V: Five Things I Learned Working in Senior Living: Why It’s Important Now

I rarely open up about my career on social media because it is essentially my job. However, prior to working at the hospital, I started my career in senior living.

It was there that I was extremely fortunate to build meaningful relationships with residents, where they felt comfortable discussing life openly- from the moments of joy to the hardships they carried throughout their life. I was a sponge, eager to learn from their wisdom and understand the most valuable things in life. What do you think about when everything is said and done? These lessons simply couldn’t be taught from a textbook. 

I wanted to share some of these lessons with you as the world becomes increasingly more complicated. As much as I love social media and the opportunity it creates to unite us and communicate with one another, it has become a platform for hatred. Bigotry. Judgment. Cruelty.

These are the five things I learned working in Senior Living:

1.       Listen. One of my first roles at Riverside was to meet with residents upon their admission and talk to them. I would learn their needs and interests in order to make a care plan catered specifically to them. Our conversations often transcended well beyond these forms. Each person has a story to tell and, given the right approach and encouragement, are more than happy to share.

Everyone, regardless of race, gender or economic status, will experience pain. Loss. Happiness. You alone have the choice to listen,really listen, to what others have to say.

People are all fighting their own battles. Listen and learn from their experiences, as their insight can be valuable. Listen and learn from these victims, as we have an opportunity to educate the public and press upon our culture to be more accepting. Let these moments spark conversation and debate, not torture and judgement. 

2.       Mindset is everything. These discussions would occur within two days of admission. Often times, this meant it was the beginning of change and, let’s face it, change is an unnerving process. One can be overwhelmed with the sudden questions, any doubts that may surface and sometimes even, why me? However, we all have the choice to learn from these set-backs and struggles. Our mindset is a powerful tool. As one resident one told me, “Positive people are happy people.” What attitude do you allow yourself to take on that is holding you back? Why?  

3.       Don’t let fear hold you back. Once we dived into these conversations, I listened as people recounted what was important to them. It doesn’t matter what age we are, we all have one thing in common. We all have the power to make changes right now.Don’t let fear hold you back. Go after what you want and live each day to its’ fullest. Live in the moment. One day, you’ll be reliving your story and want to recount one that is meaningful and impactful. As one resident said, “One day I just woke up and I was 94. I don’t feel 94. I still have so much to do!”

4.       Appreciate your family. At Riverside Senior Life Communities, we talk about connection. “Family”, in this instance, can be blood relatives or those who have taken a place in our hearts as family. These connections are very special. Honor and cherish them. Show them how much you care, even if it is a small gesture here and there. Appreciate their wisdom and stories. Everything can change in an instant. 

5.       Finally and most importantly, treat others with love. Never forget how powerful small acts of kindness can be. As we get caught up in our daily lives, we often forget the power of a smile or a hello. You do not have to perform grand gestures to show your love and appreciation for others.

Kindness is quietly woven into our daily routines, in small gestures. Leave a mark and spread kindness in the world.  

I share this article now and leave you with this last message: Remember to spread kindness in this complicated world we live in. These small acts of compassion haveso much more weight than we realize. You can be the voice of kindness, in the companies we work for and the communities we serve. You can be a voice that perpetuates the good in this world. I assure you, that these moments matter and ultimately lay down the groundwork for a life that you too will one day reflect upon and ask yourself:

Did I do enough? Am I proud of the life I lived? 

We must use these times of hardship to be a learning experience and to examine what can we do better? As a society. As an individual. What needs to change? How can you be a better force for kindness and understanding?