Bright Spot Episode #1: Collaboration In Aging

We don't have a people problem in our industry. In fact, the people are often absolutely heroic. Instead, we have a systems problem. Today we talk with Cambria Jacobs, Executive Partner at Collaboration in Aging - a national (un)conference to demonstrate and inspire innovation.

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We don’t have a people problem in our industry. In fact, the people are often absolutely heroic. Instead, we have a systems problem.

Today we talk with Cambria Jacobs, Executive Partner at Collaboration in Aging – a national (un)conference to demonstrate and inspire innovation.

We must bring to the forefront the “Human Element of Aging”. In the end we are all aging and we must foster an experience that benefits all! Our incredible guest is none other than Cambria Jacobs. The heart and soul behind the success of Collaboration In Aging.

Cambria is passionate, creative, and an inspiration for all of us! She will share some insights into the changes coming to the 2023 event and all how it will impact everyone who is aging and serving those.


Katherine Wells: [00:00:02] 93 billion people. A half a trillion dollar industry. 8.3 million people getting support from five primary nursing care providers every year. This is our senior care industry. So why is it still so old-school tech laggard and siloed? Well, if you’re curious, stay tuned. Let’s find out.


Sarah LeGasse: [00:00:24] This incredible show made possible by our wonderful sponsors Assured Senior Living Love. It’s what we do and Serenity Engage where care connects. Now a brief message from Serenity Engage. Serenity connects aging service providers, older adults, and their loved ones in a single network. Our web, mobile, and smart assistance products power the network that enables real-time, HIPAA-compliant communication, collaboration, and education. When we care together, providers increase revenue and lower expenses. Older adults receive better care, and family has greater peace of mind.


Francis LeGasse: [00:01:07] Welcome back. And today is the first episode of Bright Spots. Can’t be more excited because this is really something that’s at the heart of what we want to do. We want this industry to shine and it is shining. We just now need to find those moments in some of the turbulent waters that we know to be aging, to be aging services. And so today we are blessed to have Cambria Jacobs, the executive partner, and director of Collaboration in Aging, as our wonderful or wonderful guests to kick off our first bright spot. Cambria, welcome!


Cambria Jacobs: [00:01:43] Thank you so much for having me. Really honored.


Francis LeGasse: [00:01:46] We are so excited that you’re here and we’re also so excited about your mission and the things that you do. Can you share a little bit about your background and who you are and what kind of makes you want to be involved in in collab?


Cambria Jacobs: [00:02:00] Absolutely. Well, first off, I’m a I’m a daughter, a sister, a niece, a granddaughter, a human, and also someone who historically has been brought up through technology startups and through that have always been inspired to be a bit of a change agent regardless. And in my role in a in a company or really in the world and through personal experiences, as I’m learning from from many folks in this industry, I was sort of thrown head first. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have a really healthy family members. And then suddenly my mom started to show signs that were confusing to me. I couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on, but I just knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t really know where to go. Fast forward into a very healthy young 70 year old having a stroke, and then all of a sudden there were things that our family just couldn’t ignore anymore about what was really happening to our to our mom, who we we loved very much and trying to navigate just getting basic care and really educating our family was a full time job. And I looked at us as being pretty smart, fairly educated, having all the resources at our fingertips. And we did not. We had to just grit, grit it, grit and find what it took to just move through, ask the questions and figure it out ourselves. And through that, I just reached out to to Kathrine at Serenity Engage and as a well respected entrepreneur in the the tech community and asked Katherine, I see you’re involved in this space. How can I help? How can I get involved? Because there has got to be a better way. And I know that you and other leaders that we have worked with can make that change.


Katherine Wells: [00:04:02] That’s great, Cambria. And it was. It’s so common. And now you know that, right? But the very first time when you started, you started with I was seeing some signs that confused me. I wasn’t sure what to do about it. Did let me ask you a question. Did you feel like you might be the only person who’s ever gone through it or that no one really knows how to navigate this yet? So you had to go be become the expert?


Cambria Jacobs: [00:04:28] That’s a great question. I not only did I feel that way that, you know, is this something isolated to our family, something with with my mom that is is is different and and why aren’t any of my friends talking about this? Why aren’t I seeing this in other places? So maybe this is something that that I just need to figure out that’s very much isolated to us. And because of that, it took me a long time to finally be to find the courage just to be bold and direct and ask our neurologist what the heck is going on. This is not my mom. This is not okay. And what else can I do? And from that question, it was one carrot to the next carrot to the next carrot until I all of a sudden had all of these data points, none of which were connected. And it was on me to continue driving that process forward and not giving up.


Francis LeGasse: [00:05:19] So that is always a question I always like to come back to. Do you think your primary care was looking to solve the problem or be part of the solution?


Cambria Jacobs: [00:05:32] I think at the time the primary care wanted to stick a Band-Aid on it and pretend it was all better and it was very normal. Like what was happening was just part of aging and this is just the way it is now. So let’s move on. You’re going to get better. And and of course, we all want to believe that. And if you give 70 and 80 year olds this hope that they’re going to get better and this is there, fine, then everyone has that ability and that permission to live in this land of denial that winds up actually causing more frustration and pain than actually accepting what’s going on and then really addressing other things that we can do to make today and the tomorrows a lot better.


Francis LeGasse: [00:06:14] Yeah, that’s why I bring that up, because I’ve run into some physicians that are not used to the space where it’s we’ve got to fix it. Let’s figure out the medication, let’s figure out this treatment. Right for it versus hold on. It’s okay who they are or who they are today. And today is great, but maybe there isn’t a solution, but a lifestyle change, a way to bring the community together to support these people, not solve the problem, but support them in however they want to live. And maybe it’s they live with with whatever that is. But I think we’ve got to stop looking for the treatment or the cure. Not like saying that we shouldn’t stop that scientifically, but in the moment, because there’s so many beautiful things that we can do for someone that is aging or has physical or cognitive or any limitations that doesn’t that breaks those limitations down.


Cambria Jacobs: [00:07:06] I think you’re so right, Francis. And here we are five years later, and I am absolutely in that space. But I have never still, to this date been told that by her geriatric psychiatrist or neurologist, her general physician. No one has ever said that to me. I’ve had to surmise basically all of that and get back to them. And then they nod in agreement and and five years of that to get to this point where it’s frustration because we all want what’s best for her. And that’s normally to solve it and cure it. And with the perspective I’ve now gathered with vascular dementia and what that means for my mom and for our family, we can then be better support system for her to help her be happy and healthy. But I never would have gotten there had I not really been this aggressive and diligent to to educate myself. And it took me five years of, again, just sheer grit and not knowing what I was doing. And it could have saved all of us, and most importantly, my mom, a lot of pain and we would have been able to support her much better, much faster had that conversation shifted to really addressing what is versus trying to make it better and reverse what has occurred.


Francis LeGasse: [00:08:20] Exactly. That’s really what’s so well said. And I think it goes back to what we see. What I’ve seen for so many years is when you stop looking for that fix or that medication or that that that one silver bullet. Right. That makes this all normal. You finally realize that it’s okay for who they are and they’re not losing their whole selves. Yes, they aren’t who they were maybe ten years ago, but they are still a part of something or part of someone, or they’re for you in maybe a different way. And different is okay. And I think that’s what it comes down to in my eyes is difference okay.


Cambria Jacobs: [00:08:55] Och yeah. And I think it’s expectations, right? You know, I mean it’s a shift in expectations of, of what was and what is and what will be. And I think Francis I believe it was you that actually said this to me once upon a time was we all are looking. Everyone says it’s very popular and trendy to say, let’s live in the moment. We’ve got to live in the moment. Well, guess what? Being with my mom, that’s the gift that I’ve actually that we’ve been given with vascular dementia. And our journey is there’s nothing but living in the moment with her and the and the more we actually can truly do that, it’s all good.


Francis LeGasse: [00:09:33] There you go.


Katherine Wells: [00:09:34] It’s such a great lesson, too. And and it is expectations. It’s changing the way you look at what’s going to happen going forward and embracing who she is. And at the outset, we said there’s there’s 39 million people in that boat right now in the United States. And on average, they have five different providers providing care. And that’s what you stepped into, Cambria, as the daughter who is the primary care coordinator, you’re managing all these different providers who aren’t really talking to each other and and sometimes not talking to you or not giving you the right information. So when we talk about a bright spot in the industry, you’re doing something about that. You’ve taken on charge of this unconference, and I’d love for you to explain what it is, why you’re doing it, and what really you’ve shared your personal story. What else is driving? Leaving you to do this, right?


Cambria Jacobs: [00:10:33] Well, I certainly was raised that, you know, again, when you when you see a problem or something you’re frustrated about complain, but then take that complaint and put it into action and in conjunction. I wound up finding my community of people, not only just my friends with their own personal story, but an entire industry, those that have been doing it for years and are really well respected. And I do a lot of things really well. And then those that are the disruptors that are have taken some of the innovation and technology and really are working together to figure out what’s been working where, where, what’s just broken and how can we start to change that conversation because we deserve better. And through that, I’ve been able to connect with these organizations with the help of Carla and Kopra and Mavericks of Senior Living, we’ve been able to pull together the best and the brightest in the industry and start having those hard conversations that are maybe taking place at the water cooler or maybe even over the Thanksgiving table and make them very public and have people that are actually inspired about making change, about doing better, not just in our own families, but across the country and across the world.


Cambria Jacobs: [00:11:46] And we’re doing that through bringing together 60 different panel presentations with national speakers, keynote speakers, talking about how do we start really inspiring change, not at a global level, but what can we leave the conference with tomorrow to start implementing in our businesses, in our homes, with our families? And also let’s start connecting people that maybe haven’t met before. Let’s provide an environment where we can start connecting people that are maybe different sectors, everything from investment and private equity into venture capital, into technology, into senior living communities and owners and operators and executive directors. Let’s get all of these people together and start having the real discussions and bringing those change agents to change what we’re doing, not only today but in the years to come. And and let’s change some lives because our aging population, we’re all going to be there. And I know I want better and I want better for my children to not be navigating what I’m having to do with my family right now.


Katherine Wells: [00:12:48] That’s really great. And in doing so, we are. And in full disclosure, Mavericks is part of collaboration and aging, as Cambria said. But really, this is about bringing people like Cambria who have not had experience in the industry until the last five years when they had to deal with something in their own lives and bringing this ingenuity and ingenuity. Did I say that right? The creativity, the why is it the way it is to change things? You can you can keep doing things the same way. You can make a few small changes. You can try to make sweeping changes. But really we have to look at some of what’s the root cause and why are we so siloed and how can we fix that? Or we can just say, let’s fix it. And I do think there are people out there now. This is a great stat. So prior to COVID, 60% of all senior living CEOs were scheduled to retire in five years. That was three years ago. So we’re already three years into it. Covid accelerated that. What does that tell me as a as a person working in this industry that tells me that they’re kind of aging out and retiring and those are the people who created today’s system. So what we’re seeing now are people who are more in the thirties, forties, taking on leadership roles and looking at it and saying, Why do we do it this way? So I think we we’re also at an inflection point in the industry where people are ready to start looking at why do we do it this way? We can do this differently and we definitely are older. Adults deserve better.


Francis LeGasse: [00:14:34] I think that’s really the point of what we what we want to do here, right. I think what’s often lost in our industry is the human element, the human experience of aging, which is our one of the key. Importance of why we serve, who we serve. And I think bringing it back and starting it fresh enables us to get back to that root. Human humans, age, humans taking care of humans is challenging. Humans taking care of humans needs to be adaptable. We need to have pliability. We cannot be complacent. And I think that is the one thing that I love about what we’re doing here is we’ve stopped being complacent and started taking action. I think that if we don’t recognize that when humans take care of humans, things always go sideways. But it’s how you respond to that and how you fix that so it doesn’t happen again. That truly is what makes you great. It’s not preventing the mistake, it’s rebounding from that.


Katherine Wells: [00:15:31] There’s no perfect, right? There’s no perfect. But you hit on something that is a big part of the conference, right? Cambria The the human experience of aging and kind of removing that friction of of the process as it stands today and what you described in your journey with your mom that is continuing on. And a similar journey that I had with my parents is there’s a lot of friction in there. So what are some of the things that you think will come out of the conference or that you want to come out of the conference that will help reduce that friction and bring people together?


Cambria Jacobs: [00:16:06] Right. So so we’ve really looked at it from a couple of different ways we look at the care continuum and which is is new to me as someone new to the to the industry is our family is thrown into it from an emergency standpoint. And so for us, it’s it’s taking a lot of those care providers and people that have been deeply ingrained in the industry and getting them to really step out of their comfort zone, as we like to say, wear a different hat. Maybe perhaps the the executor executive owner of a community now is going to play the role of Cambria Jacob’s loving daughter, and we are going to give them the experience of And guess what? Your mother has just had a stroke and is now in the hospital. What do you do?


Katherine Wells: [00:16:54] And by the way, you don’t live in the same.


Cambria Jacobs: [00:16:56] and by the way, you don’t live in the same state.


Cambria Jacobs: [00:16:59] Or perhaps we will bring up someone who is a very type a very young 65-year-old who wants to know what am I supposed to be doing? What are all the things as a 65-year-old I should be doing to make sure that I’m taking care of in the next 15 to 20 years? Right now, I’m healthy, but what are all the different situations I might want to consider as a caretaker, as a caregiver, What are all the things I get thrown into different situations where I might be taking care of one woman on a Wednesday and a different gentleman on a Friday. And guess what? I’m substituting for another caregiver on on Tuesday. How how do I know and how can I show up really understanding what the family wants me to do and what is best for that client? What kind of information and technology is available for me to actually review their charts so we can look at all these different scenarios, one from a from an owner and an executive director, from a caregiver, from a loved one, and then look at all of the how do I navigate this and what are those different paths? What are those different services? What are the tools that are available to me? And we’ll quickly see. Wow, I can’t explain that to you in 5 minutes. I can’t even explain it to you in 5 hours. And so as a group, how can we bring those people together and say, what’s the starting point? What is the path I can navigate from each and every one of those different starting points? Proactive emergency situation caregiver And are we doing the right job and a good job at making that readily available? How can we make it easier to digest, more consumable, easier to act, act? And then ultimately, how can we go ahead and arm everyone with the right information to make change, to deliver the best care we can as this aging journey continues? And those are the things that I’m looking to take away is is really getting a renewed perspective, not just as a business perspective of how can we hit our ROI metrics and all of the key success metrics for our investors and our vendors and our constituents.


Cambria Jacobs: [00:19:05] But really, what is who are the people we’re addressing? And let’s start from that humor human perspective. Start with the customer. Who are they? Have we lost perspective and what are all the different paths we can take? And are we doing a good job? And let’s just start there. What is the path and where do we start and are we all in to making sure it’s it’s has as as less as less least amount of obstacles as possible and make this something that we can all be proud of. And there are all smart, dedicated, passionate people in this industry and everyone knows there’s a better way. It’s just kind of hard to see. It’s overwhelming and we’re all so darn busy that it just makes it hard. So this is two days carved out to get. He’ll get honest and make a plan and together say we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore. So let’s make change happen.


Katherine Wells: [00:19:54] Cambria I love that. And you said it so well, all of it. And I, I just want to add on to that last bit that you said were mad as hell. I had a meeting with a with a senior living owner who is kind of new to the industry recently, and he said, Am I the only one outraged? Am I the only one outraged by the way this works? And I said no. And so that’s how we’re finding our tribe. And I would say come to this event. And it’s an unconference. This is not like your typical event where you’re going to walk in and you’re going to sit in these lectures and network a little bit and go drink that night and whatever. That’s not it. If you’re coming to our event, we expect that you are coming because you want to create change and we’re going to task you with some change.


Cambria Jacobs: [00:20:43] Absolutely. And if mavericks, as far as your shows continue, we’ve got so many great sponsors, I’m hoping you guys will start to share a lot about what we’re doing differently about our village and the immersive experience and the continuation of wearing different hats so much that if there’s only one conference that you’re going to invest your dollars in this year. Collaboration In Aging 2023 at the Colorado Convention Center, that’s the place to be.


Francis LeGasse: [00:21:10] I will just add one thing I think or two things, sorry. One is it’s time we break the stigma around aging, around talking about these things that I think the industry just doesn’t want to talk about. I mean, everyone’s complacent in certain aspects of their realm. But I think one thing that we’ve we’ve done and are doing is forcing these conversations that are uncomfortable that get you in some sticky wickets because that is the only way you change. You don’t change from being comfortable, you change from being uncomfortable because change will only occur when staying the same is more painful than moving forward and changing. S


Katherine Wells: [00:21:51] and we’re at that point, don’t you think? I think we’re at that inflection point it is.


Francis LeGasse: [00:21:56]  We are. But I also think, too, we have to find ways that it’s okay. Again, as we talked before on the show, it’s okay to be different. Why do we have to conform? I mean, we we expect our older adults who are aging with physical or cognitive limitation to conform to what we think is abled bodies. That doesn’t that’s not how it works. It’s great that they can bring their fresh perspective, albeit maybe it seems a little wonky to us, but it’s their perspective and it’s totally okay to be different. Since when is different bad? And I think that’s the message we have to make sure we resonate back with. Those that are changing from an aging experience is different, is okay and different is cool. So let’s embrace that. But at the same time, how do we take that energy, put it into a model or models? I don’t think it’s one, by the way, to give an aging experience that celebrates the difference of everyone that’s aging. That’s where we’re ultimately going to get to. That’s the post card is when our three journeys of aging don’t look the same, but we just end up in the same spot.


Katherine Wells: [00:22:57] And that there’s less friction and and it’s a more it’s a more joyful journey. Oh, we have Maizy. Maizy made a guest surprise appearance. Hi, sweetie. Hi, Maizy.


Cambria Jacobs: [00:23:09] There you go. All right.


Katherine Wells: [00:23:11] And this is life. This is what we call life.


Cambria Jacobs: [00:23:16] I love it. So.


Katherine Wells: [00:23:20] I love it. I love it. Thank you for appearing. So super excited to Cambria. If people want to join collaboration in aging, which should they do?


Cambria Jacobs: [00:23:30] Absolutely. So three different things to do. One, go to There you will see a bunch of information but very clearly register to attend or sponsor. We’ve got a lot of incredible sponsorships not the traditional send your money and we’ll put your logo up there things sponsorship opportunities that will tell your why why are you here? What is the impact you’re making. So you can check those out and you can do everything online so you’re more than willing to welcome to go ahead and hit register now and attend. It’s a two day conference. We’ve got special early Earlybird discounts that run through mid-May. So make sure you get in there to snag that. If you happen to be a member of Calla or Cobra. We also have some special discounts available for you so you can go ahead and enter using your email that you’ve signed up for either of those organizations and you’ll automatically receive your very special discount. Also, follow us on LinkedIn collaboration and aging on LinkedIn, as well as on Facebook and all the social channels. Eventually, and we’ll be posting regular information contests, sharing our new speakers, new topics, and we want to hear from you. So if you’ve got topics that you would like us to cover, send them in to either mavericks or collaboration in Aging or also speakers that you think are incredible that we need to hear about. Please share because we want this to be a reflection of the community and those passionate about making change. We just happen to be the stewards of that at this point in time.


Francis LeGasse: [00:25:06] So well said!


Katherine Wells: [00:25:09] Thank you. Thanks for joining us today, Cambria. So appreciate you. And this was bright spot, episode number one, because we believe that tearing down silos and working together and collaborating better is a bright spot in the industry. So please join us.


Francis LeGasse: [00:25:26] So go out, pay it forward, share a little bit with someone else. And remember, being different is okay.


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