Bill LoweAs we round out what’s been a challenging year for all, I’d like to take a moment to reflect. This year, many of us faced hardship, loss, and isolation, but we learned to adapt.

The skills we were forced to hone allowed the CMSS community to be resilient in the face of new challenges. And through it all, staff members have gone above and beyond to care for residents and clients. I commend them for their commitment and courage to walk into the uncharted territory without fear. They’ve been the foundation of what’s kept our community’s fabric intact.

Now, we look towards a year that still won’t be “normal,” but I have hope that we’re moving in the direction of healing. CMSS is also moving in the direction of exciting new ventures, partnerships and services to better serve our community. While 2020 was a year of recalibrating and constant adjustment, we were lucky in that we also solidified a bold vision for the future. A steering committee began working this summer on a three-year strategic plan to lay the trail for a new path forward. Here’s our vision for building a stronger community in 2021 and beyond.

Becoming a center of excellence in memory care

CMSS prides itself on the expansive memory care services we provide residents. Our goal is to establish ourselves as a center of excellence in memory care with the opening of another community — Lorenzo’s House. We envision this community being a place for families and individuals experiencing memory loss to turn to for innovative care and resources. We intend to provide:

  • Trained and credential volunteers prepared to work with individuals experiencing memory loss and their families who need help to navigate the changes in their lives.
  • Adult day programming that stimulates and fascinates older adults in unique classes.
  • Residential and assisted living opportunities in a community similar to CMSS’ Hartwell Place.

Our goal is to not only create a new community for this memory care center of excellence, but also to then integrate a plan across all programs and communities of the CMSS system. We know this is ambitious, but if we approach our plan holistically and strategically, we can accomplish what we’ve set out to achieve. We’re also excited to have brought on Diana Cose, our new vice-president of philanthropy, and Sarah Brunner, director of organizational development, to turn this dream into a reality.

Doubling down on our commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The other big initiative CMSS is taking on over the coming years is further establishing ourselves as a champion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We want our residents and staff to reflect the diversity of our city and our country. Diversity of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity are all key to creating communities that are sustainable, safe and inclusive.

In 2019, we acquired West Suburban Senior Services (WSSS), its Bellwood Senior Center and Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) program. Our staff underwent SAGE training where our team learned how to better care for members of the LBGT+ community. Our organization received the platinum level certification; the highest level a nonprofit can achieve.

SAGE WSSS is a part of AgeOptions’ Thrive with Pride Cafes project. The cafes provide an opportunity for LGBT older adults and their support system to develop extended communities and receive crucial social support, learn about resources and benefits that can positively impact their health and well-being and improve their access to care.

SAGE WSSS is also continuing to work with the Proud to Thrive project at the Center for Disability and Elder Law, offering program participants access to legal information in the areas of estate planning, housing issues, and property tax and title issues, to address concerns held by many LGBT elders.

These are just a few examples of the recent work we’ve been proud to take part in; there are many other initiatives that we’re going to be announcing in 2021 and beyond as we invest in intentional, sustainable and integrative solutions that prioritize DEI across all of our programs and communities.

Final thoughts

CMSS will come out of this pandemic stronger than ever. Our staff and residents are resilient, positive and adaptable to life’s many challenges and we will get through whatever is next, together.

Thank you all for your love and support this year.

Sincerely,

Bill Lowe