Live Like a Member

By: Summer Mandell

Jackie Kerin at the Assisted Living Federation of America spent a week living in an assisted-living facility to immerse herself in the work of ALFA's members.

What's the great idea? Immerse yourself in the work of your members.

Who's doing it? Assisted Living Federation of America

What's involved? Spending a week in an assisted-living facility when you're more than 50 years younger than many residents is an experience that Jackie Kerin, public policy associate for the Assisted Living Federation of America, says made her even more committed to her job.

ALFA arranges field visits for its staff members to learn more about its membership, composed of operators of senior-living communities and companies that serve them. ALFA President and CEO Rick Grimes suggested that Kerin, a recent college graduate and newcomer to the industry, spend a few days living in one of the facilities, taking the field visit to the next level.

Last November, Kerin did just that for five days, documenting her time with residents and staff to share on ALFA's website through videos, blog posts, and tweets. Furniture had to be rented for the apartment where she stayed, background and health checks were necessary, and a new camera was purchased for Kerin to use throughout her visit, but costs associated with the trip were minimal and most were covered by the facility. Kerin spent her time participating in typical resident activities, like exercise classes and meal time.

"The time commitment during my stay was quite extensive. I wanted to experience everything the community had to offer and absorb as much information as possible," she says. "Throughout the day, I tweeted pictures and thoughts about the activities I was engaged in, but I reserved the more extensive blog posts for late at night or early in the morning."

What are people saying? ALFA members are still sharing videos and blog posts from Kerin's stay. She says one of the goals of the initiative was to dispel myths that consumers have about senior living. Her experience "continues to be used as an educational tool for those who know little about the benefits and the success stories associated with senior-living communities."

On a personal level, Kerin formed relationships with residents and employees and learned practical lessons she has shared with her colleagues.

"The perspective of a millennial living as a senior is an entertaining one, but my experience also touched on important issues for providers, those with family members in senior living, and anyone planning for their own retirement. I think the combination of entertainment, education, and engagement was the reason this initiative was so successful," she says.

—Summer Mandell