our winners were chosen for their ideas on innovations or improvements to senior care in the future, their outstanding essays are listed below. Thank you to everyone who submitted their essays and congratulations to our winners.
Three Senior Care Scholarship Winners
Here are the three winning essays for the 2019 scholarship. Click on the winners’ names to read their essay about the future of senior care:
Future of Assisted Living Winning Essays
Jennifer Greve – Wartburg College, majoring in music education/music therapy
The word innovate means to make changes in something, typically by introducing a new method or idea. Though, this verb can also be used to define when someone develops already existing ideas. When contemplating what innovations need to happen in senior care to care for the aging population, I don’t believe that new ideas need to be introduced, but we should instead develop the ones that are already in place. I think we should expand and develop on the care that is already taking place.
From facility to facility, there are different residents, employees, employers, accommodations – the list could go on. One thing they all have in common though, should be the thought and care for their residents. My mom has been a nurse for over 25 years and has spent time working in both a nursing home and assisted living facility. Over the two places she has worked, I have visited multiple times, meeting residents who touch her life daily and the colleagues that sometimes see her more than my family does – and they all can’t say enough about how great of a nurse she is. The thing they love most? The human to human interaction they get from her, the genuine respect she gives them as she cares for them in their day-to-day activities. I am a big advocate for face to face interaction, especially coming from a generation whose counterparts spend almost their entire day behind a screen, and typically interact with others through technology. Now, this idea of actually communicating with people physically and not electronically, is not a new innovation. It’s not a brand, new, shiny idea that I am the first to think of – it’s a way of life that more people should take to.
I am in my third year at Wartburg College, where I am pursuing a dual degree in Music Education and Music Therapy. In order to promote more face to face interaction, and really address the needs of the elderly population, I think music therapy would be an intentional and successful practice to bring into assisted living facilities. Music therapy is the evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed and board certified professional, who has completed an approved music therapy program. Music therapy can address the following domains: cognitive, physical, social, and emotional. Music therapy is a prime example of using face-to-face interaction and looking at an individual’s needs. It follows a needs-based approach, where you are addressing the needs of the client. Again, this idea is not a new innovation. The idea of using music as a healing tool started as early as the eighteenth century and has only grown since. So far over the course of my education, I have learned about the effect myself and music can have on an individual, especially with the aging population, and I’ve also learned how to advocate for music therapy.
As I’ve reiterated in my essay, I know I didn’t bring any new innovations to the table per se. Though, I think I’ve incorporated two existing ideas that when pulling them together, they can have a huge impact on assisted living facilities! Even if the therapist decides that the client may not benefit strictly from music therapy, it’s a given that everyone can receive the positive effects of direct and personal communication. With my continued education of music therapy, I will keep learning new techniques to help individuals, learn how to advocate for the profession, and be able to show others the place music therapy can have in the assisted living facilities.
Meredith Heth – University of Arizona, pursuing a Masters degree in business administration
A man approaching eighty rises for the day and slowly makes his way to the kitchen. Once there, he eats a yogurt to put food in his stomach before taking his Lasix, Coumadin, Protonix, and a baby Aspirin. He then turns to his tablet, clearing notifications to remind him to take his pills, and opens a health app. Swiping to the medication page, he checks off that he took his morning medication and earns 10 coins. He also selects a smiling icon, indicating he woke up in a good mood and feels healthy. After, he scrolls through activities available at his assisted living community, still in the same app, and notices both his daughter and his cardiologist ‘like’ that he took his pills.
In order to ensure our aging population is taken care of, we need to make health social. Just like ‘liking’ a friend’s photo of their dog, health activities need to be ‘liked’ and shared, especially for our older populations. If an app existed, that helped track all health events of an individual, both doctors and seniors could collaborate and manage the individual’s health. This information could also be shared with loved ones and friends, helping to keep seniors protected from medical abuse.
For the user, this app would be inclusive of making and tracking doctor appointments, logging medication, telehealth, activity schedules for the community the senior lives in, daily emotional tracking, ordering transportation, and the ability to ‘like’ when their peers have an exam, leave the hospital, sign up for an activity, or take their mediation. By being complaint through the app, users could also earn credits for discounts or to spend on prizes.
For doctors and case managers, they would be able to see the senior’s medications, last visit, other doctor notes, and how compliant they are with their medications. They would also be able to take video call appointments or text through the app.
Finally, for loved ones or friends, they could observe and ‘like’ when the other person logs their medication, an appointment, or their mood that day. They could also monitor if a senior hasn’t logged anything that day, or for a few days, and have someone ensure they are safe.
Overall, an all-inclusive social health app would help seniors, their loved ones, and their doctors keep their healthcare organized, their conditions managed, and add a sense of fun and community while doing so.
I am currently studying my Master’s in Business Administration and have four years of health care consulting experience, primarily with Medicaid and Medicare populations. I work closely with case managers and doctors who manage some of the most disadvantaged populations in the United States. I also am involved in high level financial discussions surrounding provider networking, member expense, and end of life care. I am familiar with the burden that is health care for both the payor and the patient. My education, paired with my career, will continue to project me into high energy environments where innovation is not just encouraged, but deemed necessary. Health care needs to become simpler, more fluid, and social. The critical thinking skills acquired from my education will help companies I consult for answer tough questions, while my ability to see the big and small picture will help make focused changes with large scale impact. I plan to fully utilize my education to evolve health care and patient experience.
Noah Sherburne – Wentworth Institute of Technology, majoring in architecture
Architecture today does not properly meet the needs of the majority of seniors and aging generations. There is a great lack of affordable housing for all generations. Accessible architecture which takes into account ease of use and properly thought-out design is hard to come by. After losing my great grandmother last year, who passed in hospice care, I thought greatly of how a more thoughtful approach to the architecture around her may have made her aging days much calmer.
The colors of the paint within the room were drab, the vinyl floor tile was cold. The corridors were long, bleak, and blinding. The acoustics of the space allowed for the calls of patients to be heard throughout the building. This was not a place where I found comfort. I felt pain for those who may have had to spend the rest of their days there. Designing in a way in which each room felt private and comfortable, to me, would be greatly beneficial. Perhaps implementing a functional call system, comfortable furniture for guests, using light shelves to bring more natural light into the room, and having rooms with warmer color palettes would make the space safer and more peaceful.
I find the psychological effects of architecture to be very present but subconscious to all of us. Would I have felt the same grief if the room felt warm instead of cold? Would the feeling of carpet underneath my feet help to make the room feel less heavy? It is easy to say that much of the architecture designed for aging is created for efficiency and repetition. I know without uncertainty that my great-grandmother hated that place with a passion. Bringing a thoughtful approach to architecture for our eldest generations could make their transition to a new home away from home much easier.
For those who do not find interest in hospice care, who are perhaps younger or in better health, they may find an interest in downsizing. My grandmother is considering selling her current home to decrease her workload of caring for a large house. A place suited to her needs, a home that carries only the burden of the snow in the winter and the wind in the fall. I find sustainable, passive, and prefabricated architecture to be one of my greatest passions. I feel that implementing design for aging with these sectors can allow for a much more efficient architecture for seniors. A house that helps to reduce heating, maintenance, and repair costs can help reallocate funds (e.g., medical costs, gifts for family, groceries, etc.) A self-sustaining home can make living a sustainable life much easier. These homes could be no more than one floor and have doors that are easy to open in a wheelchair. Cabinets and drawers should open easily and be set at a lower height for easy access. Bathrooms would be ADA accessible as a standard. There are so many great tools that could be implemented in these homes. They could be replicated and modified easily utilizing a kit of parts at a large scale and help to form communities that felt simultaneously unique and beneficial to the environment.
I feel that the quickest way to make a change within a society is through its architecture. As we race through this technological age there is no excuse for our seniors to be living in poor conditions. I hope through my education to pursue a career in residential or institutional architecture and to someday impact the lives of many through wiser design choices than generations past.