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Sanjay Gupta on Senior Care and Living Longer

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Sanjay Gupta on Senior Care and Living Longer

Senior Care Storytelling Lessons from LeadingAge 2016

A 75-year-old man visits his doctor. After giving the man a physical and running a series of tests, the doctor declares the man healthy. “What does that mean, doc? I mean, am I going to live to 85?” “Well,” the doctor asks, “do you drink much alcohol?” “No,” the man replies. “Do you eat many fatty or high-sugar foods?” “No.” “Do you participate in any risky sports?” “No.” The questions continue and, each time, the man answers, “No.” Finally, the doctor asks, “Then why would you want to live to be 85?”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta used this story (paraphrased here) in his keynote address at LeadingAge’s 2016 Annual Meeting and Expo in Indianapolis last week to illustrate his theme: Looking at Longevity.

His talk asked the question: Why do we want to live longer? What makes living meaningful for us? Spanning topics ranging from nutrition to technology, the upshot of Gupta’s presentation was that the person’s individual story matters. The Individual’s perspective and sense of purpose should be the driving forces behind our decisions and behaviors. Senior living organizations can play an important role in helping individuals live that out intentionally.

The Brain Story

Of course, as a neurosurgeon, Gupta talked about the brain, but less about surgery than about the relationship between aging and memory, reasoning, processing speed, motivation, and dementia. He pointed to a ten-year study which indicated that spending 10 hours over 5 weeks playing an Internet-based game designed to increase brain processing speed dramatically reduces the likelihood of developing dementia.

The Nutrition Story

Gupta also talked about nutrition: About balanced meals (eat 7 colors of food per day, and you probably won’t need vitamin and mineral supplements). About how the low-fat craze in American culture led to the damage of a high-sugar food diet (cut sugar in half for 10 days, he said, and you can significantly reduce your likelihood of getting diabetes). Despite nutrition’s importance to health, Gupta pointed out that most doctors aren’t trained in it. The medical world, he explained, is often geared more toward “disaster mitigation” rather than wellness optimization.

The Attitude Story

So much of our approach to aging boils down to how we view aging in ourselves and others. Studies confirm what we know anecdotally: our views change as we age. The older we are, for example, the less we tend to identify as feeling our age. Gupta urged that we keep our minds active by doing new things. Continuing to take on challenges that are meaningful to us matters. Making an impact on other people’s lives matters. “When was the last time you did something for the first time? Do something every day that is new, that feels risky. It will stimulate your brain and promote health.”

Marketing Success in senior care is a matter of connecting your story with your customers’ stories.

While Gupta’s work spans medicine and journalism, senior care organizations’ work spans an even broader range of fields: medicine, social services, housing... and marketing.

What stories drive you and your customers? What makes life meaningful for them? How does context affect their desires and choices? What makes serving them meaningful for you? What successes encourage you? What challenges inspire you to do things differently? These are the stories you must tell and as you do, you will attract those who believe there’s good reason to live longer.

Gupta is one of a handful of doctors who have successfully spanned the fields of medicine and journalism. A practicing neurosurgeon, Gupta is also an Emmy-award winning correspondent for CNN and CBS, a Time magazine columnist, and the author of several New York Times bestselling books, including a novel that was adapted into a television series. View Dr. Gupta’s CNN bio and some of his broadcast reports here.

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