Ralston Center Welcomes Lynette M. Killen, New Executive Director

The Ralston Center recently welcomed Lynette M. Killen as their new Executive Director. Killed previously served as CEO of Chandler Hall, a Quaker-based, long-term-care residential community and hospice in Bucks County, PA, as well as administrator for geriatric services at Albert Einstein Medical Center and director positions in social work for Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Methodist Hospital.

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Learn more about Lynette M. Killen in our Q&A below:

Q: Why did you decide to work in the field of geriatric services?

A: I decided at a very young age to work in geriatric services. My first job, when a high school student, was a nurse’s aide in a local nursing home. I kept that job for two summers while in college. I also worked a summer job at an Area Aging on Aging during college.

I was fortunate to spend my formative years around a grandmother and older aunts and uncles that I adored and learned from on a regular basis. As an only child, I was very comfortable with individuals older than me. I pursued a bachelors and graduate degree in social work. My internship experiences were in aging organizations, mostly community based. I enjoyed all my work and internship experience and knew that my early decision was the right one.

Working in geriatric services gives me an opportunity to both give and take in a society that does not always respect and offer dignity to elders. If I can make a bit of a difference in the lives of elders and the value of cross-generational engagement, I am happy. 

Q: How has your thinking about aging changed over the years?

A: There is my personal aging, which I think has changed and continues to change my lens over the years. Specifically, I more fully understand that aging is a unique, individual journey. I believe that society does aging a disservice by making blanket statements about elderly; they are not a homogeneous group. They do not vote the same, live the same, or need the same from their medical and “home” communities.  Also, what one cohort wanted and needed is not what the next cohort wants and needs (realizing that referring to a cohort does intimate that all are in the same basket).

I am particularly concerned about baby boomers, of which I am one, and the financial fragility of many of its members. False belief about the benefits of Medicare, Social Security, and Retirement Funds has led to being ill-prepared for longer life spans.

Another concern is the prevalence of Alzheimer’s/dementia –related diagnosis. My earlier years in the field supported the idea that all elders became confused and forgetful; in other words, these “conditions” were just to be expected. There was little research or education about what caused memory impairment, the financial and caregiver costs…..  I am bolstered by the research, education, and focus on Alzheimer’s and dementia-related conditions, but know that our social policies, private and public dollars are not yet aligned with needs. 

Q: In general, what areas of senior care do you think need the most improvement or should be more of a priority? (I.e. educating seniors on the importance of healthy diets and exercise, affordable home care and/or assisted living, etc.)

A: I believe that clinical providers that partner with elders for their care need more education so that they can care with a sensibility to aging issues. There are not enough geriatricians, geriatric nurse practitioners, geriatric psychiatrists etc. Therefore, other clinicians need to be up to the work of providing well informed care. They need to listen intently to their patients and their families and caregivers.

Affordable housing for elders is a huge issue and gets moderate attention from private developers as well as the federal government. Builders and property developers of single and community housing need to be aware of the environmental impact of “poor design” too. Bathrooms that only have bathtubs are one example of poor design.

I would like to see regulators reward providers of services and housing for doing the “right thing” – such as partnering with elders for person-directed care and amenities. Often regulations prevent creative work because of the many “DO NOTs” that leads their work. Instead, partnership with regulators that benefits providers and elders would be a win-win in a world that has very limited funding or no funding other than private pay from consumers.

Educated consumers of medical, lifestyle, and service information would be beneficial to quality of life. Therefore, I strongly believe that much of this education needs to begin during one’s adult years, not at the point of a crisis or a new diagnosis. 

Q: What are your plans or goals as the new Executive Director of the Ralston Center?

A: As the new Executive Director, I want to leverage the place the organization is in its history. Looking back at its 200 years is helpful and provides some comfort to Ralston’s ability to continue to service elders, but I am excited about harnessing the opportunity to embark on new planning for its future. The transition made several decades ago from residential services to community services was wise, but with increasing demands of the “aging tsunami” – the baby boomers – a different lens is needed to look at communities that are age-friendly and to look at services that assist elders remain in their home, if that is their desire. I don’t believe that Ralston can be all things to all Philadelphia elders, but it can seek new ways of spreading its reach through collaborations (formal and informal) and partnerships.

Learn more about the Ralston Center here.

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