Enjoy this video interview with "Ain't She Sweet" founder and CEO Lia Jill Levitt. The interview begins at the 1:00 mark.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My grandmother told me that I wasn’t destined for an average life and that statement became the spark that ignited a fire of confidence. I quit a six figure corporate job to write the world’s first happy (and true) story about skilled nursing facilities, which features my witty, blind grandmother. Luckily business is booming and I spend my days and nights driving from nursing home to assisted living to senior center and I’ve never felt happier or more fulfilled.
What does it mean for you to live “on purpose”? Can you explain? How can one achieve that?
Living on purpose is synonymous with living with intention and joy. This is individual in nature, but has an incredible impact on community and society when achieved. I found my Grandmother to be the greatest example of this. When she broke her hip a few days shy of turning 90, had an unrelated emergency gallbladder removal in the same hospital stay and then got pneumonia and her prognosis was bleak. She told me on one of our many overnights together in the hospital she was not ready to die. She had still had goals, desires, dreams and purpose. She lived nine more years against all odds, continuing to excel as a blind painter, as President of her nursing homes Resident Council, holding her twin great granddaughters after they were born and celebrating with her first limousine ride, which I surprised her with on her 95th birthday. Finding the joy in life, relationships and even once again after tragedy, is living “on purpose”.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that relates to having a Joie De Vivre? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.” This quote exemplifies how I feel about my Grandmother and her undeniable profound impact on me. I also had a brilliant mentor, also a senior, who encouraged me to take risks in writing, which led me to hundreds of pages. These people took their wisdom in life and in character and bestowed it upon me. The latter was focused on bridge building and I believe a thirst for life comes with creating and maintaining connections through building bridges and being the person someone looks up to as if they know all of the answers in the world.
“My grandmother lived until she was 99. I asked her everything, including what gave her confidence,” says aging advocate, Lia Jill Levitt, the author of Ain’t She Sweet: a Coming of (Old )Age Story. “I found my grandmother always wanted to ride in a limo, but financial constraints made this impossible. I spent months saving up to surprise her with a limo on her 95th birthday, and the joy it brought her was immeasurable. I believe we should ask the elderly not only what their advice is, but what their observations are on life, love, and learning,” she adds.
The May / June 2019 Issue of GRAND magazine, featuring cover stories on Mario Andretti. GRAND is a the premier lifestyle magazine for grandparents!
"In 1993, my legally blind then 80-year-old grandmother, pronounced she was “putting herself” in a nursing home because she’d feel more comfortable with a nurse outside her door than in a Brooklyn apartment alone with a gas stove. She was right. For 19 years she flourished in a still family-owned facility in Connecticut where she soon, established her formally shy self, as the Queen Bee, AKA Resident Council President, through popular vote. "
"People have countless options from large national names to smaller regional properties to a smaller group of independent residences, like my grandmother was in. For the purpose of this article, national and regional brands known for their excellence in care, quality of staff and availability of lifestyle options were selected. This is not to say there aren’t many other wonderful properties available. We could not include all that are worthy of recognition."
"One of factors that lends towards supporting diversity is the fact many properties have bilingual staff speaking languages such as Spanish, Italian, Armenian, French, Norwegian, German. The food options for residents are diverse as well with facilities offering a range of cuisine options to accommodate dietary restrictions as well as vegetarian and Kosher meals in locations."
"A unique service they have, which provides a greater ease of living to seniors in their facilities is the Navigator model, which helps residents with everything from navigating their long-term care insurance to exploring spiritual connections to volunteer opportunities. The communities also offer residents in-house personal trainers who’ve been specifically trained on working with seniors."
"I have personal experience with some but not all of these brands, but am yet to walk into one I wish wouldn’t adjust their minimum age. After all, I don’t have access to in-home gourmet cooking classes, chauffeur services or even in a friendly neighborhood, the myriad of social interactions senior living promotes. My hope is this glimpse of options provides a spark of confidence in whatever the next stage in life is for you or your loved ones."
The January/ February 2019 Issue of GRAND magazine, featuring my story on traveling to Africa with a group of grandparents. GRAND is a the premier lifestyle magazine for grandparents!
"To create a legacy is to create a story that has a beginning but does not end. Whether the world knows you or you feel you've come to know just a small piece of the world, leaving a legacy ensures that the sparks of your life the fire of knowledge, passion, and tradition for years to come."
"Our values are manifested in the legacy we leave. A person's legacy does not have to be as broad-reaching as Paul's to be impactful for generations to come. A legacy can be a family story that brings joy to our descendants, a talent passed through a family, or a donation to a charity that is meaningful to an individual."
"Experts says retaining good caregiving help begins before people start their jobs. Lia Jill Levitt, a Connecticut-based consultant to long-term care facilities and founder of Ain't She Sweet, LLC, says employers need to determine whether the applicant just needs a job to pay the bills or considers this work a calling.
Several experts pointed out that simply liking older people, while a good start, does not necessarily guarantee a successful career choice. To avoid turnover from that issue, some institutions give people an opportunity to do “job shadowing,” in which they follow an experienced caregiver around for a day to get a sense of what the work is really like.
People can think they like older adults, but nursing homes can have very sick people who need a lot of medical attention. If a prospective employee visits a nursing home and finds the environment unsettling, it may not be the right fit.
Levitt suggests caregiving facility management pay attention to applicants’ language: Do they refer to “residents” or “patients?” Says Levitt: “This is not a hospital. This is where [residents] live out the remainder of their life. A better phrase is: ‘I worked in your grandmother’s home.’ Not ‘She lived in my workplace.'”
Levitt noted that in many other industries, consistent staffing is not as crucial.
“If your marketing director quit, the show can still go on,” she explains. “You can have another accountant take over if one leaves. But in a nursing home, residents need to be showered, and an aide can only do so many people at a time.” Residents may have dementia or be wheelchair-bound and aides must ensure they don’t fall in a slippery shower.
In addition, this work is very intimate. “If you have a new person taking your clothes off and washing the most intimate parts of your body, and that person switches every six months, don’t you think that would be quite emotionally disruptive for the residents?” Levitt asks.
"Not everyone can say they grew up in a nursing home. For Newtown resident Lia Levitt, her unique upbringing happened because of the strong relationship she developed with her late grandmother, Anna Levitt.
During the Newtown Senior Center's popular Lunch Learn program on April 18, members gathered to hear Ms Levitt's inspirational story about the love and lessons she received through getting to know her grandmother over the span of 19 years."
"Occupation: I’m the founder of Ain’t She Sweet LLC, a company dedicated to bringing joy and inspiration to the lives of seniors and those who care for and who care about them. I began the company last fall, and it combines my passions of public speaking, writing, and working with the elderly. I’m writing a book called Ain’t She Sweet: A Coming of (Old) Age Story. The goal of my book is to reduce trepidation in society about long-term care facilities and to show all the joy and positivity that can be associated with old age."
In relationships, whether personal or professional, I find no value supersedes the importance of loyalty.
Though I essentially made up a job that doesn’t really exist, as an intellectually inspirational speaker for the elderly, I see impact.
Even with those with severe declines due to dementia, if I’m able to connect with some to get eye contact and with others to allow them to share a memory, no one has asked about in years, my work now matters.
I’ve been told the residents get a lot out of my programs, but I know I get more.
My life is enriched by experiences like this where I open myself up to the opportunity of learning through experience.
I love hearing and being a part of people’s stories. With teens, I help them realize a future they’re on the cusp of and with the elderly, I help them remember a past that defines them.
In order to have the energy to speak loudly to those who are hard of hearing, (which isn’t in my nature) I sleep..a lot. My rule on weekends is I don’t get out of bed prior to noon."
"As a rather new entrepreneur, I worried my finances wouldn’t be as conducive to supporting my travel addiction. I’m gifting myself permission to continue to fund my passion for experiencing culture, with a trip this summer to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland, and St. Petersburg. Having traveled to over 50 countries, I’ve found a way to incorporate this passion by turning my travel stories into intellectually inspiring programs for seniors. — Lia Jill Levitt, Speaker, Advocate, and Writer, Ain’t She Sweet"
“Contrary to what those unfamiliar with the process may believe, applying to college cannot be completed, even by the most ambitious family, in a weekend,” said Lia Jill Levitt, a college admissions consultant.
“Most teens and their parents are at odds over this process,” Levitt told NBC News. “When I speak with parents...I often focus on mitigating familial conflict."
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