Experience of a Lifetime (a pep talk at Assisted Living based on Disney)
I take a lot of pride in my 10 years working in the Senior (Assisted) Living Communities. I believe it is more or less accurate to claim that I know nearly everything there is to know about the AL industry and there indeed are so many positives there. On the opposite side, there is also a very strong case for the “aging in place” which is short for modifying your home living environment to accommodate your changing needs, as well choosing the type of in-home assistive care and so forth. Working in the Senior Living Communities (industry term is “AL”) my top assignment was to prevent accidents and my job literally depended on my ability to plan and proactively stop accidents. Working at AL I had established a passion for forecasting an issue and taking the proactive approach to resolve it and also here I eventually got pulled into the perfect storm of becoming an inventor of the 20″ Tall Toilet.
Would I move to an assisted living building in the future after seeing up close the life at the senior living would I choose to stay and age at home? I still do not know. At this point of my life it is still very hard to tell what I will do about this. And there are so many variables as it relates to health and family. But in this particular article I wanted to describe one of the associate trainings I participated in at one of my Senior Living Communities.
The idea of Worry-Free Living
While the idea of Worry-free Living sounds really great, as humans we will probably never stop worrying if not about one thing then another. We will always worry about health changes and our family. So the worry-free living statement is only partially true. But on the bright side of the Worry-free philosophy is that the residents at the Senior Living Community receive a lot of support and there are so many things you won’t have to worry about. The typical community marketing brochures describe worry free living as no home maintenance or household chores, no raking the leaves or shoveling the snow, no cooking or cleaning (unless you want to!). And if you need help with things like managing your medications or other activities of daily living, there are programs to take care of that for you. Your only worry will be how you’ll enjoy an active senior living lifestyle and choosing from all the opportunities you’ll have to fill your day.
Sounds really well doesn’t it?. And so much of it all is really true. The basics are nearly absolutely all taken care of and the vast majority of the associates all really try very hard to fulfill as many needs as possible (AL industry term for staff and employees typically is associates). But how could I, when I worked as a manager at the Senior Living community make my residents feel more than welcome? How could I motivate my own department to excel and reach greatness?
One of the most memorable pep talk speeches for the associates I have heard was from the executive director (let’s call him Sam) who compared the team’s effort to make the residents feel as good as possible to the Disney World experience.
“How long does an average American family save for the trip to the Disney World?.. Including airplane tickets for parents and kids, their hotel room, other travel expenses?..”, – the executive director Sam asked our group during one of the All Associate Meetings. We all started looking at each other and started guesstimating. Some of us thought it was 6 months, some said a year, some more. The average cost for a family to visit Disney World is about $5,000-$6,000, I looked it up later.
But Sam kept the engagement on the timeline question by clarifying the fact it was not just about money the family would make during the timeline he was focused on, but it is the money saved – after all other living expenses are paid during saving period. A trip to the Disney World is really one of the biggest and most expensive vacations most U.S. families will ever take together. And Sam’s point was to help us connect this to the residents deciding to move to an Assisted living.
“The timeline for an average American family to save for the trip to the Disney World… Again, including everyone’s airplane tickets, hotel, Disney passes is… Three to five years!..”, – Sam finally revealed the statistics to our group of associates. “Think about it – three to five years for a week or two spent in Orlando. What would you want that experience to be if you are planning the trip for so long? What would your expectations be for Disney?”.. The ideas started surfacing and the executive director encouraged us to share them.
We all started shouting: “Magical!.. Memorable!.. Great!.. Unforgettable!..”,- and on and on.
At that time of this training exercise I have not yet visited Disney World (only a few years later I did), so I could not use my real Disney experience to base my answers with. I do not remember what I said I wanted my experience to be when I eventually go, but I do remember thinking what I will be looking for when I go with my family. And besides the usual assumptions, I surely looked at my expectations from the standpoint of being in charge of the buildings and grounds maintenance at the time. I thought, I would want the cleanest environment, well functioning equipment, safety all visitors, great looking grounds and so on. To the cleanliness point, the executive director revealed that everything is so well thought out at Disney that even the trash cans are strategically placed by a certain number of feet from each other. Some of the history tells us that from the trashcans to clean up Walt Disney has made sure that the parks are the cleanest around.
When Walt Disney was opening Disney parks, he wanted the parks to be cleaner than the other places he had visited before and so he decided to do some research to help him figure out how to keep people from tossing their trash on the ground. He figured out what the average amount of steps are starting from the purchase of food to when you need to throw it away and came up with a distance of 30 feet. Thus, at the parks there is always a trashcan within 30 feet of the another. Disneyland was the first place to use a trashcan with a lid and flaps. Walt didn’t want the smell of the trash to takeover the park, so he ended up designing the trashcan that the parks still use to this day. He tried selling them to manufacturers, but nobody wanted them. He used them for the park anyway, but never patented the idea and eventually others caught on to the genius of such a trashcan.
Now back to our group and the executive director conducting our training. Sam then carried on: “Now, if we describe the trip to a Disney World as trip of a lifetime, how can we, the team at our Senior Living Community, compare the resident move here?.. Yes, it is a Move of a Lifetime!.. Our residents have saved all of their lives to come here. They either are using their lifetime of savings to cover the costs, or they sell the homes they built and lived in for thirty, possibly even fifty years and use the proceeds to pay the bills for the senior living apartment lease. So how can we, the associates working here at our Senior Living Community, ensure our residents have the Experience of a Lifetime?..”
How can I create an Experience of a Lifetime?
This was one of the most impressive pep-talks I have ever participated in. Everything fell into place really well during the presentation and I was able to put the experience of my residents in the brighter perspective. What could I do to provide the Experience of a Lifetime for my communities? And now, how can my company, the Convenient Height, become the best customer care? How will I make my customers experience with the Convenient Height Company in the group’s own words “Magical!.. Memorable!.. Great!.. Unforgettable!..”?..
But now back to my days the AL Communities. There was so much I could personally do to deliver the Experience of a Lifetime. And I used the metaphors I learned from that day’s training with my teams of the maintenance and housekeeping associates. Each time we had a department meeting, I strived to instill the Disney philosophy in my own words. It always worked and was very easy to get my point across because people can relate to Disney so well. And while we did not line up the trashcans every 30 feet, I ensured my buildings were striving to become cleaner than the other places the residents and their families had visited before.
And here at the Convenient Height we strive really hard to deliver the Experience of a Lifetime for all of our customers. While unfortunately not always, but most of the time we succeed. And I take a lot of pride in the fact I could compare my Customer-related philosophy and the goals we work towards to continue improving (at least in my own mind) – and for me to become as innovative as Walt Disney once was.
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