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Barraged from childhood on with negative messages about age and aging, most Americans absorb these beliefs and never think to question them. Drawing on decades of leadership in the field, Jill Vitale-Aussem illuminates these issues and explains why profound culture change in senior living is both necessary and possible. This book is a must-read...

About the Book

With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, the need for senior living is growing at a steep rate, and the aging services field has been hard at work preparing for these new customers. Current practices aim to bring the kind of comfort and amenities enjoyed at hotels and resorts to the settings we create for older adults to live in. But what if these efforts are misdirected?

Interweaving research on aging, ideas from influential thinkers in the aging services field, and the author’s own experiences managing and operating senior living communities, Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift challenges readers to question long-accepted practices, examine their own biases, and work toward creating vibrant cultures of possibility, purpose, and growth for elders.

Shining a light on her own professional field, Jill Vitale-Aussem exposes the errors of current thinking and demonstrates how a shift in perspective can effect real cultural transformation. Her book delves into society’s inherent biases about growing older—where ageism, paternalism, and ableism abound—and provokes readers to examine how a youth-obsessed culture unconsciously impacts even the most well-meaning senior living policies, practices, and organizations. Deconstructing the popular hospitality model, for example, Vitale-Aussem explains how it can actually undermine feelings of purpose and independence. In its place, she proposes better ways to create opportunities for older people to experience meaningful purpose, growth, and belonging.

Filled with empowering stories of elders who find purpose and belonging within their senior residences, Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living builds on AARP’s disrupt aging work and demonstrates that to truly transform senior living, we must dig deeper and create communities that promote the potential and value of the people who live and work in these settings.


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This is a great book that connects the dots between the isms of aging, the essential human components of living that we have often neglected in the systems we have developed, and where we need to go to better support each other as we grow older. It is filled with so many of my favorite things on these topics – the importance of community, authenticity, humility, and paradigm shifting, with a wealth of different perspectives, engaging stories, and practical examples.

About the Author

Jill Vitale Aussem Profile Picture

Jill Vitale-Aussem, MMH, LNHA, is a veteran of the senior living field with over two decades of experience leading senior living communities in the for-profit and not-for profit sectors. She is a licensed nursing home administrator, a certified assisted living administrator, a LeadingAge Academy Fellow, an Eden Alternative Guide, and a Certified Eden Alternative Educator.

Contact the author to inquire about speaking engagements or trainings.

Visit Jill Vitale-Aussem’s website at www.jillvitaleaussem.com

Jill’s first job was working in the kitchen of a nursing home in the mid 1980’s. As she ladled pureed glop into plastic bowls and watched residents sitting slumped over in wheelchairs, she thought, “I can’t believe people have to live this way at the end of their lives.” 

For over two decades, Jill has made changing the culture of nursing homes, assisted living communities, and retirement communities her life’s work as a nursing home administrator, continuing care retirement community (CCRC) executive director, and vice president of operations. In each role, Jill pushed back against the status quo and drove deep cultural transformation in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. These efforts not only improved the quality of life for the people who lived and worked in the communities but led to significant improvements in occupancy, financial, and regulatory outcomes. 

Jill now serves as President & CEO of The Eden Alternative, an international non-profit that partners with organizations including nursing homes, assisted living, retirement communities, and home care companies to create quality of life for elders and their care partners, no matter where they may live. In her work, Jill leads the development and implementation of tools, training, and consulting initiatives to transform organizations and educate everyone from nursing assistants to CEOs on how to create vibrant, life-affirming environments where each person matters and everyone has opportunities for growth and purpose, regardless of age or abilities. 

Jill presents powerful keynote addresses on topics such as leadership, ageism, and organizational transformation, and is available for speaking and training.

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Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living

In this interview with President and CEO of The Eden Alternative, Jill Vitale-Aussem discusses senior living, hospitality, ageism, and shifting our perspectives.

Read the Interview  
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Jill is a courageously introspective observer who is ethically and authentically dedicated to a world where older adults can age successfully no matter what challenges they face.

Ageism & the Mindshift

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It’s Time We Start Talking About Ageism

In this excerpt from her new book, Disrupting the Status Quo of Senior Living: A Mindshift, Jill Vitale-Aussem, President and CEO of The Eden Alternative, takes a serious and critical look at how we view aging. Society has condemned racism, sexism, classicism, and so on. It’s time we condemn ageism as well.

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How Senior Living Residents Took on a Thief…and Won

Working in senior living, we focus much of our sales and marketing efforts on telling people what they will receive if they move to our community. Rarely do we ask the questions: What will the older adult bring to this community? How will they make it a better place?

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Quotes from Jill Vitale-Aussem

There’s no other field where push-back against the status quo, disruption, and mindshifts are more needed than in senior living.

Jill Vitale-Aussem
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Examples of Ageism

  • Over-the-hill birthday cards and decorations
  • “Dress Like an Older Person Day” in grade schools (kids wear gray hair and fake dentures, use walkers or canes, etc.)
  • Anti-wrinkle creams, hair coloring to cover grays, and other beauty products that claim to combat aging
  • Statements like, “You look good for your age!” “60 is the new 50!”
  • Movies, news stories, and TV shows that depict elders as foolish, cranky, or pathetic
  • Workplaces that show age discrimination in their hiring practices
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Jill Vitale-Aussem clearly highlights the role of our culture’s negative perception of aging as the culprit for suffering in an otherwise natural life process, and promotes the importance of community, inclusion, and genuine belonging as opportunities for change. This book offers direct insights into where we are and where we could go if we are open to the possibilities that could result from ‘disrupting the status quo.'
Dr. Peter Reed, Professor and Director, Sanford Center for Aging, University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine


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What is senior living?

Senior living refers to any congregate living for older people and includes nursing homes, retirement homes, and assisted living.

What is the hospitality model?

This approach to senior living is modeled after hotels and resorts, and is usually geared toward customer service and amenities.

What is culture change?

In senior living, it is an organizational transformation moving from an institutional to a person-directed approach to care and support.

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Facts and Figures about Aging and Senior Living 

The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060, and will make up 23% of the population. In the 2000 census, they were only 12% of the U.S. population.

In 2017, the not-for-profit senior living organization National Senior Campuses reported over 19,000 senior living units across the United States.

A survey from the national Disabled Living Foundation charity found that more people are afraid of losing their independence in old age and being forced to move into a nursing home than they are of dying.

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Reading Guide

Coming Soon