Identify What Needs Changing And Involve Everyone In The Process
 While the physical environment can enhance a community’s ability to effect culture change, it really can happen anywhere, according to Robin Eggert, co-founder of REALM Consulting in St. Paul, Minnesota. She defines culture change—one of the most overused and diluted terms in current senior living parlance—in the context of it being person-centered, person-directed, and quality-focused. The key, of course, is to identify what needs changing and then involve everyone in envisioning, implementing, and adopting the new culture. 

 While current economic challenges may have an impact, consumer desires are the overriding motivation for initiating culture change in existing retirement communities. Consumers want choice. They want to be able to voice an opinion and have it heard—and they want a response. The value proposition that senior living organizations are offering to consumers is not care, according to Eggert. Rather, “the value proposition is what makes the community unique, the way the organization solves problems, what convinces the consumer to choose that community over all of the other available options.”
 “Many organizations really struggle to identify their value proposition,” she said, “because they can’t clearly identify what they’re offering from a consumer perspective. And until they do, and can embrace it, they really can’t implement a strategy for culture change.”
Essence of culture change
Today, the small-house solution is often looked upon as a panacea for the long-term care problem, according to Eggert, and many providers are considering a move in that direction—“but you can have a beautiful new environment with little going on inside,” she stressed. “Culture change is less about the environment and more about the people, the community, the services, and the values. Providers should understand that they can still effect culture change without investing in a new building [or buildings].”
 So how can providers accomplish culture change? Simply put—but not always so simple to accomplish—they must educate their staff to honor each resident as an individual—someone who “had a life” prior to moving to the facility and who still has a voice. “If you put 100 people in a group, they would all want to get up at different times, eat at different times, and have different lifestyles,” Eggert suggested. “That’s no different for people living in a retirement community.”
 Getting people to come to that realization and adopt that attitude is really the essence of culture change. Facilities will often make activities available and ask residents if they would like to participate. They fail to ask, instead, what the residents would like to do. Perhaps they’d simply like the café to be open on weekends (instead of just on weekdays to accommodate staffing), which would also create more activity in the surrounding common space…Want to read more? Click here for a free trial to Senior Living Business and download the current issue today