Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a motorcycle rally at a nursing home in Missoula, Montana. That’s right, it was a Harley Davidson motorcycle rally at a nursing home and even the most frail elders got a chance to go for a bike ride.
I’m proud to say that the executive director of Village Health Care Center who came up with the idea of “Sturgis Days” is my mother, Kathy Hammond. This was their sixth annual ride. For those not immersed in the biker world, the event is named for one of the biggest Harley motorcycle rallies in the world that takes place annually in Sturgis, S.D.
I shot the video above using my iPhone AND edited that clip together using the iMovie app on the phone. I mention that because it took less than 20 minutes to put that together and anyone could do it. That’s how easy it is to create social media these days.
Sturgis Days is one of the most anticipated days of the year at The Village. Long time residents have been participating for years and take great pleasure recounting their rides to new residents and watching videos from past Sturgis Days rallies.
Have any of our readers ever heard of anything like this? As a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast I loved it. As a culture change advocate I applaud my mom for taking the risk of offering elders and the community at The Village a chance for some adventure and fun. Even with signed releases it’s a pretty darn big risk to invite your residents, staff and their children to hop on a motorcycle with a stranger and go for a ride. I’m sure sky diving isn’t even as dangerous.
You might be surprised, but my mom’s facility is not part of the culture change movement. There’s nothing wrong with that — traditional, institutional nursing homes still make up over 90 percent of the market. But I think that makes it all the more remarkable that my mom’s facility is willing to accept this level of “upside risk”.
We’ve written a lot about the concept of “surplus safety” and upside risk developed by Dr. Bill Thomas. Simply put, the argument is that most long term care facilties are obsessed with eliminating all risk to the point of creating environments that have a “surplus of safety.” In other words too much safety means there’s no risk that anything good will happen — no “upside risk,” like the risk of having a blast on a motorcycle ride.
Like all traditional nursing homes my mom’s company strives to eliminate most forms of risk. Not just for elders — they don’t want staff taking risks and they even throw a party any time the company goes 30 days without a major worker’s comp injury. In The Goodman Group (my mom’s parent company) they call it a ZELDA party — Zero Employee Lost Days to Accidents — and every facility has a prominent poster displaying the number of ZELDA days to the next party. The more months they go ZELDA the bigger the party.
I’m not passing judgement on this policy but I’d hate to be the person who kills the party because of an “accident” (which I guess is the point?). Life is all about taking risks and accidents are going to be a part of any life that is worth living.
I’d love to hear what readers think — how do you strike the right balance between safety and risk to create life worth living?