Hope in Sheep’s Clothing

By igniting hope, we drive purpose and passion into aging services.

That is our mission at Drive. It’s at the end of every blog, if you are super astute and have noticed. These words are sacred to our small organization. Purpose. Passion. Hope.

Purpose and Passion

Purpose and passion have untold benefits to the seniors of the world. To live out the last part of life filled with purpose and passion is an incredible experience we should all hope to have. But as we age, the scope of what we can do to live purposefully diminishes, and the opportunities we have to feel passionate also wax and wane, along with our faculties and dexterity. Sadly, the aging process can rob elders of living the rewarding life they’re entitled to. And so, isolation, depression, and feeling like a burden to the world become common themes in aging. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way. 

We need to remember that isolation is not a normal part of aging. 
We need to remember that depression is not a normal part of aging. 
Isolation and depression have no place in senior living. 

It takes a group of purposeful and passionate care takers to make the difference for our elders. 

The Story of Chris

Chris achieved international fame when he was rescued in 2015. He was a merino ram living in Australia who set the Guinness Book of World Records record for the most wool sheared at one time, 91 pounds. You see, Chris had been separated from his flock and living in the wild, among the kangaroo, for an estimated five years. His species is bred to produce wool and, therefore, requires being sheared of it on a yearly basis. 

The record-breaking title he earned was not something to be jealous of in the sheep world. Chris really was the most neglected sheep in the world; that was his true title. His mobility and health were severely impacted by the overgrowth of wool, and his legs were permanently damaged by the weight. 

The excess wool was removed by a world-renowned shearer during a day-long procedure, and Chris was adopted shortly after. As the accounts go, Chris became a new ram in his new home, surrounded by creatures of his kind and finally free of the burden of his wool, which was five times his weight. His rescuers at the Little Oak Sanctuary reported his bleat grew stronger and was very recognizable among his new flock. His personality shone through too, and for the first time in a long time, he was seen for who he really was, “a gentle, character-filled chap.” 

Chris died a few weeks ago. His caretakers at the animal sanctuary released a beautiful statement in his honor. “He will live on in our memories, but his presence will be missed by both his sheep and human friends who loved him. Chris teaches us that we are all more than what happens to us. He was someone, not something.”

Hope

The wooliest sheep in the world can teach us a lesson in senior living. Having no purpose in life, while being separated from your flock, causes one to live a very heavy existence. 

We are all more than the aging process. We are more than crummy hearing and failing sight and gray hair and wrinkled skin. We are more than our wheelchair and our impediments. We are more than our needs, meds, and schedule. 

Don’t overlook the shining spirits, glimmering flicks of the people we once were before the years took their toll, tucked away just waiting for an opportunity to shine again. The spirit yearns for so much. Just like Chris. 

Senior living can provide an opportunity for residents to shine again. Free of the challenges of living at home and alone without assistance, seniors have a fresh opportunity to join a group, pick up a hobby, or reconnect with themselves. 

Purpose and Passion for our Teams

In our last blog, we highlighted the work being done by our clients, the amazing team at Parker at Somerset in New Jersey, led by Erica Rattray-St. Jean, MSW, on their over three years of success with the Living with a Purpose Club. Living with a Purpose empowers elders to use their hands and creativity to make flower arrangements, Christmas globes, and terrariums, that are sold to raise money for various charitable groups. The seniors in this club are fulfilled and busy, doing, and their families have the distinct joy of knowing Mom or Dad is not just surviving, but thriving.

Teams who are connected to their work through their own passion and purpose, like the team at Parker, can achieve higher level outcomes for those they care for. Linking the need of residents to feel good about themselves with the unmet needs of the local community and beyond creates a unique opportunity for big things to happen while banishing isolation and depression. 

A Culture of Purpose and Passion 

It’s not an accident or luck when a great program comes together and sustains through the years. It comes back to culture.

A team who is consumed with blame, distracted by gossip or bullying, or led by disengaged or overwhelmed leadership, cannot focus on the holistic needs of their residents. Teams bogged down in toxic culture will struggle to meet even the basic needs of their residents. There will be turnover, there will be inconsistency of care, and it will be met with desperate hiring and nonexistent training, just to fill vacancies and get warm bodies on the floor. We hope that the elder living in this toxic culture will be fed and bathed, but who is caring for his/her emotional wellbeing? Who is stepping up to fill those needs? Is a senior more likely to be depressed or isolated in this environment? 

When culture is prioritized and values are aligned, the right people are hired, teamwork emerges, leadership is exceptional, accountability is high, and the cohesive group can achieve higher level outcomes such as prioritizing an emotionally satisfying environment for seniors to experience passion and purpose again. 

Parker is an example where both residents and team members are driven by purpose and passion and man, oh man…or ram, oh ram…does it give us hope. 🐑