The Joy of Connections

December 15, 2016

The holidays are such an odd conundrum of emotions. I’m in my late 50’s, but it still rekindles strong, incredibly strong emotions when I see things still a part of our culture today that were in full swing when I was young. I remember shopping for Christmas trees with Mom and Dad – Mom wanting the bigger tree, Dad trying to save money. The magic and romance of all of the shopping energy, counting the days until the one night when Rudolph, Charlie Brown, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas were on TV (way before VCR’s even!) Mom baking cookies in the kitchen, my older brothers and sisters coming home for the holidays. It was magic, some of the emotions literally impact all of my senses.

So for iN2L, and for many of you reading this, the flip side to those memories and connections is the loss that occurs for so many people during the holidays. The isolation, disconnectedness, loneliness that so many residents feel. The creativity of so many of our communities to combat these realities is a never ending source of amazement.

One of the first stories came from Mary Grace Smigiel, long term friend of mine and the administrator at the very first community iN2L ever set up, Christian Living Communities. Mary Grace is now at Vi at Highlands Ranch, but when we got our first computer set up at CLC (in 2001!) she was curious about iN2L, but wasn’t exactly sure how it would fit. Troy Dunning talked her into it. She describes it better than I can, but her epiphany moment came when she was leaving her office one early evening around the holidays, and saw a family member, with her Dad, meticulously picking out clothes online. Back then it was a novelty to shop online, but the father had been left out of the gift giving process for so long that the whole process was inspiring for Mary Grace. She instantly understood the power of technology, and the connections possible.

That same concept (on steroids) goes out to Cameo Rogers and her staff from Vetter Health Services in Nebraska. One of their residents, normally jovial, would become abnormally depressed during the holidays. Cameo and Vetter (as is their style) refused to just sit by, they dove deep to figure out the underlying issue. It turns out the resident’s depression was driven by not being a part of watching her grandkids open gifts on Christmas morning. So they shopped online two weeks before Christmas with the resident to pick out the appropriate gifts. Then one of the Vetter life enrichment staff came in on Christmas morning, and sitting side by side with Grandma, they Skyped into each of the grandkids homes and she watched them open the presents that had been delivered that Grandma had picked out. That’s pretty cool!

And then there is content. Digital content. The sounds, the music, the movies, and old TV shows. iN2L has all kinds of holiday-centric content on our systems laid out in orderly, easy-to-use fashion. And of course there is Spotify, YouTube, etc. But the point is that people, wherever they are physically or cognitively, can be energized and connected through the holidays through various types of content.

So as you build your own memories to bank in the future, especially if you’re blessed with children around, remember that the power of the connections you can provide for the elders you are serving is endless. And if I wind up in one of your communities downstream, I do get scared, no matter how old I get, when I see the Abominable Snowman in Rudolph.

Happy Holidays – be grateful.