Residents living in a retirement community can find a voice through representation and a receptive administration. This is the experience of one such voice.
As a member of our resident council for the past year, I have been able to serve in a very specific and engaging way. I serve as the representative of one of the seven living units in a large urban retirement community.
Our council is composed of one member each representing five floors in the main buildings, twenty-eight cottages and forty-four units in an adjoining building. The council is led by an elected president and vice president. The executive director and his assistant represent management. We meet once a month with additional quarterly meetings with the executive committee of the board of directors of the institution.
My term of service as a representative is for two years beginning in February. Members serve on a rotating basis with about half of the members going off the council every year at the end of January and new members coming on to fill these positions. Currently our council members are nominated/appointed from independent living.
The duties of a council member are contained in the By-laws of the council. This article will focus on how I view my role as a member of the council.
In agreeing to accept the position I felt that my primary reason for serving was to provide a voice for the residents I would be representing. I would speak with the management on behalf of the more than fifty people who call our part of the community home. When a resident contacts me it is usually because there has been an issue affecting them that had not been resolved satisfactorily. I have heard these issues described as seeming to have fallen into a “black hole”. This is very frustrating to residents as they see little recourse in getting their issues resolved in a timely manner or resolved at all! Other issues deal with new ideas.
After getting my feet wet as a new council member, I focused my attention on capturing the specific issues of those I represent and began presenting some of them at the regular council meetings. Others could be resolved outside the meeting by working with management, security, plant services, etc. for discussion and resolution.
Although not always successful, this process did work for me most of the time; many issues were resolved. Targeted approach is the best way I have found to seek and secure resolution of issues for the residents.
To close the loop of communication, I re-contact the resident submitting the issue and let them know the status, such as the date of discussion at the council meeting, possible solutions, time frame for resolution and whether or not it can be resolved and reasons why. When a resident’s issue could be of general interest/concern I share them with the other members of the council.
To keep the residents up to date, I put out a resident bulletin every 6 – 8 weeks with a brief discussion of the major issues and their resolution (or planned time frame for solution), as well as general information that may be of interest.
I’ve taken a cue from other council members and occasionally organize an event, such as a speaker of interest for the residents.
I served as the resident association and resident council secretary for a year during which I was responsible for editing and proofreading the minutes of the two meetings each month and filing copies of the finalized versions of each in the library and posting copies. It was a pleasure working with the CEO’s assistant each month to ensure the minutes from both meetings were accurate and complete.
Along with the secretary’s position came the responsibility to contact and secure two hostesses for the resident’s association meetings. Many wonderful residents volunteered to help by greeting residents as they entered the meeting room and helping serve food and drinks at the table at the back of the hall. The hostesses rotated each month.
For me, it has been an interesting experience! I have served as I interpret the role of a council member. Some of my colleagues approach their roles a little differently, but we are all there to represent our respective areas to the best of our abilities.
Contributed by: Carol Weaver
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