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Bridge the Gap in Senior Living: NRC Health Proudly Partners with Thought-leading Podcast

Josh Crisp and Lucas McCurdy are on a mission.

Through their podcast, Bridge the Gap (BTG) Senior Living, hosts Crisp and McCurdy are bringing a long-overdue message to leaders in the senior-living industry. Episodes are part pep talk, part wake-up call, and they’re all unified around a central theme: being the bridge between elders, influencers, and caregivers, and filling the gaps between these parties to drive the best experiences for seniors nationwide.

These gaps emerge in various facets of the field. They’re found between what residents want from their community, and what they actually get; between what caregivers deserve, and what communities are able to give them; between what the public perceives about senior living, and true realities on the ground.

Through their work, Josh and Lucas invite listeners to “be the bridge” that closes those gaps—and it’s that invitation that resonates with NRC Health’s mission. As of last month, NRC Health is proud to announce a partnership with BTG, to help Josh and Lucas advocate for meaningful change in senior living.

To ring in the collaboration, NRC Health’s VP of Business Development, Stephanie Kolbo, sat in with Josh and Lucas to talk about the most urgent gaps facing the industry today—and what leaders can do to close them.

The staffing gap

For Stephanie, Josh, and Lucas, the first gap that sprung to mind was an issue on the minds of senior-living operators around the country: the labor and staffing problem.

“When we think about challenges in senior living, recruiting is at the top,” Stephanie says. As the Baby Boomers retire, there will be unprecedented demand for senior-living care. At the same time, attracting workers to the industry is proving to be a struggle, especially for rural communities.

Part of the problem is budgetary shortfalls.

“There’s a big gap in how much we talk about investing in residents, and how little we’re able to invest in senior-living staff,” Josh says. “Their work is so important. That’s not always reflected in their pay.”

Nurse aides, in particular, deliver 90% of care activities in any given senior-living community, but many of them report dissatisfaction with their workplaces. Compensation is undoubtedly a part of that.

The investment that aides want, though, is not just monetary. “Culture is a huge part of the labor problem too,” Lucas says. “We have to elevate the dignity of the people who do this work. Otherwise, why not just work at Starbucks?”

The co-hosts agree that bringing this kind of dignity to the senior-living workforce will entail creating both a more robust staffing budget, and a more positive workplace culture.

“Nobody has a silver-bullet solution,” Josh acknowledges, “but everyone’s talking about the problem now. That’s a great start.”

The perception gap

Potential staffing shortages may be in senior living’s future. Another problem stems from the industry’s past.

“Senior living came after the era when nursing homes were created, and they were originally designed to look and feel like hospitals,” Stephanie explains. “Senior living really didn’t come into fruition until the ’80s. Even today, a perception persists of senior housing and nursing homes as sterile, unwelcoming, overly clinical environments. It’s a perception that’s really hard to shake.”

This is an observation borne out by NRC Health’s research. A 2017 Market Insights study found that among consumers who have not yet experienced senior living or skilled nursing, just 23% have trust in the industry.

However, that negativity dissipates quickly with some familiarity. The same study found that 88% of people with family members in a community report high satisfaction in their care.

That, in essence, is the perception gap. Senior living has a cultural stigma attached to it that’s utterly at odds with reality.

Josh and Lucas believe the best way to solve this problem is be more proactive about sharing the inspiring stories of senior care.

Josh doesn’t mince words about what’s required. “We have to tell the love stories,” he says.

Lucas agrees. “Not enough messaging goes out there that shows the positives of these hard-working people in the field,” he says. “There’s tons of optimism, tons of people with their head down doing great work. That’s part of what we’re trying to do with the podcast.”

The purpose gap

Josh and Lucas discuss how it’s not enough for senior-living communities to change how they operate. They need to participate in the bigger cultural conversation about aging and retirement.

“I think we’re starting to see evidence that what we call ‘retirement’ isn’t tenable for a lot of people,” Josh explains. “People don’t want to sit around doing nothing. No matter their disability or their level of frailty, people want to be engaged in a purpose.”

Building this purpose into the lives of seniors, Josh and Lucas say, should be part and parcel of a community’s operations.

“These people still have stories to tell, they still want to work on something,” Lucas explains.

This was poignantly illustrated in a story Josh told about residents with Alzheimer’s participating in a program called Art for the Heart. The residents attended painting lessons and produced art to sell at auction. With the proceeds, the community bought clothing for children at an orphanage in Zimbabwe.

“There’s this stereotype with Alzheimer’s patients, that this is the end of the road for them,” Josh says. “But here they were, learning new things, and when they saw the pictures of those kids, you should have seen the smiles on their faces.”

Be the bridge

Stephanie underscored that everyone in the industry should remember Josh’s revelation.

“Even if their cognition is impaired, it doesn’t matter—these people still have feelings, still have a voice,” she says. “And it’s on us to hear that voice, capture those feelings in a way we can use to make their experiences better.”

Hearing—really hearing—the voice of the resident is no simple task. But it’s that gap in understanding between residents and their caregivers that may be the most important gap to bridge.

“That’s what we want Bridge the Gap to be,” Lucas says. “We want to be the bridge that helps the understanding along, that gives seniors the voice they deserve.”

It’s NRC Health’s distinct pleasure to join Josh and Lucas in their mission.

New episodes of BTG come out almost every week. Senior-living leaders can tune in here.

ABOUT THE HOSTS

Lucas McCurdy is the founder of The Bridge Group Construction, a senior-living construction company based in Dallas, Texas. Widely known as the “Senior Living Fan,” McCurdy has directed his passion for aging adults and the communities they live in to develop the industry’s first renovation and construction company exclusively focused on the unique needs of the senior-living industry.

Josh Crisp is founder and president of Solinity, a Knoxville, Tennessee–based progressive senior-living developer, owner, and operator of communities across the southeastern U.S. The company has a vision to bring generations together to share experiences and live and work in a collaborative environment, focusing on boutique-style, affordable communities in the independent-living, assisted-living, and memory-care continuum with multigenerational components.

ABOUT BRIDGE THE GAP

 Bridge the Gap Senior Living Podcast is a weekly podcast dedicated to informing, educating and influencing the senior-housing industry. The show is available on audio and video platforms including iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, Alexa, and YouTube. Follow Bridge the Gap on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @BTGvoice. For more information, visit www.BTGvoice.com.