Embrace Living with Rebecca Priest: What’s Next?

Rebecca Priest

Last week was a pretty amazing and emotional ride at St. John’s Home. We celebrated 14 centenarians who shared a wonderful luncheon put on by Bridget Cudzillo and Therapeutic Recreation staff members.

I was marveling at the families and the staff members who were enjoying good music, good food, and a relaxed comfort in just being together in a way that only 100 years on this earth affords.

Deb Malcomb, from Tulip Neighborhood (Hastings 2), was there with Cissy, who turns 104 this year, and I was watching the two of them interact. Deb was, like many of you can be, incredible. She is connected to Cissy, and Cissy’s daughter shared how helpful this has been for her.

Then there was Sam Rivera. He is a most magnificent soul. He makes it look effortless to get people comfortable and to help them eat with dignity. Sam is unmatched in ensuring elders are engaged and connected to their day. It did not go unnoticed that his efforts really connected each elder and their family to the celebration that was planned for them.

I am in awe of Deb and Sam. Hundreds of elders have crossed their experienced paths and they remain open to each person who is right in front of them. They are open to something different each day. They are looking to grow through real relationships with the elders and families with whom they come in contact.

For many years, both of these experienced team members have given energy, emotional investment, and tangible support to elders who live at St. John’s. In the same breath, they have received in spades great love, great gratitude, and great wisdom from elders who have seen more and experienced more than any of us.

It goes both ways—this job. We give and we receive.

I asked those elders who lived more than 100 years what their secret was. The resounding consensus was this . . .

“I wake up each day and try to learn something new, do something I haven’t done. I ask myself, ‘What haven’t you tried yet?’”

What a great and courageous way to live in the potentially uncomfortable, unfamiliar place of “What’s next?” Deb and Sam ask the elders with whom they work side by side, “What haven’t you done yet?” and then they help them to make it happen.

We are on a journey as an organization, but also as an industry. What’s familiar is being pushed to “what’s next.” We are being called to do what hasn’t been done yet and to push the image of ourselves as care partners to a place that is unchartered, different, and yet, oh-so doable.

These centenarian elders reminded me that ultimately we are on a journey as individuals. We have to seek our own response to “what’s next for us” both personally and professionally. We have to remain open to the uncertainty of a new experience each day, or we will deny ourselves the opportunity to grow.

This week, I’m taking a lesson from those elders, from Sam, and from Deb. I’m waking up saying, “What haven’t I tried yet? What’s next?”

Then, I’m going to try it.

Rebecca Priest,
Administrator, Skilled Services

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