What Does It Mean to Practice Citizenship in a Senior Living Community

Senior Living
smiling residents

Posted: November 15, 2021

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

 This is the oath taken by all new citizens of the United States of America.

Becoming a Citizen of a Senior Living Community

There is a great deal of discussion in our country about citizenship and what is required to be a citizen. A sense of loyalty and obligation is certainly core to national citizenship. What does it mean to be a citizen of a senior living community like Clermont Park? We certainly do not swear in our residents or have them raise their right hand and have them promise to bear arms, if asked. However, we believe that creating a sense of community where residents and associates are encouraged to know each other, honor differences, and live with purpose, is a vital ingredient of aging well.

In the book, “Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living,” Jill Vitale-Aussem, President and CEO of Christian Living Communities and Cappella Living Solutions describes the paradigm of senior housing being part of the hospitality industry. This paradigm is based on seniors receiving transactional services from the employees who work in the community. Rules would be developed and followed and governed by the CEO or director. This model falls apart when we consider that this type of environment, although initially attractive to some, fosters dependence and frustration about the lack of individual choice and leadership. Likewise, the medical model is based on treating sick patients and keeping them safe. This model, Jill reminds us, is sterile and does not provide the balance of emotional, spiritual, and social framework necessary for a community.

Being a citizen in a senior living community implies rights and responsibilities. The community is alive and changes depending on the interests and desires of the citizen’s that make up the community. The community cares for each other including associates that have different roles in the community. All are potential care givers and care receivers. Partners in care. Services and programs are developed and managed by the community. Skills, talents, interests are all utilized by the community to create a sense of purpose and shared pride in the culture and accomplishments of the community. A small example would be the Show Stopper performing group that exists at Clermont Park. Residents expressed interest in performing musicals. For years the residents have organized a yearly musical that is 100% resident driven. The citizens of the community try out for parts, they design sets, they practice, they tweak, and, ultimately, they perform several times for the public each year. This year they are preparing for “Fiddler on the Roof.”

The value proposition for senior housing is complex. Having beautiful accommodations and amenities is critical for that first impression. Creating a culture where the expectation is citizenship, fosters participation, socialization, and ownership of community. A senior living community requires citizens who are committed to the greater good and who live with purpose.

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