In health care risk is a bad, scary word. But what is risk really? Risk simply means the outcome of an action may result in something unexpected. The unexpected result could be bad, which is called “downside risk.” Risks can also result in positive, meaningful experiences — the kind of experiences that make life worth living. This is upside risk.
Imagine a world that strips elders of all opportunity to experience upside risk. A hallmark of institutional care is the single-minded drive to eliminate risk. I call this a “surplus of safety.” For instance, if you design a nursing home with long hallways and no chairs to take a rest in you end up with nearly everyone in wheelchairs. Institutionalized nursing homes suffer from a surplus of safety.
Another example is how slow long term care providers are in adopting social media to tell their stories and share ideas. Countless times I’ve heard officials say it’s “too risky” to expose their organization to social networking or let their employees go on Facebook. Certainly, there’s a risk. Here’s an example of upside risk from my Facebook Page today:
This is a serendipitous example of upside social media risk. The Green House Project took the risk of inviting Kavan Peterson to their 2010 annual meeting to creating a series of social media videos. Then they took the risk of blogging about those videos. And I took the risk of putting them on my Facebook Page. Thanks to that risk our good friend Beverley spread a very important message to the good folks in the Ohio Department of Aging.
Btw, ChangingAging has not yet formerly congratulated Bonnie Kantor, former director of the Pioneer Network, on her appointment as head of the Ohio Department of Aging. It is a great day for elders in Ohio!