Linda Jones, Executive Director at The Lakeside at Amelia Island, sits down with Chris Harper to talk about how assisted living has evolved. Seniors are more active now than ever and they are looking for a community that reflects their varying interests. She also discusses the best time to make the move to senior living—her answer may surprise you. 

Video Transcript

Hey, everybody. Welcome to Senior Living LIVE! My name is Chris, and I am joined here today with Linda Jones. Hey, how are you today?

Good, thanks. How are you?

Great. So, Linda, you are the executive director here at the Lakeside at Amelia Island. And I should say we're actually here on location. We're trying some new things with Senior Living LIVE! We're kind of stepping away from some of the Zoom meetings and things and going into the location. So we're here in a beautiful model apartment.

So glad to have you. Welcome.

Thank you so much. Every time I come to this community, it is just gorgeous.
It is gorgeous. It is a beautiful, beautiful community.

Yeah, Well, so the lakeside at Amelia Island. We're going to get into that in a little bit before but before we do that, tell me about you. What what makes Linda Jones tick?

Well, Chris, thanks for asking. I am a registered nurse by trade. I've been in this registered nurse now 35 years. Of that 35 years, I've spent 28 in senior living. While I was in nursing school, I worked as a caregiver in a long term care community. When I graduated, I went to the hospital setting, got my experience training, and somehow ventured back into senior living in 1990 excuse me, 2000.

The bug had kind of bitten.

It did. It did. And you know what's funny is I ran across a picture the other day of the very first patient I ever took care of. And I remember her to this day, and I had taken a picture of her. So that led me on a path of caring for a lot of seniors over the course of the year.

I bet you've got a lot of stories that you could tell if only we had time to hear them all.

And how the stories and how the industry has changed, how the focus on senior living has changed. It's so much better now than it was.

You know, that's something that has interested me in the past that in relative terms, senior living is is really not that old. I mean, the early nineties and it really kind of birthed. It was skilled nursing prior to that and then it's kind of come up.

It has changed so much. Yes I was around before assisted living communities came into play and when all the regulations changed about what required for someone to stay in a skilled nursing home or long term nursing home. So assisted living came in about mid mid-nineties, latter part of the nineties, and since I've been with it since 2013, it's evolved even more. So now we're into 2023 and our senior living community is, is so much different than it used to be. It's more about staying busy, staying active, having fun, having friends, living in a community and still enjoying life. Even as we turn into seniors.

A little bit less about the like hospital type setting.

Yes, less clinical focus, more focused on the overall well-being. The clinical focus is still there for that part in the assisted living or memory care units, that sort of thing. But the independent side, bringing people into the senior communities before they're ready for the clinical side of it to get them adjusted into living in a community.

Yeah, and we can't say that enough. We've talked about it here on Senior Living LIVE! episodes and others where it's so important to to get used to because a move is a lot of it's a you know, you've lived in your house for a long time. There's a lot of effort involved in a move and you probably don't want to do that when you're sick or you've got a broken arm or whatever it is.

You know, for the people that are moving into the independent communities, it's kind of like moving into college, you know, you're back into an environment of your peers. You've come from your home, you've worked, you've retired, you've now you're coming back into a community living setting with that is different stages of where you are in your your aging process.

And then you get used to that environment. And then as you age and different things happen, you're used to the community living it can move into the more clinical side of things, so to speak. But it is evolving. It's still evolving.

Yeah. So coming in earlier may make that transition a lot easier.

A lot of support system. Sure, yeah. When when you can make friends and you still enjoy different activities, you know, bands, music, dancing, the different things that we offer in, in adult living, independent living, you build friendships, you build relationships, and that helps carry you through to the to the to the next stages.
Yeah, Well, I feel like we've jumped ahead too far. We've got to get back to the Linda Jones story.

Oh that's right. I've been in senior living for so long and I'm catching up to the, the senior population that I it's hard to reflect on myself. I've lived in Florida since 2013 moved here from from Nashville, Tennessee. Okay. I'm proud of it. Born and raised Music City, USA moved to Florida. I love the ocean. I love the warm, the sun. We love the fish. We have a boat. So the Linda Jones that's not at work is enjoying outdoors fishing. My church, all the areas that I serve there. All of our kids live across the United States, so they come here instead of us going there. It's very nice.

You live in the vacation destination.

I do live in the vacation. We put a pool.

What better place?

That's right. We have a pool and the hot tub and we have the whole we have the whole, you know, gamut. So it's fun. We can be on vacation every weekend.

Yeah, that's perfect. I would love that. So tell me about your transition from you were - you are a nurse, but you were working in the clinical type roles in senior living and skilled nursing, and then you moved. You mentioned 2013, but you moved more into like a leadership type, right?

I moved from the leadership role as the nursing director into the executive director position in 2017 with Arbor. And the reason I did that is I wanted to maintain the culture that we had built, at the community that I was in, I had, I had been there since the first brick went up. And I our values and what we do here in Senior living with Arbor, I wanted to make sure that that stayed maintained and we stayed on track with that. I've enjoyed every step of the way. It's been a challenge. It but it's been a great challenge being a leader in a community of this size. Well, any size really, you just want you want to lead people to that, have that heart to serve others, because that's generally what we're doing. We're serving others and in a lot of different ways, emotionally, nutritionally, clinically, activities, I mean, we're serving their needs. And so it's been an honor, it's been a joy. It's been it's been challenging, you know, But, you know, it's been fun.

It is a big community. So Linda mentioned the size of it. So at this community, the Lakeside at Amelia Island, you've got independent living, assisted living.
And memory care. Plus, I guess, part of independent living. You've got some cottages and then these houses.

Yes, on the property. It's quite a large property. It’s a large property. It's it's spread out. So it takes you a little while to get from point A to point B, but we have beautiful homes that are on the property that are single family. We have cottages that are like kind of like a duplex. Then we have apartments for the independent, then they move into the apartments for the assisted living and the memory care. So we offer a wide scope of living floor plan, so to speak, to whatever that person needs know.

And it's just gorgeous. I mean, we are in a model. This is an it's a model model apartment. And it's we picked it for the video, number one, because it's quiet and there's not so many people in the background, but it's huge. And I mean, we're in this big I don't know if you can see in the camera, but we're in this big living room area.

We've got the kitchen behind us. There's this little room that could I guess it could be a guest room.

It could be a guest room. I've seen set up as a sewing room, as an office, as an exercise room. I mean, people use that room for all sorts of things. And beautiful granite.

Big master bedroom over here. What’d you say - granite.

Granite countertops, hardwood floors, I mean, state of the art appliances. It's it's very quiet. You know, you don't hear anything.

Exactly. There's there's there's movement in the community. But once you're inside your apartment, it's very quiet. It is very quiet. And I've spent the night here and it is very quiet. It's it's like a very well built apartment complex. I've lived in those that you could hear people walking on the floors. You don't hear that here. It's very quiet, which is nice, but it's very, very luxurious.

It's it's warm, it's welcoming.

So and I like that. It's this community is big in the sense that there's a lot of people there's a lot of things happening. There's a lot of things to do and things going on, but it doesn't feel massive. You walk into some of these places and the hallways are so long. You know, there's just it just feels bland.

Here, yeah, it’s warm. And it's there's there's all these little nooks where people can gather and you see people, you know, having a book club or just having This morning we walked into the dining room and there were some ladies it was kind of past breakfast and there were some ladies that were just still sitting at a table.
You know, we have you know, they have groups of crocheting. We have a crocheting group. We have an art class, very talented artist, live here, very, very talented. We have Bible study that's very strong. We have movie club, we have karaoke. I mean, they have little groups and puzzles. We have a gentleman that works a puzzle every day.

He has that. Did you see it? He has this whole table, his puzzle. It's wonderful to sit down with him for a few minutes. And I usually sit until I find a piece, but he is constantly working his puzzle. So we have we have different things that just, you know, attract different people.

And that's I think that's an interesting point to make, too, because so just take crocheting club. When this community opened, there was no crocheting club and there probably wasn't for a year or whatever, but then somebody moved in and...
Somebody wanted to crochet. Somebody else said, I want to learn in there it develops and the next thing you know, we've got crochet, blankets, hats, gloves, and mittens.

So it's very resident led.

Very resident led. You're not going to just have a club just to have.

No, you know, because it they're not interested in it. It's, it's not benefiting anyone. So we really try hard to ask, you know, what do you like to do? What did you like to do? This summer I hope we have some fishing trips. Oh, neat. Yeah. We want to take some folks fishing we hope to have. And we've got symphony led things where we take them off the island because we're on an island here. It's very small island and there's a lot of fun things to do. So it's not just in the community, it's outside the community as well. You know, we want people to enjoy both aspects of island living, so to speak.

Sort of enabling people to do the things that they want when it's maybe difficult to do if you're just living by yourself.

And you know, we go through stages in life, we go through seasons. People are at different stages, different seasons. So it's always nice to see them. Perhaps, maybe they've moved and after the death of a spouse and then they make friends and then they have purpose again, you know, and that is such a joy to see. Yeah, it's such a joy to see a new season, a new chapter.

So in your clinical background, I know that the former communities that you had worked with, with before The Arbor Company were memory care focused. Yes. So you've got a lot of experience in that. What is the transition look like for someone who maybe has moved in an independent living and maybe something happens, their needs change? As you know, the aging process doesn't stop.

No, it doesn't. You know, I think one of the key elements of that is helping someone go through those stages is those relationships we build on the independent side so that as things happen, we have the trust level and then the clinical background to say, hey, you know, you have kind of help them make the decision. It's time to go to assisted living. And 99% of time that’s successful because of the relationship we’ve built and they trust the fact that, okay, it's time you know you can't be by yourself anymore. Going from assisted living to memory care; sometimes it's you know, it's the whole family you're taking care of to get to that point. So the key is if you move in early, you've got more time to build those relationships and the trust level, and it just helps move the journey because we do age in place so to speak. It's, you know, it's comfortable with that.

You know, and I would assume you tell me if I'm wrong, but if you're in that crocheting club and you live independent living and then you something happens and you need to move to a more assisted, you don't have to leave the crocheting club, right?

That's right. You can still go crocheting. And we have a I have a couple now in the independent side that is going over to the assisted living side just to be a kind of a mentor, kind of being that person. They can sit down and just talk to, you know, because a lot of times, you know, life gets busy elsewhere, but it slows down sometimes for us as we get into this assisted living.

So having those people from the independent side still join their friends over in AL, this is the living side is priceless. It makes them feel more acceptable to where they are in their life and not just disconnected. All of a sudden I'm not independent anymore. I still have independent friends that still love me, care about me, and they come see me.

And what a great purpose for the for that couple in independent living to be able to give back in that way. They go back and and they're just they just they like to listen you know and be that support because we all need support and people go through stages different ways. Some some just accept it and jump right into the you know, into assisted living and make new friends. Others not so much. So it helps having that person that they can call and talk about those feelings and, you know, process with.

Yeah, well, so speaking of people, it takes a lot of people to make this community.

It does.

Operate every single day. And so tell me a little bit about your team and what you’ve...

We've got a great team. You know, I think the biggest thing that I've learned this last year here at Lakeside is this team is they're hardworking individuals. They've got good hearts - because, you know, they really want to serve our seniors. So we just all try to come together. I try to lead by walking along side versus in front of definitely not behind. So in every area, whether it's dining, maintenance, housekeeping, nursing, I mean, I try to be a part of that. And as a result, my team, I mean, my team is phenomenal. They really give it everything they got. You know...

That's so good to hear. And and I can attest to you being hands on because we got here this morning to get all set up and everything. And there were a couple of times that we wanted to ask you a question or, you know, pull you aside to come and do this interview. And I would go to your office and you weren't there because you were out and, you know, you were helping people and talking to people.

They hear my heels clicking when I'm walking down the hall that I get to see them - and they chase me down. Here she comes. I do. I am not an office led. I mean, I have to spend my time in the office. But that's not where you’ll find me most of the time. You know, I, I, I like to be out and about and see what's going on in the community.

So what's the best part of your job here?

The best part of my job. I can tell you that I had a resident, I call ‘em lil Godwink. She came to me yesterday and she said, I just want to tell you something. I said, What? She said, The letter you sent out at New Year's. And I said and she said, I just want you to know how it made me feel. I said well how did it make you feel? She said, your last sentence said, Thank you for allowing me to be here to serve you in 2023. I have a servant's heart and that really gave me the validation that I'm in the right place. This is where I'm supposed to be. It's not a job. I mean, it's what I do at work, but it's not a job. So that's where I get my blessings. You know, I feel like the senior industry, for whatever reason, my entire life, I've loved elderly people. I just have I don't I don't know. Maybe it's just that's my superpower. I don't know. But to be able to come every day and serve others and if I make one person happy a day that gives me that kind of wink, that's a blessing. So that's what makes me thrive.

Kind of gives you the fuel.

Because it fills me up.

Yeah, I would guess that maybe that's why you didn't stick to the hospital nursing.

And I loved hospital nursing. I really did. I worked at a trauma center. I was a lot younger then, and I worked 11 to 7, 7P to 7A - I loved every minute of it, but I had an opportunity to go back to the nursing home as a teacher to teach the CNA students and the nurses kind of staff education. And that led into the director of nursing job. And then that led into, you know, my my career.

I feel like that so many people in this industry, it's one thing led to another.

And and I didn't set out. I went to nursing school to be an ob gyn nurse, and I've not yet delivered a baby.

Well, there's still hope.

I know, right? You know, but I just I have just followed the path that I've been led on. And so it’s been senior living and, you know, sometimes you go, Wow, how did I get here? You know, the closer I get to the senior age group myself, I'm really grateful because, you know, life's a process.

Well, we're grateful that you're here also. So let me ask you one final question, and then I'm going to let you go. What piece of advice would you have for someone who maybe is just starting out in nursing school or considering working in the health care field? And, you know, if maybe they're thinking about working in senior living?

Well, as I was on staff this morning, we have a new a new hire orientation this morning working in the senior industry, if you like, to serve others, it's an opportunity to not only serve others, you know, in a well place. You may have clinical place, too, but you learn so much from a previous generation. You just do.
This industry requires somebody that just follows that dream of, you know, learning about life, learning about people, learning about experiences. And you can get that in senior living because you meet so many people from so many walks of life, people that travel all over the world, people that have been, you know, I think I took care of the gentleman that gave the apple to the teacher on the Challenger, you know, so you meet and you take care of some amazing - NFL football players.
I mean, I’ve taken care of them all. So going into this industry, go in with an open heart and you'll be fulfilled, you know. If you're younger, they like the trauma nursing, you know, get your education. But if if you're led into the senior living, you won't be disappointed. Yeah, it's just it's a it's a life changing career. It just really is.

You know, we hear that from so many people in the industry. Well, thank you for joining us today, Linda. I know you've got a busy day ahead of of interacting with residents and your staff here in the community. So thank you for taking the...

Thank you for having me. And thank you for the opportunity to talk about senior living. It's a passion. It really is. Yeah. Thank you.

Thank you so much. Well, thanks for joining us today for Senior Living LIVE! If you'd like to hear more stories like Linda's, head over to where you can find this and others. Until next time I am Chris.

I am Linda.

And we will see you later. Bye Bye.

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