I am Still Being Heard

2015-09-18 13.45.40

Don’t worry, I am still here.

Maybe you are wondering why you haven’t heard from me lately? Well, even though I don’t like to put myself in a box, I have actually been stuck in boxes as we make our move to the Washington, DC area. Bear with me as I find my desk, and you will hear from me soon! Stay tuned for a new blog post next week!


“You must go on adventures to find out where you belong.” -Sue Fitzmaurice

A Crowd-Sourcing Experiment: Let’s Build the Artifacts of Living Well

I need your help. Let’s build something together! (Seriously, I need your help.)


The Artifacts of Culture Change is a tool that was developed to help nursing homes (and other types of care communities) rate themselves on where they are on their culture change journey, and where they want to go.

Note: There is a possibility my parents might be reading this, and I am not sure they really know what I do (I love you, Mom and Dad, for keeping me humble), so I will briefly explain culture change. Culture change refers to changing the culture of aging, and how we support each other as we grow older. There are lots of ways we need to change the culture of aging, but culture change is usually thought of the change in a nursing home (or another type of care community like assisted living) from an institutional culture to a true community in which people live with choice, dignity, respect, self-determination, and meaning. If you want to learn more about the culture change movement, go to http://www.pioneernetwork.org. Or, Mom and Dad, ask me when I drop off the dog next week- thank you for pet-sitting!

The Artifacts of Culture Change is a great achievement in making culture change in care communities a little more concrete. It helps to identify what are the elements of a culture we want to see, and whether changes to become this culture are actually happening. The term artifact is especially important because artifacts, at a basic level, are those things that tell us about what a culture is like.  This is for any culture. I think the idea of cultural artifacts are fascinating – it really makes you think about what we mean by a culture.

We might say something like, “the culture of my workplace is very casual and fun”. But what does this mean? If an alien came into your workplace, what evidence might they see that this is true? Maybe artifacts of this casual, fun culture are people wearing jeans, or Friday happy hour (if so, I want to work there).


In the nursing home world, an artifact of an institutional culture might be rigid mealtimes (breakfast is only served at 7), or an institutional-looking environment (long hallways, sterile, low natural light, etc.). Artifacts of a nursing home culture that is a true community (one that is going through a culture change) might be the people who live there having choices in when and what they eat, what they do throughout the day, and nice and accessible outside spaces. The Artifacts of Culture Change helps to evaluate whether a care community is a home or an institution. And many more things. Important things.

But I can’t help thinking – even if these things are in place, what do we know about how people are living in this nursing home?  What is their life like?  Maybe we also need to focus on the individuals living in care communities. Are they living well?  If we think about a good culture, one in which people are living well, what would this look like?

I have an idea about another type of Artifacts tool. I want an Artifacts of Living Well tool.


What would be the artifacts of a good life? For anybody. If we think about this question just for people living in nursing homes, we tend to lower the bar a little. So, we have to think about it broadly. Let’s imagine a place called “The Republic of Living Well”. We are visiting the Republic of Living Well. As we tour around this place, how do we know that people are living well in this culture? What are the artifacts of its “living well” culture?

So, what would an Artifacts of Living Well tool look like? Of course, each person’s definition of living well might be unique. But, I assume there are some things that are universal. I’ll start.

Some artifacts of living well might be:

  • Smiling.
  • A person making yum sounds when they take a bite of cake.
  • A sigh when a person gets into a comfortable bed.
  • Helping someone.
  • Laughter.
  • Tan lines (evidence that a person spends some time outside).
  • The light in a person’s eyes when they see someone they love.

What else is evidence of a good life? Tell me what you think. Help me build the Artifacts of Living Well. We can do this together.