My letter to Paul Spring residents, staff and families

Today Paul Spring staff shared a letter that I wrote explaining my project with the residents and staff. They said that the turnout was better than normal for a meeting of this type and residents were generally supportive and interested in my project.

A letter to Paul Spring residents, staff and families

From: Steve Gurney

I wanted to take some time to introduce myself to you, and explain why a 43 year old father of two is interested in moving into your community to live as your neighbor.

For nearly 20 years, I have made my living as the Publisher of Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook, a publication that helps individuals make informed and objective decisions by providing details on senior living communities like Paul Spring. Chances are there are a few of you living here that used SourceBook to help you research your decision to move to Paul Spring.

In my career, I have immersed myself in the business of “aging” and “elder care”. I have read and researched; I have taken every opportunity to speak to elders and their families to better understand the choices and challenges. I have formed relationships with public, private and non-profit providers serving elders to better understand their challenges and help create solutions. I estimate that I have visited and toured at least 500 senior living communities in the last two decades.

While I have great knowledge and compassion, I recognize that I lack a very important perspective – I have never experienced what it truly feels like to be a resident in a senior living community.

I view this opportunity to live with you at Paul Spring as a tremendous privilege, and as an important opportunity to understand and share a perspective on a life transition that my peer group won’t experience first hand for many years.

To better understand my project, I think it might be helpful to explain what I won’t be doing as your neighbor:
• I won’t be pretending to be any older than I am, I am 43 years old.
• I won’t be pretending to have any disabilities.
• I won’t be asking for assistance from staff if I don’t need it.
• I won’t be interviewing residents for articles.
• I won’t be conducting investigative journalism or seeking to uncover a controversy.
• I won’t have a camera following me.
• I won’t be communicating with my office or my family during my stay.
• I won’t have a car in the parking lot.

Some of the things I will be trying to do as your neighbor:
• I will be trying to make new friends.
• I will be curious about you and want to hear your thoughts and stories.
• I will want to talk about things that interest me.
• I will want to participate in as many activities as possible.
• I will be focusing exclusively on my personal feelings about making this transition.
• I will be recording my feelings in writing and in the form of video diaries to share with others.

I understand that this may not provide me with a completely authentic experience of the transition that an actual resident makes. This project, however, provides a great deal more insight than to continue to simply imagine what it’s like to be a resident. I already have  gained perspective on this transition and I haven’t even moved in yet. I have had the opportunity to reflect on the admissions process, downsizing and the memories of my home from a first-person perspective, instead of through the perspective of a reader, close friend or loved one.  I appreciate the opportunity Paul Spring has provided me for this experience, and look forward to meeting you soon as a neighbor.

If you have questions, comments or concerns about this project I encourage you to contact me at 703-992-1118 or via email at [email protected].

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