On A Milestone

Last week I had the incredible honor of standing before more than 7,000 of my colleagues and being installed as the next chair of the board of LeadingAge. For those of us in nonprofit elder care services, LeadingAge is the premier organization, serving as their mission statement indicates as “the trusted voice” for older adults and those who care for them.

My first LeadingAge conference was in 2007, just 12 short years ago and I remember sitting high up in a huge auditorium and watching the proceedings in awe—impressed by the quality of the keynote speakers, amazed by the number of people in the room and the conversations.  I wondered how someone became the chair of this organization and stood on that stage, how they earned the opportunity to address these thousands of their peers.

And now, in sort of surprising fashion, I have the chance to play that role.  Of course it didn’t come out of nowhere.  I served on the State affiliate board in Ohio and joined the New Jersey affiliate board almost five years ago.  I was elected to the national board and was privileged to join the executive committee as secretary a few years ago.  But I truly was surprised when I was asked to be chair elect and humbled by the nominations that had come from my colleagues and fellow board members.

So last week I had the chance to stand on that enormous stage and talk about the things that I believe in and that I believe LeadingAge should focus on in the years ahead.  I spoke about ageism, which is, unfortunately, alive and well and living in this country.  Ageism is the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) “ism” that causes older adults to be marginalized and disenfranchised.  It’s the “ism” that perpetuates the myth that older adults are less than whole, incapable, impaired.  The negative stereotypes of aging contribute to our difficulties recruiting staff, they contribute to the growth of onerous policies and regulations and they underlie the struggles of the millions of victims of elder abuse.  Ageism exists in the words we use, the way we assume that an elder can’t speak for themselves, the way we interact with them, as if they were just overgrown infants.  It exists in our society as we poke fun at elders who are diminished in some way, focusing on the things they can’t do rather than what they can do and so much more.  The aging population is growing at extraordinary rates, the “silver tsunami” is coming quickly at us. Are we going to continue to demean and discount people based on their date of birth?

Jewish Home Family President and CEO Carol Silver Elliott's installation as chair of LeadingAge

Jewish Home Family President and CEO Carol Silver Elliott's was installed as chair of LeadingAge, the national organization that brings together more than 6,000 nonprofit elder care member organizations and partners representing the entire field of aging services.

פורסם על ידי ‏‎The Jewish Home Family‎‏ ב- יום חמישי, 31 באוקטובר 2019

Another critical point for me is to address the criticism constantly being leveled at long term care and assisted living providers.  I know that there are those who do not do the job that they should, I also know that we have an industry based on people taking care of people and sometimes things happen that should not.  But I know, with total certainty, that the vast majority of providers and especially those of us who work in the nonprofit world, are only focused on one thing—improving life for older adults.  We work in a field that is not the most glamorous, is not the most lucrative, is not the most sought after.  But we do this work because we care, because it matters, because our older adults deserve the best that we can provide.  It’s time, past time, for us to stop apologizing for the work that we do.  It’s time for us to work harder to tell the positive stories, the stories that are life affirming, life enriching and meaningful.  I guarantee that there are far more of those “good stories” than the sensational negative ones that seem to be continually in the news.

One of the greatest joys for me last week was the fact that we were livestreaming the installation ceremony to both of our campuses and elders and staff were gathered to watch and listen.  The comments from elders have truly warmed my heart. The messages are for them, about them and real.  They will guide my steps on this journey, a journey I am honored to take.

About the Author
Carol Silver Elliott is President and CEO of The Jewish Home Family, which runs NJ's Jewish Home at Rockleigh, Jewish Home Assisted Living, Jewish Home Foundation and Jewish Home at Home. She joined The Jewish Home Family in 2014. Previously, she served as President and CEO of Cedar Village Retirement Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is chair-elect of LeadingAge and past chair of the Association of Jewish Aging Services.
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