Strategic Planning Engagement Report

Last week, at the Community Meeting, Executive Director Marvell Adams shared his presentation on the status of, and questions for, strategic planning.  I would strongly urge everyone to take a look at the whole thing.

Marvell presented one slide for each of the Working Group areas, focusing on questions that the groups have been and might focus on.  Here are two of particular interest to me, at least:


Generally, I would make the point that these are intentionally big questions. They encourage not an incremental, but a blue sky approach to the future of our community, one that builds on our strengths, but that aims for a community much more engaged in the world.  This obviously reflects in part the sense that this is a different time.

Each of the slides lists the co-chairs of the Working Group, and I would urge you to think about these questions and give input and ideas.

A personal note:  I have occasionally been met by some resident skepticism about the ultimate decision-making process for the strategic plan.  As someone who has been a resident member of both iterations of this Committee, and have watched all its steps, I want to reassure you that huge respect is being given to resident ideas, values and the input process. I am absolutely confident that the ultimate plan will deeply respect this input — indeed would be simply impossible without it.

If anyone needs more reassurance, let anyone involved in the process let know — or join it yourself.

But, first of all, look at the whole presentation.

This slide shows all the areas of work.


Thanks to all.


Research into the Value of Effort Has Lots of Lessons for Our Strategic Planning Process Including How We Work Together, and What Kind of Community We Work Towards.

The New York Times has an interesting article reporting research on the importance of engagement in helping people be “superagers.”  While I am not sure I like the phrase, with all its competitive implications, nonetheless the research is useful for those working to keep seniors engaged.

Specifically, the writer, Lisa Feldman Barrett, describes her imaging research into those with highest cognitive functioning in old age.

Our lab used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan and compare the brains of 17 superagers with those of other people of similar age. We succeeded in identifying a set of brain regions that distinguished the two groups. These regions were thinner for regular agers, a result of age-related atrophy, but in superagers they were indistinguishable from those of young adults, seemingly untouched by the ravages of time.

What are these crucial brain regions? If you asked most scientists to guess, they might nominate regions that are thought of as “cognitive” or dedicated to thinking, such as the lateral prefrontal cortex. However, that’s not what we found. Nearly all the action was in “emotional” regions, such as the midcingulate cortex and the anterior insula.

My lab was not surprised by this discovery, because we’ve seen modern neuroscience debunk the notion that there is a distinction between “cognitive” and “emotional” brain regions.

But the most interesting part of the analysis is prescriptive:

Of course, the big question is: How do you become a superager? Which activities, if any, will increase your chances of remaining mentally sharp into old age? We’re still studying this question, but our best answer at the moment is: work hard at something. Many labs have observed that these critical brain regions increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental. You can therefore help keep these regions thick and healthy through vigorous exercise and bouts of strenuous mental effort. My father-in-law, for example, swims every day and plays tournament bridge.

The road to superaging is difficult, though, because these brain regions have another intriguing property: When they increase in activity, you tend to feel pretty bad — tired, stymied, frustrated. Think about the last time you grappled with a math problem or pushed yourself to your physical limits. Hard work makes you feel bad in the moment

One way of looking a this from a patient partnering point of view is that really engaging to improve the institution or the system can make you feel “tired, stymied, frustrated.”  But it is worth it in terms of maintaining capacity.  (The article makes clear that really vigorous exercise is also helpful, a lesson I am less willing to internalize — maybe extra blog writing will compensate for lack of exercise, I certainly prefer it!)

But the author is explicit:  “This means that pleasant puzzles like Sudoku are not enough to provide the benefits of superaging. Neither are the popular diversions of various “brain game” websites.

The article also links to a paper here, which, quoting the abstract, explains that:

Reviewing converging evidence from cybernetics, animal research, cognitive neuroscience, and social and personality psychology, we suggest that cognitive control is initiated when goal conflicts evoke phasic changes to emotional primitives that both focus attention on the presence of goal conflicts and energize conflict resolution to support goal-directed behavior. Critically, we propose that emotion is not an inert byproduct of conflict but is instrumental in recruiting control.

So, the complexities of true engagement would appear to be very good for all of us — and probably also for management.  Disagreement among ourselves is not a bad thing — unless it is not resolved in a positive and helpful way that includes improvement.

I read this to mean, in our strategic planning process, that we should push ourselves and each other as much as we can, and that our goal and plan should be to build a community in which we all continue to do so.  That surely has relevance to all our working groups.

Reactions and thoughts welcomed.

Monday is the Education Launch of Collington’s Strategic Planning Process

This Monday, at 10 AM in the Auditorium, Collington really starts our community wide strategic planning process, with an educational presentation on “Trends in the Industry,” featuring Stephen Maag (bio on different site), of Leading Age (site here).  Leading Age is the national organization supporting and advocating for nonprofit ageing services organizations (strategic plan here.)  The planning process here is, of course, being led by a Board Subcommittee.  The process has extensive and expanding resident and staff participation.

The information Stephen Maag provides will be crucial in grounding the upcoming community-wide discussions and processes in a concrete understanding of what is going on, and experts’ perceptions of the changes, opportunities, and challenges we can expect to see.  These will help us shape an expansive and leadership vision, in which we all contribute to “together, transforming the experience of ageing,” as the Kendal slogan puts it, not just for ourselves, but for the world as a whole.

I for one I will be particularly interested in his perspectives on where the planning and vision gaps are — what we perhaps uniquely can bring to this national process, with our unique combination of Washington connections, policy and academic expertise, range of real world experience, and diversity.

By the way, those interested in seeing Maag’s presentation approach might find this YouTube video helpful.  He is clearly grounded in data.

As you know from the flier in your mailboxes, there are future additional educational programs already scheduled.  This is a very exciting time indeed for the community.  Be there at 10.

Collington Board Member Reports on Round the World Trip

Recently, Collington Board Member Joe Howell and his wife Embry went on a round the world trip – without flying, and submitted their account to the Washington Post.  It appeared on December 6, 2015, on page F2, and is shown below, with the permission of the author and photographer.  (All rights reserved, 2015.)

howellsEmbry Howell and Joe Howell in front of the Terra Cotta Warriors museum in Xian, China. ( /Embry Howell )

Continue reading “Collington Board Member Reports on Round the World Trip”

Board reaction to “Meet and Greet” with residents

“Engaged”…”Knowledgeable”…”Passionate” – these were some of the words used by Collington Board Members to describe their conversations with residents at the Meet and Greet held Wednesday afternoon, prior to their meeting that evening. Conversations about multiple topics took place around the round tables in the auditorium, but of highest interest among the residents were the new dining venue, the number of capital improvements taking place (the loop and paving projects in particular), and at the top of the list, the perceived  need for additional social services staff in IL. It was a lively and communicative atmosphere that was very well received by the several dozen in attendance.

But Board members were not the only ones leaving with positive reactions. Several residents expressed appreciation for the accessibility available to them through events like Meet and Greet and the various dinners at which Board members have been meeting with residents to hear issues and concerns important to them.

Mike McCulley