As senior living and skilled nursing professionals joined together to work through pandemic-related challenges, new connections were made and long-term friendships were formed.

Those are some of the “bright spots” of COVID-19, LeadingAge Board of Directors Chair Carol Silver Elliott said Tuesday when delivering the keynote address opening the 2020 LeadingAge Annual Meeting Virtual Experience.

“There is light in all of this, and for me, part of that is our dedication to getting through this together,” Elliott, president and CEO of the Jewish Home Family in Rockleigh, NJ, told those watching from computers across the country. “So many times, our colleagues helped one another. So many times, we connected to provide information.”

Elliott shared anecdotes of nonprofit aging services professionals confronting fears and questions; helping peers in other organizations find personal protective equipment, tests and testing services; supporting or grieving for family, friends, colleagues and residents who struggled or were lost to COVID; and enduring lay media reports describing providers as “death pits.” LeadingAge, she said, has been a source of information and support as well as a “strong and powerful” advocate for the industry during the pandemic.

“All of these things have brought us together. All of these things have united us in ways we’ve never been united before,” she said. “And I believe that the critical thing now is for us to stay united.”

As members move forward together, “we have to recognize that leadership is really about running toward versus running away. Sometimes I think it’s as simple as that,” Elliott said. “We have to understand that we are in a position, as leaders, where we have the opportunity to really be that person who stays in the forefront, who’s there all the time.”

In her speech at last year’s annual meeting in San Diego, when Elliott was announced as board chair, two of her stated goals were fighting ageism and shifting the mindset about aging. Those are still worthy — and needed — goals. And now providers have a fortified framework to use to run toward them as well as any toward other challenge facing the industry. 

The meeting continues Wednesday and Thursday of this week as well as Tuesday through Thursday next week.

LeadingAge Chair Carol Silver Elliott delivers the opening keynote of the 2020 LeadingAge Annual Meeting Virtual Experience on Tuesday.

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