At its annual meeting this October, the Lifespace Board of Directors made the unprecedented announcement that it will be adding a Board position designated for a resident. Given the significance of the move, Lifespace held an open discussion session shortly thereafter to garner direct input and feedback. Participants included 13 resident leaders representing all Lifespace communities and home office team members. Psychologist Bill Friedman and Lifespace senior vice president of operations Ann Walsh facilitated the session.
“We had great dialogue about the opportunities and challenges the resident board member could face, especially as it relates to confidentiality,” said Walsh. “You could sense the excitement in the room and it was clear the residents felt this was a positive step forward for the organization.”
Participants largely expected the resident Board member to provide a diverse resident perspective on the board of directors and to serve as a segue to a better understanding of how Lifespace is governed. There was confidence that the resident representative will enhance transparency and trust while strengthening the camaraderie between residents and the Board.
“I think it’s an excellent idea,” said Bob Hale of Beacon Hill, one of the resident leaders who participated in the discussion. Hale serves as the treasurer of the resident council at his community. “The more involvement there is, the happier people are. There’s a peace of mind knowing we’ll have a seat at the table.”
In addition, attendees noted that each Lifespace community is unique and representing them equally will be paramount. Balancing the workload and time commitment of the role, and discerning between present and future interests, were also identified as needing special attention.
“On the one hand they’re a board member, and on the other they’re a resident,” noted Hale. It’s going to be challenging to maintain an objective separation when balancing the organization’s interests and the interests of residents, but I’m confident it can be done.”
While they acknowledged that the role will carry some challenges, participants also offered words of encouragement to the prospective future resident Board member. They advised on the benefits of being a good listener, communicator and learner. They also dispelled potential worries about being overwhelmed by the new role by pointing to the Lifespace support system.
Following the discussion, Walsh noted that one thing was clear: Resident leaders and the home office team were eager and supportive of the addition of a resident board member in April 2019.
[Photo: Friendship Village of Bloomington residents Chloris Wendt (left), Susan Lighter (center) and Ann Walsh at a community event.]
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