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Breaking the Silence: Pioneering Ethical Senior Living in a Sea of Greed

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

–Margaret Mead

A few months ago, driven by passion and purpose, I reentered the field of "senior living" with a sincere desire to bring about positive change in a community that had recently garnered attention in local newspapers.

These articles highlighted the challenges facing older adults in my area, including persistent problems in their housing community and a heartbreaking incident where the death of a resident went unnoticed for days. This community had been on my radar, and when I saw a part-time position available, I applied without hesitation.

I eagerly took on a new role to bring about positive change. I have the experience, evidence-based tools, education, and passion, and I was honored to have an opportunity to generate a healthier way forward for my neighbors and my community.

Little did I know that this path would lead me to confront the harsh realities of a broken system.

From the very beginning, it was evident that something was amiss. While executives bask in the glow of their opulent salaries, those on the frontlines—maintenance, housing administrators, resident services, the nurturers, the backbone of these "senior living" communities—struggle to simply make ends meet. 

It is a glaring imbalance, a top-heavy and siloed structure that perpetuates inequality and fosters a pervasive culture of neglect and indifference. Sadly, I have seen this in nearly every corporate-owned and operated "senior living" community in my area, including those that operate as a "non-profit." 

"Senior living" encompasses a variety of facilities and communities, including Nursing Homes, Skilled Nursing Facilities, Assisted Living & Memory Care, Independent Senior Housing, and 55+ retirement communities.

Each day felt like navigating treacherous waters on a half-sunken ship, with icebergs of systemic dysfunction looming ominously on the horizon.

The weight of moral injury pressed heavily upon my heart as I witnessed the toll it took on residents and staff.

It was a relentless cycle—a cycle that seemed impossible to break.

Graphic: I created this graphic while processing my experience with moral injury.

But amidst the darkness, a flicker of hope emerges—a glimmer of possibility that can not be extinguished. I realize that I am not alone in my struggle and that countless others share in the burden of moral injury inflicted by these outdated models of living and care. This realization has sparked a fire within me—a determination to stand up, speak out, and inspire positive change now. 

For too long, we have been told that change takes a long time—that the status quo is too entrenched to overcome. But I refuse to accept that narrative. I refuse to believe that we are powerless to make a difference.

Change is not just possible—it is inevitable.

In the heart of our communities, a silent crisis is unfolding. As an environmental gerontologist, I've come back to the field with a renewed perspective, only to discover that these outdated and perilous models of living and care are expanding, as is the Greed.

It's a narrative fueled by greed, where the relentless pursuit of profit takes precedence over the wellbeing of the older adults we serve and those who provide care for them.

Consider this: the fastest-growing segment of our nation's homeless population is comprised of people over the age of 65. 

By 2030, their numbers are set to triple. 

What will the number of homeless older adults be in 2040? 

These are not faceless statistics—they represent individuals, each with a unique story, facing homelessness for the first time in their lives.

These are our neighbors, friends, family, community, 

you and me. 

Here in Monterey County, where I reside, the picture is equally bleak. With a child poverty rate exceeding 30% and more homeless students than San Francisco and San Jose combined, the struggle for survival is palpable. 

Research revealed that an individual in Monterey County, would need to earn 2.4 times the State minimum wage—$36.50 per hour — just to afford average monthly rent. 

Have you looked at the wages of those serving older adults in need in your neighborhood?

It's a stark reality: food, housing, healthcare—these are not optional luxuries but basic human needs, fundamental to our survival. Yet, in the shadow of corporate greed, those working day-to-day positions in "senior living"—from housing admins, maintenance, and CNAs to Activity Directors—live with food and home insecurity, trapped in a cycle of chronic stress and unmanageable workloads. 

These 'profits over people' models are generating an entirely new generation of future older adult homelessness. 

Where will I live when I am their age, I currently live paycheck to paycheck.

But it doesn't have to be this way. We have the power to enact change to usher in a new era of ethical senior living—a future where compassion, community, reciprocity, and interdependence are valued. 

Can you imagine an Age-Integrated, Resident-Sustained (versus corporate-sustained), Nature-Inspired, and Community-Based Model of Living and Care,

a model built by the people for the people? 

As an environmental gerontologist, I'm committed to championing this vision. I advocate for supportive environments that provide individuals with:

- Access to Nature

- Nutrient-rich food

- Security

- Biodiversity

- Stability

- Connection

- Equal opportunities to develop skills and competence

- Collaboration with a shared purpose

- Capacity to maintain societal contributions

- Reciprocal-Shared Care; caring in, for, and with Nature

This is a holistic approach, recognizing the interconnectedness of physical, social, and natural elements in shaping wellbeing for all ages.

But I can't do it alone. 

I invite you to join me in this call to action for healthier and more equitable living for all. 

Together, we can co-create a new model where ethical senior living is not just a lofty ideal but a tangible reality—a model where every individual, regardless of age or circumstance, has the opportunity to thrive. Doing Well by Doing Good!

Let's not wait decades for change. 

The time is now, and the stakes are too high to ignore. 

Are you ready to join us? 

Let's co-create aging-friendly communities for all. 

Yes and, we are not alone in our commitment to nurturing community for all.

Just look at the Dementia Care Farm Movement, it takes a village at Schlegel Villages, the goodness growing at Landis Communities , the system change focus at International Caregivers Association and the endless possibility we can nurture with The Eco Generation Park Model.

Together WE are unstoppable!

The quest for positive change remains my focal point as I direct my efforts toward collaborations with organizations that cherish expertise and insights, seeking to prioritize the greater good.

If your organization shares this vision and is committed to driving positive change, I eagerly await the opportunity to connect and explore avenues for collaboration.

Let us join forces in pursuit of a better future for current and future generations.

If you reside in the Monterey County area and are interested in receiving updates about our upcoming advocacy and empowerment meeting focused on "ethical transformation in senior living and co-creating an aging-friendly community for all,

please email me with the subject line: "Advocacy for All Ages."

For those outside of the Monterey County area who wish to participate in our virtual meeting, please email the subject line: "Virtual Advocacy for All Ages."

With Gratitude,


Let us be the ancestors our descendants will thank. –Winona LaDuke

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