The Future Leaders Awards program is brought to you in partnership with PointClickCare. The program is designed to recognize up-and-coming industry members who are shaping the next decade of senior housing, skilled nursing, home health and hospice care. To see this year’s future leaders, visit Future Leaders online.
Amanda Navolynski, community navigator at Mary’s Woods, has been named a 2023 Future Leader by Senior Housing News.
To become a Future Leader, an individual is nominated by their peers. The candidate must be a high-performing employee who is 40-years-old or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put vision into action, and an advocate for seniors and the committed professionals who ensure their well-being.
Navolynski sat down with Senior Housing News to talk about what drew her to the industry and the lessons she has learned over her time at Mary’s Woods, a non-profit senior housing organization with a vision to develop a continuum of housing, health and educational services for seniors. Navolynski also discusses the ways the industry is changing and what qualities other future leaders should possess in the industry.
What drew you to this industry?
I have always had a love of being around older adults. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up and my mom was also my grandfather’s main caregiver while he was on hospice, so I was there every day with her. I even had my 13th birthday party at the local senior center!
When I was in college I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I had a professor suggest trying out some gerontology classes. It was the best recommendation I was ever given. I instantly fell in love with the courses, service projects and practicum experiences.
What’s your biggest lesson learned since starting to work in this industry?
The biggest lesson I have learned is, “Everyone has the right to make their own choices, even bad ones.” When you are helping residents and families you see everything from an outside perspective and through your own personal lens. It can also be hard being young in this industry, because people won’t want to take your advice or recommendations. I started right out of college and I heard a lot of, “You’re young, what could you possibly know about aging?” I quickly learned that you give the information thoroughly and confidently and people will do with it what they will. Our role is to provide guidance and support.
If you could change one thing with an eye toward the future of senior housing, what would it be?
The sustainability of senior housing. Between the increasing cost of senior care, the constant staffing shortages and the ever-present need, there needs to be a shift. Many of us that are working within senior housing couldn’t afford to live where we work. I have worked in a few different roles and it is always hard to see those who are priced out of care and support. The cost keeps going up in order to provide better support to residents and staff a livable and competitive wage that they can thrive on. It’s a constant cycle. That compounded with the shortages of staff working in the industry, and we are faced with an ever-changing mathematical story problem that needs a creative, forward looking, and sustainability focused eye. It’s going to take the entire industry to make a meaningful change to better serve our residents and staff.
What do you foresee as being different about the senior housing industry looking ahead to 2023?
The biggest difference is the residents themselves. Just looking at my own community, we have several generations living here. Their priorities and what they find fulfilling and important have changed. We have already seen a shift in the demand for new activities like ballet, jazz and barre classes from traditional activities like BINGO (although still VERY popular). We have also seen a large shift in dining programs and the types of meals they want made available to them. Our residents are incredibly diverse in how they want their retirement to play out. The seniors themselves, and how they picture their retirement, are some of the largest changes I see in the industry.
In a word, how would you describe the future of senior housing?
What quality must all Future Leaders possess?
Being able to adapt. We can’t do things the way we always have, just because that’s the way it has been done. We need to look to the residents, the staff, and the future and stay quick on our toes. No day is ever the same, and I think that is why so many of us love this industry, but it can also be a challenge. You can’t let yourself become stuck in a rut or the industry is going to change and leave you in the dust.