Evermore Founder Sara McKee writes about what she learnt at the recent Green House Project about how we can tackle aged care challenges by keeping it simple, and the importance of celebrating differences.

I recently attended the annual Green House Project conference in Fort Lauderdale. It was fantastic to be in a T-shirt in November – having left rather chillier conditions back in Manchester.  It was also great to be with hundreds of believers from across America who are delivering a better way of living in older age, every day.

I was the only English person at the conference alongside fellow international explorers from Panama, Brazil, Bermuda, Israel and Singapore. However, if you take the vast expanse that is the United States, then it felt truly multicultural with folks from Alaska to Colorado, Pittsburgh and New Orleans.

Whilst the language of the conference was English, this multicultural dimension made us all recognise our differences in culture, approach and, indeed, language. We may all be speaking the same words, but do we really understand each other’s meaning?

James Wright delivered a challenging keynote on diversity and inclusion, highlighting our scientifically proven hidden biases. He explained how we operate on an unconscious level which makes us have implicit preferences.  A book he referenced about the topic is ‘The Hidden Brain’ and I’m going to read it to find out more.

One example he gave was how we make assumptions based on accent. He said that coming from South Carolina, he’d trained out his southern drawl as that made him sound stupid in the eyes/ears of others. Good News for me was that he said the English accent was universally seen as the smartest sound!

He was keen to point out that it doesn’t make us racists or any particular “–ists” – it simply is how we’re made! His mission is to move from talking about equality to equity – a discussion deserving of a blog of its own.

What can we learn from all of this?

We had gathered at this conference, many colours, ages and backgrounds to talk about the challenges we all faced with an ageing population and a shrinking workforce. Yes, we had similar challenges, we could share experiences and our different solutions. And yet we were not all the same.  That’s where it felt we had real strength. If we celebrated our differences and built on our joint appetite for collaboration, we could continue to innovate and create new opportunities for living well in older age.

James shared this clever video which reinforced the point for me: “Be together, not the same

My take away from the conference – Keep it Simple:

  • Simplify our approach to engaging with customers – what matters to you? Not what’s the matter with you!
  • Simplify our language – let’s get rid of the jargon. We talk about ‘convivium’ at the heart of our family households, yet it’s hard to say and even harder to spell – so let’s talk about sharing our life together and breaking bread.
  • Be consumer driven – let’s develop and deliver services that are focused on what our customers want. Sounds obvious, but often feels like rocket science in the world of aged care.
  • Translate connectedness, meaning, purpose and exercise into everyday activities. Not make each element someone’s task.

I’ve come back from the conference feeling re-energised and determined to maintain our international collaboration as we can all learn and build new world thinking together.

Sara McKee

Evermore Founder and Director of Market Innovation 

Follow Sara on Twitter @SaraMcKeeFRSA