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Advocacy Approaches

When most people think of advocacy they think of legislation.  But we are not convinced that legislation is the most effective means to bring about change.  There are three approaches that we perceive for bring America’s elderly and those who are aging the reliable and trustworthy services that are the basis for responsible aging.

Entrepreneurship.

Most change in America is led by entrepreneurs who seek to improve life by introducing innovative products, services, and approaches to fulfillment.  Those who succeed are often richly rewarded but it is rare that entrepreneurs are motivated solely by financial rewards.  These are visionary people who imagine a better world and who seek to play a small (or large) part in bringing that world into existence.

Developers are sometimes seen as entrepreneurs, and they may well be, though developers tend to be more motivated by the profit potential than by the creative opportunities.  Typically, they operate within the minimum standards of building codes and the maximization of opportunity possible under zoning codes.

Our focus here is on the entrepreneurial opportunities in senior housing and services offered by the emerging swelling of the ranks America’s aging population and by the entrenched paralysis of conventional thinking.  The chief deterrents to entrepreneurial activity in the senior space are the fragile vulnerability of the population served, which can invite unwelcome adverse publicity, and the micro regulation of reactive legislation which impedes innovation by mandating such matters as staffing ratios and the like.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are rare, though not nonexistent, in the nonprofit, tax exempt, and public, government agency, sectors of the economy.  Most often, entrepreneurs rely on the availability of venture and equity capital to finance their vision.  Such capital is unavailable, aside from donations, to nonprofit enterprises.  Government enterprises have access to money generating capabilities of the state but they are impeded by the political considerations of contending political parties and special interests.

Litigation.

Managements sometimes become arrogant in their decision authority and they may make decisions, or introduce practices, that are detrimental to their customers and that are violative of the implicit covenant of good faith and fair dealing which underlies all trust-based undertakings.  Senior housing and services are such trust-based undertakings.

Regulators are charged with ensuring that services comply with statutory requirements but statutes can be politically motivated and regulators often give priority to some aspects of their statutory authority in preference to others.  Regulators are typically constrained from making determinations in equity since they can be criticized if they are seen to exceed their statutory authority.

In these situations, the trial bar can play a positive role.  Most contracts for senior services are contracts of adhesion.  Seniors who may desperately need services are forced to accept the one-sided contracts offered by providers or do without the services which may lead to diminished health and even loss of life.   Even these unilaterally drafted contracts then frequently preclude the fair process of judicial proceeding since the contracts may include mandatory arbitration provisions.  That can result in disputes being brought before forums that depend principally on provider funding for their business success.  Unfortunately, this tendency of the legal system to act against the protections that seniors might need as their cognition wanes and the desperation of their needs accelerates, has discouraged the trial bar from being as involved in senior issues as might be desirable in upholding the public interest in fair contracts, fairly administered, and fairly fulfilled.

Nevertheless, litigation (and legislation encouraging a private right of action in defense of residents) remains a critical component in seeking to give seniors the trustworthy senior services that they need.

Legislation.

As noted elsewhere in discussing Bills of Rights, legislation is coercive and results in pushback by those who are reluctantly required to meet a good faith standard that they might otherwise prefer to avoid. Still, legislation is often the only approach available to those who believe that they have been duped by misrepresentations or by providers who put enterprise interests before the welfare of those they exist to serve.

Business Maxims and Principles

The purpose of business is customer value; profit will follow from gains in customer value.

Business without integrity is predatory; mutual trust and candor lie at the heart of positive business dealings.

Make those who buy happier than those who didn’t.

Instead of investing in selling a bad product, change it to a good product and people will buy it.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Self-preservation trumps mission.

People don’t do what you expect, they do what you inspect.

In maintenance what you miss now is a job you won’t want to do later.

You snooze, you lose.

Top tier people hire top tier people and more and praise them; second tier people hire third tier people and criticize them.

For profit entities are generally lower cost than nonprofit or governmental entities. Ownership provides a performance incentive that is missing in nonprofit or government enterprises. 

Organizations perform better when they obsess on customers in preference to greed.

 

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Adminstration:  Active Aging Advocates, 2855 Carlsbad Blvd., N116, Carlsbad, CA 92008

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