It takes a planet to serve our elders

PHOTO: Cedar Sinai Park CEO Martin Baicker and Howard Klink, the director of CSP’s  Housing with Services program, at the LeadingAge conference.

Thousands of people standing and cheering and clapping, music blaring, strobe lights flashing … Lady Gaga concert? Timbers game? Ticker tape parade?

Nope. It was the annual conference of LeadingAge, the national umbrella agency for not-for-profit elder residence and service providers as well as many businesses, foundations and other groups that support them. Held Oct. 29-Nov. 1 in New Orleans, the opening session was an extravaganza of light, energy and of course jazz music in a huge convention center. The incoming LeadingAge board chair, a football referee in his spare time, told us in no uncertain terms that we in the business of elder care have been playing defense for too long! There are regulatory challenges and funding shortfalls in our future. It is time to play offense: advocate, respond to calls for action, invite elected officials into our facilities. He quoted John Lewis and the crowd gave a standing ovation, the music soared to new heights, the strobe lights panned the room:

“If not us, then who?

If not now, then when?”

Sitting next to me, Cedar Sinai Park CEO Martin (Marty) Baicker took it in stride; I, however, was overwhelmed. He has been to the conference many times; I had never even thought of going. But it was Marty who had urged me, as CSP board chair, to be there. “Besides the technical information we learn in the educational sessions, the conference provides the opportunity to speak with and learn from colleagues from across the country,” he told me.

It was actually via LeadingAge that the seeds were sown for CSP’s entry into both housing with services and the Green House model. So there I was.

Oregon has hundreds of nursing homes, home care compa­nies, social organizations and countless other senior services, but Cedar Sinai Park in Portland is unique: it is Oregon’s only Jewish organization serving elders with a wide range of services and residential options as well as the commitment to grow those services as the community’s needs evolve.

Cedar Sinai Park, though, is not alone out there in senior service land, feeling its way without support and guidance. It is a member of The Association of Jewish Aging Services, which, according to former CEO David Fuks, helps CSP navigate how to best conduct ourselves within the special context of Jewish values and practice.

CSP is also a member of Oregon’s affiliate of LeadingAge ( Its resources and education help its members provide “quality housing, health, community and related services to the elderly and disabled.” Its corporate part­ners enable members to take advantage of group purchasing. Members share their experiences and learn from each other. Even its executive director, Ruth Gulyas, steps in where she is needed: she accepted the CSP board’s invitation this spring, for example, to join the members of CSP’s community and board in its nationwide search for CSP’s next CEO.

LeadingAge Oregon itself has the support of the national LeadingAge, with its 6,000-plus members and partners in 38 states. LeadingAge is part of the Global Ageing Network that includes 30 countries. Providing our elders with the choices need and deserve evidently takes much more than a village. It takes a whole planet.

For four days, Marty and I – and more than 7,000 people from 38 states and six countries (Canada, UK, Aus­tralia, Trinidad, China and Cameroon!) – explored everything from “Are Not-For-Profits Relevant and Sustainable” to “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll with Dr. Ruth.” There were nearly 250 sessions to choose from in addition to targeted networking events. Exhibitors in a sec­ond huge hall displayed every possible product and service, from accounting and accreditation to wellness equipment and wireless communications. I stopped to chat with Ted Weinman of Meda­Cure, a producer of “durable medical equipment” located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. His yarmulke caught my attention.

“What makes your beds so special?” I asked him. “They’re better,” he replied. “We make goods with chutzpah!”

We heard success stories in areas where we at CSP are trying to grow and improve. Marty looked at best practices in affordable housing, in-home ser­vices and post-acute care, among other things. (Robison’s post-acute care center admitted its first patients while we were at the conference.) I was seeking out thought leaders in governance and communication. At “The Psychology of Words” we parsed the language we use to describe our residents and our services. The difference between “we take care of you” and “we offer care options for you to choose from,” for example, is one of implied judgment of a person’s ability to make their own decisions. I took many, many pages of notes.

A presenter at our last session was Howard Klink, the director of CSP’s innovative Housing with Services program in CSP’s affordable housing units downtown. Howard and presenters from Ohio, Virginia and Washington, D.C., empha­sized that simply giving someone a place to live is not enough. Medical care, behavior health services, social and cultural activities – even a resident-led food pantry in the case of our affordable housing units – are all essential for people to thrive. And to that I could only say: Amen.

“We all are so focused on the day-to-day work of caring for our elders,” Marty observed. “Attending the national conference gets us out of our routine and gives us the opportunity to see the big picture … that there are thousands of people across the country doing the same important work as we are … that their challenges are much the same as ours in Portland.”

Our job is to meet those challenges. | | |

Liz Rabiner Lippoff is a marketing consultant, freelance writer and commu­nity volunteer.



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