Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

This is Valerie Vanbooven with The senior care industry Netcast, where leaders with three or more years of experience in the senior care market share their advice. So let’s get to it. In a few sentences, tell us who you are and what you do.

Rachel Blackwood:

Good morning. Thank you. I am Rachel Blackwood. I am the co-founder of Designing Independence. I’ve been a physical therapist for 18 years, and I have now specialized in aging in place and home modification. So we help seniors figure out what they need so that they can stay in their home, and we do that a variety of ways.

We can do it virtually, we can do it in person, and we also just released a book. So if you want to look at book, we have that as well.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Wow. It looks like a big book.

Rachel Blackwood:

It’s 365 tips, so there’s a lot in there.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Nice. That is awesome. So we’ll make sure that when your video goes live, that all of that information is with it so folks can get a copy of your book, and we can all use a few tips about aging in place and staying in our own homes as long as possible. And I would say that from my experience, and my mother and her husband built a house recently, and they are in their seventies. Oh, he’s actually 80 and she’s 70.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So, they built it with aging in mind, which I thought was pretty awesome of them. And it’s a ranch style home. But what I also noticed, and maybe you can talk about this a little bit, is that the safety bars and things that you might consider adding to a home today, don’t have to look institutional at all. They’re very pretty. Like in their bathroom and stuff that all matches, that a core all matches. It’s very nice.

Rachel Blackwood:

That’s right. You can make it look very… Where it blends in with your tile, or it can have different finishes. And really, I think everyone needs a grab bar or a safety bar getting in and out of the shower, because we can all fall getting in and out of the shower.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Very true. I just noticed that they incorporated a lot of really nice features, lowered the countertop a little bit in the islands in their kitchen, and lowered the cabinets a little bit. He’s tall, she’s short. But it looks beautiful. And I think there’s a lot of things that we can do to age in place that are not…. Again, like I said, it doesn’t have to be an institutional looking modification to your home. It can be very pretty and still meet the needs of a senior. So I’m glad you’re and that book sounds amazing. I have to get a copy of that. That’s awesome. So what are the best things about serving aging adults?

Rachel Blackwood:

Well, the AARPs says that 90% of people want to age in their home. But I don’t have the exact statistics on how many of people actually age in their home, but they’re not nearly that high. And having the opportunity to help people make that goal, that’s been an amazing opportunity.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. I would agree. I would agree that if somebody is really set on staying in their own home and you can make that happen for them, there’s probably nothing more rewarding than helping them stay there, whether it’s a few years, or a few more months, or whatever that ends up being for them. Home is where we feel the best, and home can be anywhere. Assisted living can be a great place to call home, but if you really want to stay in that house that your kids grew up in, or whatever it means to you, then there’s always something good about being able to do that.

Rachel Blackwood:

Right. And some people have a home that it’s really just not worth updating, and they talk to me, and they realize that it’s better off in assisted living or something else. And that’s okay too.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, absolutely. All right. I would imagine that there are other successful leaders, or people, parents, grandparents, organizations that have really meant a lot to you and led you down this path in your career, in your life. Who would you like to talk about?

Rachel Blackwood:

As far as organizations, I love organizations that help meet the basic needs of people. People like Meals on Wheels, Backpack Buddies that provide food, especially Meals on Wheels who provide food to seniors, because sometimes cooking is… It’s not just preparing the meal, but it’s grocery shopping and thinking about what do you need, and there’s a lot of cognitive things that go into that. So, to provide the basic needs for people is just really inspiring.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. I love Meals on Wheels and frankly, as we get older and we don’t maybe eat as much as we used to, or our portions maybe get a little smaller as we age, it’s really hard, even for not… Someone who’s in their 20s, or 30s, or 40s, it’s hard to shop for one person, and get through all of that food just for one person before, you have to throw some of it out. So it’s hard to cook for one, it’s hard to shop for one, and so it is really… You’re right. There’s a lot of deciding, and planning, and thinking, and things that go into that.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So, Meals on Wheels, my grandfather is 93 years old, and he is still in his little bitty town, he still delivers Meals on Wheels to seniors on Fridays. Now, of course, with COVID, that’s kind of come to a stop. But he up until before COVID, that’s something that he enjoys so much. He’s very, very physically capable, lives independently, but he loved seeing his little seniors, even though he’s probably 10 years older than most of them. And it was a great time for them to socialize, and to… This probably, it might be the only person they see all day or maybe all week. So, he really enjoyed that. And I think the seniors that he saw really appreciated that. I love Meals on Wheels. I think it’s a great service.

Rachel Blackwood:

Absolutely.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. So, okay. Talk about online marketing with me for a second. I know it’s been challenging to network in person, and if you have a book, you probably have a website, of course, and I’m sure that people find you online, and look at your information and all your tips and good educational information. So, what has it been like for you? What has been your experience with marketing online?

Rachel Blackwood:

Well, marketing is always a challenge, right? Because it’s always changing and there’s all these factors; search engine optimization, social media. But I think the most important thing for us is to remain authentic to the message. No matter what platform you’re using, no matter the changes that come, just stay authentic to your message, because I think people see that. I think that they can tell when you’re being real, when you’re being true.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yes. And being yourself is I think even more in the last year, it doesn’t matter if… You don’t have to look like you’re… I love my funny glasses but frankly, I could be sitting here in a t-shirt and a baseball cap, and people still watch, they still enjoy good information, and they would prefer that you just be yourself, even whether it’s a written message or a video message. It doesn’t really… As long as you are authentic you, I think that’s become more and more important. And everybody’s like, “Oh, getting on a zoom.” A lot of people are a little terrified of getting on a zoom call, or being on the camera or whatever.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

But I would say that we have become so accustomed to this venue over the last year that you don’t have to look like a rockstar to get on the camera, and just talk about things that might help someone else. I know this is our buying, but if you look at TikToK, and I’m way too old for TikTok. But, if you look at TikToK, there are a lot of older adults on there making very informational, funny, sometimes videos and they’re hysterical and they are… It’s great, talking dogs. Oh my gosh, I watch more talking dog videos, and I never thought I would in my life. It’s fascinating to see these dogs tell their owners with buttons on the floor, what they want.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And I’m like, “Oh my gosh. I wonder if my dogs are smart enough to do that.” So, there’s all kinds of different and nobody gets dressed up for this stuff. So I totally agree with you back to your point, being your authentic self, whether it’s a written word, or photos, or images, or on video, I think that’s the way to go. I think we’re all over the being all dolled up for video anymore. What piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers?

Rachel Blackwood:

I would say the main thing is to know what you know. What you’re an expert in, and to reach out when you don’t.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s great advice. I think we can’t be the Jack of all trades because we are the master of none when we do that, right?

Rachel Blackwood:

Exactly.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So reach out to people who really know what they’re doing in certain areas. Don’t try to do it all. Aging and navigating the senior space is so complicated. There are so many resources and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Chances are, someone is already out there doing it, so use them as a good resource.

Rachel Blackwood:

Yep. That’s exactly right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. When you have a win in life or business, how do you like to celebrate just a great day? Or somebody who’s getting married, or having a baby, or a client got all of their great new equipment installed, and they’re feeling good, how do you like to celebrate?

Rachel Blackwood:

I’ve [inaudible 00:10:37] that much harder. If we can get somebody what they need and have them the equipment that they need, the materials that they need, the renovations that they need, it just makes me want to work that much harder to do that for somebody else.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Awesome.

Rachel Blackwood:

[crosstalk 00:10:54] personally, I love to go for a walk, especially on a nice day like it is today, and enjoy the sunshine, and really just appreciate the outdoors.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Great. And that’s what a lot of us have been doing this last year, getting back to the outdoors because we can’t go anywhere else. I think a lot of us, enjoying a good walk is always a great way to celebrate. So, all right. Well, I want to thank you for being on the show, for taking time out of your day to help us understand more about what you do, and your wisdom, and insight into seniors and their needs. So thank you very much for being on the show.

Rachel Blackwood:

Thank you for having me.