Hallowed Ground: Stories of Successful Aging
Enjoy this interview by Clint Maun, CSP with Larry Minnix celebrating his new book on positive stories of successful aging.
March 05, 2019
A celebration of Hallowed Ground with Clint Maun and Larry Minnix
Clint Maun recently interviewed his long-time friend and colleague Larry Minnix, formerly head of LeadingAge (national) and a major figurehead in the field of aging services, regarding his new book, Hallowed Ground: Stories of Successful Aging. We wanted to share that interview with all of you in an effort to help promote this uplifting compendium of positive stories on aging to better reflect and promote the amazing work and results being celebrated at aging services providers across the country.
You can listen to the interview using the audio player or read the transcript below if preferred. We encourage all of you to read this wonderful book and be reminded that we are all responsible for sharing our success stories to help improve healthcare for everyone!
The book is available for purchase on Amazon in paperbook and e-book formats. If you have questions or comments for Larry Minnix, you can contact him at:
Clint: Hi, this is Clint Maun, Senior Partner with Maun-Lemke Speaking and Consulting and I have the honor today to chat with a colleague and a friend of mine, Larry Minnix. Larry’s been an executive in aging services for a number of years and he also had the opportunity to lead LeadingAge national for a number of years and now he’s written a great book called Hallowed Ground: Stories of Successful Aging. I’ve had the opportunity to read this book. I’ve had the opportunity to give it out to a number of my colleagues and friends and people that I know—even gave it to my mother to read. It’s a great book and I just wanted to chat with Larry today about it and what got into his mind about writing this. It’s stories that he’s collected over the years and it’s a really cool way to think about how to age successfully or what are the opportunities or barriers in aging successfully. So Larry, thank you for joining me on this interview today.
Larry: Clint, I want to thank you for the many people you have helped in our field over the years through your consulting and you’re a great combination of wise and funny. You don’t see that too often and I think that’s one of the things that attracts me to you in our friendship and colleagueship over the years so thank you very much.
Clint: Thank you for saying those kind words. So Larry, you made a decision that it was time to move on from a daily executive role with LeadingAge and now you’re busy speaking and consulting around and you had the time to write this book. Tell me how that came to mind.
Larry: Well, I’ve been in the field of aging and mental health services for over forty years and what I’ve found in giving speeches to churches, civic groups, and other things, it’s the stories people relate to as we all deal with the aging issues in our families. I learned that by example people can say, “Oh, that’s what I’ve been dealing with and this helps me get through it.” So people were saying to me, especially the latter part of my formal professional life, “You ought to write these stories down and write a book.” My wife stayed after me about it and I did so I found it very fulfilling to go back and look at all my notes and think about the people and the lessons in life that they illustrate and that’s been very satisfying to me, and people are starting to read it and [give] feedback on, “Boy, this helped me to understand my family.” One woman wrote and she said I’ve been the caretaker for my parents and my in-law parents for over twenty years and she wrote in bold print, “and I did it right!” which has got to be validating to somebody cause there are sometimes no simple answers to some of these problems we face and you find families that feel guilty cause they didn’t do it good enough or worried that they did something the wrong way or handled it the wrong way and this woman felt validated.
Clint: That’s a very cool way to look at this and I think that the key to your book is it’s positive stories, yet with the realistic barriers and issues that are faced everyday in working within your family and your friends. It’s even applicable I think for people to read this book if they’re still being providers or professionals or clinicians in aging services. Even though the stories relate to things that are going on in the lives of mature seniors, so to speak, I think it’s got a lot of application for people to realize and read if you’re still involved everyday in trying to provide services. Don’t you think that?
Larry: Oh, no question about it and one of the things that I want to encourage our colleagues in the field to do is if you read this book, and there’s close to a hundred stories if you will, individual people in situations, colleagues can look at this and say, “Oh wow! Well I can identify with that!” I want to encourage all providers to setup a way for them to tell their stories that come from employees, from family members, as well as residents, cause it’s the stories that dispel myths about aging or give people relief from their guilt about caregiving or give them guidance. In every senior community in America is a storehouse of stories. In fact, we had an American Indian member in the Southwest that our Leadership Academy group visits from time to time and in their culture, their nursing home is called Library and it’s where kids and families can go to hear the stories. There’s so much about oral tradition and what a way to think of a long-term care community as a storehouse of oral history and stories. So anyhow, the book is designed to give people a lot of encouragement that they can identify with it and maybe help them either validate their own efforts or give them some guidance on how other people have successfully handled difficult situations.
Clint: You know that’s a very important issue just for the providers alone to think about how we own our own stories. We own the success that we had. You know a lot of time, aging services locations, whether they be congregate living or nursing homes or assisted livings or housing, don’t always enjoy great reputations somehow, however that happens–the government, the media, whatever. I know you and I Larry are big advocates of the positive nature of what goes on in the locations everyday and the great stories that happen and it’s one way to think about it. We own the stories. Why not use them? I do want to dig into a couple stories in the book just to have you add a little bit about them. You have a story in there on the Dutiful Daughters and I thought that was an interesting story about the responsibility and the success and the obligation and the trials associated with family members taking care of older family members.
Larry: Uh yes, the Dutiful Daughters was for years a support group that started at my Methodist church here in Decatur Georgia. It came as a result of a You and Your Aging Parent series, which I encourage every provider group to have some kind of public education program around that topic whether that’s the exact topic or not. But anyhow, I was a participant in that program and they [five women] came up to me afterwards and said, “We liked what you had to say and all of us know each other, we’re members of the church, and we take care of our mothers at home.” By the way, the vast majority of any kind of long-term care goes on in families’ homes. It does not go on in institutions. She said, “We want to learn how to do it better.” So they said would I meet with them again and I did, and they wanted to meet again and we did, and that was a support group that started nearly well over thirty-five years ago and it’s still going on today. I don’t lead it anymore cause I moved to Washington [D.C.] but their common story- they were doing it at home, didn’t know where to get resources to help them, were dealing with all kinds of emotional issues. One woman was just an outstanding caregiver and had done multiple caregiving duties with members of her family. She was kind of the go-to person in the family and she and her husband had not had a vacation in years because she had this responsibility. She let herself go to church and Sunday School on Sunday and would have a neighbor come in and stay with her mother and she wanted to know if there was some temporary nursing home care [where] she could place her mother. At the time, there weren’t any respite care programs and I was at Wesley Woods so this woman really needed our respite care program so we worked out ways for her to leave her mother with us for a week so she and her husband could take a long-awaited vacation together. Now she felt some guilt about it. She cancelled more than once because she didn’t think we could do as good as job as she did. Well, that’s true, we couldn’t. At the same time, we could do a really good job taking care of her mother for a week. Over the years, her mother finally died. She wound up doing caregiving for some other people, and then her daughter wound up being her caregiver and hopefully everyone learned from the experience. But, one of the hurdles she had to get over is the expectation that she be perfect in her caregiving and that whoever else cared for her mother had to be perfect and there’s no perfection in this work.
Clint: Boy that’s an interesting set of standards Larry when the Dutiful Daughters, together as a group, and individually, figured out their role, their responsibility, their ability to release themselves of guilt, the ability to get extra resources and help, that’s a very cool story. And you know, thirty-five years of what started as a common ground, or hallowed ground group, has been a legacy now and going on–how cool that is!
Larry: And by the way, it was started by a provider, my organization, and I encourage our provider friends, you’re not just in the apartment or nursing home or assisted-living business, you’re in the family development business and there are a lot of things you can do with the base of your organization and its reputation to help the public that will go a long way towards changing the image of what we are perceived to offer on a very limited basis.
Clint: Well and on another note, since my organization works in the revenue side, or getting customers, or growing your business base side, that’s another cool way to help meet the needs of people and move your business model along too, so yes!
Larry: What you do is, in my mind, you help them create a healthy culture in which better services can be offered and it takes a change in mindset and culture to have an extended or broader mission of helping consumers that may not ever stay in a bed you have or live in an apartment or suite that you offer.
Clint: Yes, doing the right thing is the answer to that. One other story that came to mind related to ageism which is a terrible barrier out there–you were at an airport with a great-grandmother going to visit her great-granddaughter to help raise the new baby and that was a great story.
Larry: The biases about older people in our society, you know, the caricatures, the Tim Conway, the Maude Frickert, Betty White came along and is changing the image of older people… but the assumption is that older people are deaf and demented and whatever and I happen to be at a gate, this was before all the security stuff, and I was the first one down there. It was an early morning flight from coast-to-coast and I was sitting there with a woman who was eighty-something years old and we chatted. The gate attendant came over and greeted us and offered us a cup of coffee and I noticed the gate attendant talked slow and loud to her and talked normally to me. And then one thing leads to another and we’re getting ready to get on the plane and she came over and said, “Do you need a wheelchair to get to the airplane and would you like to sit close to the bathroom?” She didn’t ask me if I wanted to do any one of those things and the woman’s story was she was heading for the birth of this great-granddaughter and help her for the first few weeks [to] take care of the baby at home. And here she’s nearly ninety years old and she says to me, “Do you think I ought to sit close to the bathroom?” I said, “Lady, I walked a half a-mile with you down to this gate, and you made it just fine. You’re going to the other side of the planet to help take care of a new great-great-granddaughter and you think you need help going to the toilet on the airplane? I don’t think so!”
Clint: See, but that’s a very great story about how the agent was trying to be what he or she thought to be helpful and was actually creating a distinct prejudice, if you will, about that person.
Larry: Yeah, well meaning, but it was patronizing and you see the immediate effect on this woman’s self-esteem. She’s feeling all good and competent and excited about going to help her family, and by the time we got on the airplane, she’s doubting whether she can go to the bathroom by herself.
Clint: By the way Larry, as you and I know since we fly a lot, I’m not sure the reward is sitting close to the bathroom, I just want to go on record on there… it may or not be a reward you know. But those are a couple stories, but the book’s got a hundred stories in it. The book’s full of these kind of straight-forward stories that people can use and read. It reads quickly. It’s a great book. I know you’ve had a lot of opportunity to be sponsored at speaking events and to have the book given to the audience. You’ve sold a lot of the books. You’ve got a lot of engagements where you’re talking as it relates to the book going forward and I just wanted people to have a chance to hear about it today a little bit from you and I as mutual colleagues. If they want the book, they certainly can get it on Amazon.
Larry: amazon.com and it’s $9.95 for the print version. It’s $5.95 for the electronic version. We’ve priced it so that it could be accessible to a lot of people. The book is designed to be a public service. I doubt if I’m gonna get a movie deal out of it, but if I do Clint, you’re gonna be one of the stars.
Clint: Yeah well, you know that’s going to work out well. But it’s called Hallowed Ground: Stories of Successful Aging by Larry Minnix and we’ll put that on our newsletter for you all to get and we’ll also put on the newsletter your phone number too Larry in case they want to call you and ask any questions.
Larry: My number is 202-236-1355 and my email address is just plain and simple, all small case, firstname.lastname@example.org so if you get old, call me or send me an email about it and we’ll keep the stories flowing.
Clint: That’s great Larry and I know they’ll be more stories and they’ll be more publications likely and again, what a great resource you are to the aging services field. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today and I look forward to having our great followers in our company and elsewhere pick up the book and give it a good read. Thank you Larry.
Larry: Thank you Clint very much for this and for your friendship.