Can octogenarians scuba dive? The last person who questioned their 80-year-old scuba classmates, wound up underwater with two of them leading the way.
And so it goes when you’re celebrating the next chapter of life at Pathway to Living, a conglomerate of 30 senior living communities that bring new meaning to the word aging.
Headed by the self-proclaimed “Chief Disruptor” Maria Oliva, this patchwork of robust programming proves that all is not doom-and-gloom just because you’re a senior citizen. To the contrary, “elderhood” — named as such by Oliva — is a time to “remain engaged and alive, to stay vibrant and live life to the fullest,” explains the spunky COO of a company that is paving the way toward improved eldercare.
Recognizing that it takes a village to provide the type of community Oliva desires, her team seeks strategic partnerships with other organizations that share the same values. Enter: Caddis Healthcare Real Estate. A partnership formed after numerous lengthy conversations. Fusing the development expertise of Caddis with the passion and operating services of Pathway to Living, both organizations recognized an alignment financially and with their philosophy of care.
With a hint of pride, Oliva illustrates the point. “Pathway is very selective prior to forging a partnership. We need to be sure that there’s an alignment of values, of what we’re trying to create. With Caddis, it just clicked.”
Click, it did. In the fall of 2016, the culmination of efforts resulted in a dynamic 94-unit assisted living and memory care community in Peoria, Illinois. Punctuated by large picture windows and earthy tones, the space looks more like a luxury resort than the image conjured when most people think of senior care living. That, of course, is the point.
Healthcare real estate and senior living programming need not be bland.
Embracing the Viva! mentality, Pathway to Living focuses on empowering residents. Oliva’s aim is to help residents feel purposeful and engaged. How does she facilitate this? To start, by offering physical activities that most of us treasure in our younger years: horseback riding, camping, fishing, and scuba diving, for instance. Add a dash of culinary fun with activities ranging from wine tasting to making crème brûlée, plus a splash of the arts, and you have elders who are more active than average middle-aged Americans. (And this isn’t even counting the ones who usher in the weekend with a trip in hot air balloons.)
To be sure, Pathway isn’t operating on a whim. Their “culture of possibilities” has a direct root in science. As reported by the National Institute of Health, senior citizens often face a myriad of challenges: disease-related morbidity, functional decline, loneliness, social isolation, and depression. Put together, these factors can seriously impact seniors’ health and well-being. Social interactions, increased physical activity, and strong social support, on the other hand, are associated with an improved quality of life.
This is why, points out Oliva, Pathway to Living’s staff focuses on abilities rather than disabilities. “We ask residents who they still want to be. We remind them that the possibilities are endless, that they can have purpose and choice, that they can explore life fully.”
To underscore that point, each Pathway community has a picture posted in the staff breakroom. It is of an older woman sitting in a wheelchair, her eyes gazing at an imagined reflection of herself. In the image, she is a ballerina. “To each team member, I tell them that it is up to us to get to know the ballerina inside each resident,” Oliva explains. “We ask each person if they have a bucket list. From there, we see which things haven’t been checked off yet and we help them accomplish those goals. If they don’t have a bucket list, we help them develop one so that we know what their passions are.”
Perhaps this is why it’s a natural fit for Pathway and Caddis to forge ahead together. Both want to help shift society’s mindset, to embrace a definition of “old” that embodies growth, change, and joy. In working as partners, they’re able to leave a larger footprint on that which matters most: life.