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2014 Pioneer Network Conference: Journey to the Heartland

August 25, 2014

The Pioneer Network‘s 2014 conference was held in Kansas City, a beautiful place in the center of America. And many pioneers made this “Journey to the Heartland” to meet, share, learn, and teach what they have come to know about a person-directed, relationship-based culture of caring. More than 1,200 attendees made this one of the largest Pioneer Network conferences ever, with attendees from 46 states and four Canadian provinces.

PHI team members presented on a range of workforce and culture change topics. Notably, PHI Organizational Change Consultant Cean Eppelheimer shared the results of the One Vision policy and practice project in Michigan. This initiative brought together regulators, providers, and professionals to gain consensus on long-term care practices that advance person-directed living. One Vision has the potential to be a replicable state model for collaboration on cultural transformation.

One of my favorite aspects to this year’s meeting was the presence of several authors who presented innovative and challenging ideas about aging. The opportunity to meet authors through educational sessions, hear their ideas, and explore and debate their theses was a rare and valuable treat.

Beth Baker, an award winning journalist, followed up her first book, Old Age in a New Age: The Promise of Transformative Nursing Homes, with her new work, With a Little Help from Our Friends: Creating Community as We Grow Older. Baker tells the story of people devising innovative ways to live as they approach retirement, options that ensure they are surrounded by a circle of friends, family, and neighbors. The book is based upon interviews and visits in communities around the country, and challenges traditional choices and pathways. Both her presentation and participation in other sessions at the conference brought the voice of families and Baby Boomers intentionally into conversations.

Also, Dr. Bill Thomas, a visionary writer and creator of The Eden Alternative, The Green House Project, and elder-friendly emergency departments, presented a plenary session reflecting upon his Second Wind tour and his new book Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life. Dr. Thomas challenged us to be bold and push harder for change. He stated that the long-term care community has been too comfortable “adjusting around the edges,” which results in modest and incremental impact. Dr. Thomas said that in order to take bolder steps, we need to be willing to experiment with things at which we may not yet be competent. How can we move into the uncharted unknown when we cling to safe, well-worn thoughts and actions?

Once again Dr. Thomas lays down the gauntlet, challenging us to move ahead, to innovate, and to give up what feels safe and comfortable to achieve new possibilities, meaningful lives, and relationships.

Thank you Bill Keane, Gwen Knight, Lynda Crandall, Cathy Leiblich, and the Education Committee of the Pioneer Network for a really terrific time in Kansas City! Start planning now for the August 2015 meeting in Chicago.

— by Anna Ortigara, PHI Organizational Change Consultant

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