Engagement is a word that has been in our vocabulary at Lenbrook for several years now.  The term first appeared in our goals in July of 2013 to describe the type of associates we wanted to hire and retain. A couple of years ago we realized it wasn’t enough to just have engaged associates. It was our desire to see everyone engaged within our community.  
In fact, this year we have started measuring resident engagement in our annual resident survey.  While I wait for the official results, I've starting asking residents what "engagement" means to them. I've even asked our Board of Directors. Here's what I've learned. 
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How Our Residents Define Engagement
The first group I checked in with on "engagement" was our Resident Council -- all 14 of the resident committee chairpersons plus the officers of our Resident Association. These are our peer leaders, our chairpersons for programs and events; dining services; new resident hospitality; health,  wellness and safety; and 10 more resident committees within Lenbrook.
The descriptions and concepts they offered included: "challenging, happier, follow our own destiny, listened to, interaction, participatory, enthused, belonging, friendships and social." 
According to their feedback, they want a community that challenges them to go, do and try new things. They also want to be listened to, participate in, feel like they belong, and encouraged to follow their own destiny. They cherish the friendships and social aspects of Lenbrook, and generally feel that being engaged makes them feel happier overall.
Next on my list to ask about engagement are the Community Chat meetings we hold once a week. Residents attend by floor throughout the year so everyone gets a chance participate in these small "coffee chat" settings. 
 
How Our Board of Directors Defines Engagement
About the time of the Resident Council meeting in May came Lenbrook's quarterly Board meeting. I thought, why not? I'll ask and see how they would define resident "engagement" at Lenbrook. 
Similar to residents, Board members see the concept of "engagement" as feeling like a "member" of the organization; feeling a "part of;" feeling "'connected" and "interconnected;" "sharing" your talents within the organization; and feeling like your contributions are "valued."
In addition, Board members described "engaged" as also having a sense of "ownership" in the community; a sense of "investment" in the community; as a "dynamic" role in which the resident seeks to be "aware" and kept "informed" about the community; to offer "constructive feedback" (good or bad) about the community; and having a "forward looking" perspective about the community's future. 
 
Engagement in Action 
Regardless of how we might define it, we know engagement when we see it. One of my favorite examples is our "Can Do Committee.” Created and led by our talented and energetic resident Missy Sanchez, the Can Do Committee is a system for quickly connecting residents with opportunities to get involved in helping out around Lenbrook. It provides a channel for our residents with a "can do attitude" to jump in and get involved supporting people and programs. 
If we need 20 greeters to help direct 250 people attending a special program in our event center, Missy gets the word out and matches up residents with the greeter assignments. The same for Veteran's Day or Memorial Day events and a myriad of other activities. She can mobilize residents into action quickly -- helping take an event from great to excellent.
 
Stay Tuned 
Based on my informal "surveys," it appears that our resident and Board member feedback on engagement tracks quite closely to the four factors of engagement suggested by the consumer research company Holleran. These four factors include: 1) resident voice and autonomy; 2) personal connections; 3) well-being; and 4) fulfillment. 
We will keep listening and learning, particularly at our community chat meetings, to make sure we hear the resident voice. This voice will always help guide the real work of ensuring our programs and services continue to foster engagement throughout Lenbrook. 
 
Chris Keysor is President and Chief Executive Officer of Lenbrook. His passion for the senior living industry began early in his career as a CPA with KPMG. Chris progressed in executive responsibilities over the years, working for a senior health-care provider, health-care financing organizations and senior living consulting groups. Chris is also a nationally ranked Ironman triathlete, which he says comes in handy raising his two young children with his wife here in Atlanta.