Do you know who your state representative and senator are—not federal, but state?

Do you know how many votes it takes in Michigan for a bill to pass in the senate? In the house?

Is Michigan’s legislative body called a congress or a legislature?

These were all questions posed to me and about 400 attendees recently at the beginning of the LeadingAge of Michigan annual conference. Why these questions…especially at a conference focused on helping non-profit continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) and in-home service providers address the needs of seniors?

Because they showed us that, to best serve our senior citizens, we need to advocate on their behalf.


Our work as professionals in this industry requires that we find ways to advocate for the specific health and wellness needs of seniors. To do that we need to be aware of the issues in local and state government and how to make connection with those representing us. When these questions were asked of the room, the majority of us, to our chagrin, did not know the answers. Our civic involvement was discovered to be lacking, both as individuals and as organizations. Low involvement means low influence.


These questions were not the only questions posed at the conference. Great interaction regarding policy, employee engagement, stress management, training, infrastructure, finance, future trends and marketing were posed at the general sessions as well as in some 30 workshops.


Timothy Skubick was our gadfly in the opening session on Monday. With unapologetic directness, he probed into our knowledge of all things happening in Lansing, the state capital of Michigan. Skubick hosts “Off the Record” on WKAR PBS, the longest running Michigan political affairs and analysis program on television. He made it uncomfortable—for our good—as he went from person to person around the room digging away with tough questions about the industry and our connection to the legislative process. Of course, as a Michigan State University Spartan his first question was, “Could everyone who is a University of Michigan fan stand?” And once they did, he asked them to leave the room!


Kasia Roelant, Director of Member Relations, LeadingAge Michigan, did an excellent job with her team putting together a breadth of content and presenters. One that I found particularly interesting was a presentation by President and CEO of Affirmant Health Partners, Dr. William Mayer. Affirmant is what is known as a super-CIN, a Clinically Integrated Network. CIN’s allow smaller systems, hospitals, and physician organizations to leverage infrastructure costs, governance and health management as well as financial risk while retaining their independence. Affirmant has been approved as one of the six new Medicare-accountable care organizations (ACOs) in Michigan. Dr. Mayer’s point was that current rate of increase in health care is unsustainable. It will bankrupt us. So a different solution must be developed. How do we hold one another accountable to achieve this? Affirmant’s approach is to require financial risk on the part of the CIN but within an arrangement with health systems that guarantees a scale of patients to make significant change possible, makes big data sharing possible and allows for participation in a financial up side. Keep an eye on their progress.


The theme of this year’s conference was The Power of Purpose. Dave Herbel, President and CEO of LeadingAge Michigan gave this perspective: “This theme speaks to mission-based providers in terms of how we collaborate, share our vision, make a difference in the lives of those we serve and collectively transform the aging experience. Purpose is one of our defining characteristics as human beings and it’s a fundamental component of a fulfilling life. We all crave purpose…it helps us find meaning and live longer. Studies show that people who seek meaning beyond themselves are healthier, happier, and live longer. Together, with purpose in our lives, we can accomplish more than each of us can alone.” As we live with purpose, we will find ourselves growing. And that is one of our greatest gifts in life to ourselves and to others.


As I attended, I felt a real sense of camaraderie and a spirit of collaboration. The attendees are all trying to deliver, or support the delivery of compassionate human care. Those on the frontlines have the daily challenge of servicing individual clients whose situations require attention to detail and a commitment to continually find ways to enrich their lives even if certain capabilities are waning. I witnessed at the conference a level of honest conversation and encouragement that reassured me of the value of meeting together and reaching out to find help during the year.


The workshop I led was on Deepening Brand Engagement through Storytelling. I started my session by retelling the Aesop fable of The Tortoise and the Hare. You remember the plot—the busy rabbit, full of himself, challenges the slow turtle to a race. Interestingly, after all of these years, the tortoise still wins the race. I encouraged my audience that marketing and really service to seniors is not a sprint but a distance race that takes commitment, patience and tenacity. But if you follow through, you will see winning outcomes.

So, after gaining insight at the conference, I came home to my family and, around the dinner table, we looked up the answers to Skubick’s questions:

  • Jim Hune is the state senator representing the 22nd State District where my family lives. He is one of 38 senators.
  • Donna Lisinski is the state representative of House District 52. Donna is one of 110 state representatives.
  • Michigan’s legislative body is referred to as a legislature. Congress is the federal legislature.

OK. A few questions for you.

  • Do you know your state senator and representative?
  • Check me on this one and email me to let me know if I’m right or wrong: It takes 20 votes in the Michigan Senate and 56 votes in the House to pass a bill.

Be a Tortoise. Go deep. Stay Involved!

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