It Takes a Village to Empower Seniors

By David Williamson.

The mission statement of our new residence reads: “Realize the limitless possibilities of senior life.” This is a grand statement for marketing, and was helpful for my wife and me to choose this as our new residence: Friendship Village (in Bloomington, Mn.) affirms that it is the right of all residents to receive quality health and wellness services, to assist residents in achieving and maintaining optimal level of health and well-being. I affirm the idea that God has “gifted” each of us with the call and dignity for work that honors God and facilitates our being made in the image of God the worker.

As a consumer of Friendship Village’s services for and in our home, I have been impressed with the exceptional sensitivity to, and concern for, each individual. I think this requires careful hiring, solid training and the maintenance of a supportive work environment.

“Friendship Village is built on a foundation of teamwork, competence, confidence and compassion in an environment that promotes dignity, respect, empathy and understanding.” This would be a good mission statement for any work or organization serving he needs of people of any age.

We are a community of 528 residents and a staff of close to 350. As a person of faith, I think this observation mirrors our calling to be workers, working for the well-being of others. It reflects the thrust of Genesis 1 and 2. We are made to have dominion, to exercise dominion of our environment, reflecting our being made in the image of God. This is “very good.”

I am interested in the various job titles that are represented/identified in the team of workers. These work titles include: executive director, financial manager, fitness director, community event planner, fitness program staff, life-style program directors, a volunteer coordinator, a financial systems team, a sales team, a dining hall hostess and others. Each conveys that they are part of a team, along with nurses and therapists. Each is performing critical, important, coordinated work, working together, committed to help residents “realize the limitless possibilities of senior life.” Their intention is to be the “premier employer and provider of senior services. Teamwork is essential.”

As I’ve watched the team skillfully and gracefully work together for the benefit of me and other residents, I have observed their teamwork, and thought about the high level of training each has probably received and which is built into the process. It appears to me that the training is taken seriously, and that each employee has received excellent training. Obviously, careful attention is paid to the selection of each during the hiring phase, and attention to the particular skills that are needed for this kind of state licensed facility (sales, financial management, building maintenance, etc.).

Many technical competencies are important. So are good “people” skills. This quality is seen in the person who attends to the plumbing, or the monthly billing statement, etc. I don’t believe these characteristics just happen, but are carefully taught.

The director of community services has exceptional skill as an electrician, and is good at managing the schedules and skills of others working with him. The way he and his team are received by residents who have very high standards themselves and are accustomed to being served well suggests that this is more than “just a job,” but a mission of skill and genuine, personalized care. So, too, the dining room hostess knows the name of each of the residents and the short life history or circumstance of those who work in the dining room. In addition to responding gracefully to the resident each worker is also sensitive to the needs and expectations of the employer.

There is a consistent and almost continual expression of warm, welcoming personalized greeting, and personalized attention to each member of the community. This is too consistent to be happenstance, and I think it reflects the skill of those involved in the recruiting and selection of employees. I also believe this is evidence of the important organizational commitment to employee training.

So individual work skills are brought together and managed to achieve the necessary and desired hopes of each resident, as well as the expectations of corporate headquarters. Like the original workers in Genesis 2, helping the helper, each individual works together with a team for the benefit of each resident and for the benefit of the work and the other workers. Residents and co-workers experience respect, dignity, empathy, understanding and mutuality. This reflects the intention of Genesis 2 and the establishment of healthy, mutually beneficial work.

I recall the phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child.” The people who work here establish a village of skilled and well-trained workers. Together they provide gracious, thoughtful and skilled attention to each resident, which helps each resident realize the “limitless” (not literally limit-less, but a very high level of) life in this community. given their age and basic health.

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