Welcome to Aldersgate OnAir!
Maria Hagadorn: Hi! This is Maria Hagadorn.
Brooks Shelley: And Brooks Shelley.
Maria: Welcome to Aldersgate OnAir.
Mike Peacock: Welcome, friends, to Aldersgate OnAir. My name is Mike and I’ll be your host on this epic journey through the fabled land of Internet radio. I am excited to bring to you the first-ever episode of our amazing new show made just for you because, really, what is radio without you, the listeners?
Now, I know you’re probably asking yourself, “Who is this Mike guy and what exactly is Aldersgate OnAir?” Well, those are great questions, so sit back and let me tell you all about it.
Aldersgate OnAir is designed to provide you an entertaining, informative look at the world of Aldersgate through the eyes of the residents, the staff, and even those out in the greater communities. We’ll share their stories, experiences, ideas, and philosophies on our quest for knowledge and entertainment.
As far as who I am, just consider me the conduit, the conductor on this virtual freeway that connects all the elements together. Really, this isn’t about me. I’m just a small part, a bit player. I’ll be the voice that guides you along the many diverse avenues of that mystical place known as Aldersgate.
Before we introduce our guests today, let’s take a moment to talk about what makes this place so truly unique and amazing. Aldersgate is a mythical organization that is both a place and a concept. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, on 231 acres of beautiful land, the community offers gorgeous housing and health services for people 62 and older, dog friendly, miles of trails, and a lake. It’s a paradise.
Founded by the United Methodists, Aldersgate Life Plan Services is a nonprofit organization that takes up the charge against ageism in the U.S. and embodies a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity. Their diverse board of directors continues to demonstrate their commitment by developing a brand new community at Shalom Park in South Charlotte for those 62 and older. The company supports the arts as well as a variety of minority-owned businesses in Charlotte. If that wasn’t enough, they are perpetually seeking to attract like-minded residents who devote thousands of volunteer hours to make this world a better place day by day.
We are excited to launch this radio station with our very first guests, two people who deliver on the mission every day. Let me tell you, their dedication, passion, and commitment to the residents and the community knows absolutely no bounds. Now, please welcome to Aldersgate OnAir, Maria Hagadorn and Brooks Shelley. Maria and Brooks, thank you so much for joining me today.
Brooks: Thanks for having us.
Maria: Thank you.
Mike: Absolutely. Let’s dig right in, shall we? Maria, how long have you been at Aldersgate and what do you love about your job?
Maria: I have been at Aldersgate for just over a year now and I love so much about my job. I made a career change after 11 years in the global logistics and shipping field, looking to make a difference and be part of something that is more impactful and fulfilling.
What I love about my job is being able to use my business background to serve others and to be able to be in a space where I’m doing my job but I get to interact with people who are impacted by my work. Being able to communicate and interact with the residents on an every-day basis and to see the impact it has on them is just extremely fulfilling to me.
Mike: You said you had a business background. What is that business background?
Maria: I worked for 11 years for a global shipping company. I spend eight years in global strategic sales, focused on imports, exports, and strategic business development.
Mike: Okay. How do you take that experience and translate that to an entirely different industry?
Maria: Right now, I am managing the sales team here at Aldersgate. I think what I really am able to use here is my strategic sales background in looking at how we can grow our sales team, how we can line up our initiatives with the organizational mission, as well as the financial responsibilities for us, and being able to look out at our goals and our growth and continually look for ways to improve what we’re doing with process improvement as well as being able to really understand our market and different, strategic sales approaches.
Mike: Yeah. Brooks, how about you?
Brooks: I have been at Aldersgate for roughly three years. Like Maria, I came from a business background and totally different industry. I worked with a locally owned health and wellness company for about 17 years. It’s a great blessing to be able to go from one career where you’re helping people to go into another career where you’re helping people.
It’s very much like Maria; it’s great to interact daily with people who you typically wouldn’t. You get to know everybody’s story and they get to know yours. There’s a lot of really intriguing stories here and it’s just a beautiful place to have it.
I actually stumbled on Aldersgate. I lived in the neighborhood for 20-odd years and always heard of it. Came out here for a board meeting one night for a board I was on and was just blown away.
I had absolutely no predilection about making a career change. I was going to retire with that company. I worked in a small office with the owner and the founder for 17 years, so that was it.
When I came to Aldersgate, I spent about two hours after the board meeting just hanging out, talking to the residents. After that, I came here and call it home now. Fortunately, for our HR director, I quit calling her after she finally agreed to let me in.
Brooks: I have yet to ever look back.
Mike: That’s amazing. I am curious. What do you think is the goal for this radio station? What do you hope people get out of listening to this show?
Maria: I think, speaking for myself, I would say it’s two-fold. For one, I would love to have people really understand what this industry is and share the love of serving the elderly and being able to impact other people who might have an interest in this industry or are just starting out and looking to learn and grow. But then also to reach other people who are in the senior living who are either living in a community like ours or considering living in a community like ours, to really maybe open their minds beyond what they think it is and really understand what it really truly is.
I think there are so many stereotypes of what senior living or retirement community is. If people could really understand how amazing it is, they might look at it a little bit differently, consider it a little bit earlier, moving into one or working at one.
Brooks: I second those emotions. For me, it’s also, especially in this time of social isolation, to be able to paint a picture for those that can’t be here and can’t get to see all the amazing things we have, but also to shed a little bit of a light on, it’s not retirement living. We have some of our elders here who are still working. They just choose to live in a community where they are with others around their age and everything is taken care of around of the maintenance and things around the house.
Also, to kind of reflect on the fact that just because you’re 62 and older doesn’t mean that you’re all alike because that covers several different generations and each generation could be different. Each decade has different likes, dislikes, wants, and desires. It’s okay to get to know each one of them and see what each one is about and what they bring to the table.
There’s so much here of living that it’s a lot like a cruise ship docked on land. There’s always something going on.
Mike: Wow. Well, now that we’ve got some background on you and what the company is all about, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of this. This is radio, also known at the theater of the mind. I love that description there. We have no way of really showing the audience visually what Aldersgate looks like right now. Can you two paint us a picture of the place with words and a brief description?
Brooks: When you first come on campus, you will be amazed at how green it is. There’s a lot of trees. We are 231 acres, so you drive down this beautiful, winding road with executive homes off to your left and there is still wildlife here. You’ll see a rabbit and often see deer and an occasional fox here and there. You’ve got nothing but green space.
Come around the bend and there’s a beautiful lake with homes situated around it, a five-acre azalea garden, and you have brand new apartments right in front of you. Yet, off to the right is the oldest remaining structure in our county that was built on a piece of farmland here. That sits on our site as well. You’ve got that good of history and legacy with the legacy that comes with all of our residents living here and it’s just incredible.
You absolutely have to see it to believe it. There’s so much to see and appreciate. It’s just comfortable. There are fireplaces and stone fireplaces. We’ve got of bars and it’s a wonderful, casual, relaxed, homey feeling.
Mike: What are you seeing, Maria? Does that sound like a pretty accurate description to you?
Maria: He really did a perfect job of describing that. the only thing I could possibly add to that would be, as you’re driving down the winding roads and looking at the trees and enjoying the wildlife, you see so many residents out walking. Whenever I drive in, in the morning, I see residents out for a walk, very active. Because we have this ability to walk and explore, you just have a lot of opportunities for people to get outside and really enjoy the outdoors. For being so close to right uptown Charlotte, it’s like being on a vacation at a resort.
Brooks: That’s a really good point too. We’ve noticed that, especially in the COVID-19 time, people are out. They are all across the campus. We’ve got people biking around the campus. We’ve got people just all out walking, socially distanced of course, but they are making the most of this pretty springtime we’re having.
Mike: Yeah. That is super cool. I had heard Aldersgate be referred to as a resort-like setting by other people, so I think you both did a fantastic job painting that visual picture there.
That being said, let’s talk about something else that you all are known for. Aldersgate has an amazing reputation for the quality of life it provides to residents, medical excellence but, also, you’ve really been the leaders for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the aging services space. How do you define diversity, equity, and inclusion, for those who might not be familiar with those terms?
Brooks: Diversity is, basically, all are welcome whereas inclusion is all are welcome but you also can come to the table and have dinner with us. Equity is, you’re welcome. You can have dinner at the table with us, but if your chair needs a little bit of adjustment to put you at the same level as everybody else, we can do that too.
Our team has made a very intentional, concentrated effort at exploring diversity, inclusion, and equity by starting with ourselves first and starting with our board members, our senior leadership team, and all of our teammates and also educating our elders and our residents on why it’s important because a lot of diversity, inclusion, and equity wasn’t included before in conversations or wasn’t a subject that really needed to be broached in mixed company. Making it an okay conversation to have and a welcomed conversation to have of understanding what is in each person’s ground has made a huge difference in our efforts to move forward and get past the same old same old.
Mike: Okay. Maria?
Maria: I think what’s interesting to me is, after coming to work here and seeing the work that’s done around diversity, inclusion, and equity, I thought I understood what that meant. We just go really deep with it here to talk about, it’s more than, well, it is your ethnicity, your religion, your background, but it’s not always something that you can see. It’s so much more than that.
There is a lot of diversity in things that you can’t see. People make assumptions based on what they see, but there’s so much more to it. To be able to really dig deep into what that means and the continuous growth for us around the intentionality that we do with that work here just truly never ceases to amaze me.
Mike: Yeah. What does that mean for the resident experience? How does diversity make life better for everybody?
Brooks: Well, it gets really boring to have the same old, same old. Unless you are challenged of thought or challenged of mind, it’s kind of boring. We like to bring in new things and see what we think of it. If you like it, that’s great. If you don’t like it, at least you had the chance to experience it and know that you didn’t like it or didn’t prefer it.
Our diversity and inclusion for our residents have really been a liberating experience for some. We had a showing of a transgender biography, a film that was called Miss Major here and had it in our fellowship hall. The residents were invited. The outside community was invited. Obviously, this was pre-COVID.
It was amazing to see how many of our residents went to it. We’d done the educational piece upfront and we told them what it was going to be. We educated and invited. Then, afterward, it was kind of curious to walk with some of them and go, “So, what’d you think? How was it and what’d you think?”
One of the couples turned around and said, “I thought it was great. I’m really glad that it was done because our grandson is transgender and I never thought that we’d be able to say that anywhere, especially around people of our demographic and age group. But now it’s on the table.”
Brooks: Yeah, we appreciate that.
Mike: That’s cool. My daughter is transgender, so it’s really cool to see how accepting people are finally beginning to come around with that. Yeah, that’s absolutely outstanding to be in an area where you are and, in that kind of a setting, to have people who you wouldn’t necessarily think would be open to those kinds of discussions to have it really be welcomed. Epic is the only word that comes to my mind when I think about that. Props to you guys because that is just awesome.
What is Aldersgate doing specifically to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in Charlotte?
Brooks: We have made it, again, intentional. You’ll hear that word frequently with us. We’ve made an intentional outreach to all of the other aspects that aren’t typically represented in senior living. We are constantly advertising and having a presence in minority newspapers, radio.
We were the first Life Plan Community in Charlotte to participate in the Charlotte Pride festival about three years ago and the outpouring of response was unexpected and primarily not from LGBTQ people. It was from allies and family members that were coming over to our tent, wanting to know more and how could they become involved, and wanting to know why we were there.
As we walked through the parade holding our banner, and it was our entire team that was there, you have to give a 20-, 30-second excerpt of who you are and what you do. That way the MC will read it out as you march past the podium. We wrote it and submitted it. We’re walking along, carrying our banner.
The MC kept talking and kept talking and made a comment of, these are the people that are caring for and enriching the lives of those of us and our community that fought for us to be able to have the right to even be here today as a group and we need to show respect. Well, I looked over, and our chief diversity and inclusion officer said, “I didn’t write that. Did you write that? That was good.” That was just something that we hadn’t put in there, but the MC felt compelled to say. It was a nice mention and a nice visual that they had painted for the rest of the group of why it was important to be there.
Mike: Marie, what’s your take on that?
Maria: I think it is really just amazing to see the work that’s being done here at Aldersgate and then also in the community because it’s something I had really never thought of, the diversity and inclusion work in the world of aging, how it affects people, and how people might not want to come to a community because they might not feel comfortable being themselves. I just had never thought about it.
I think that the work being done here at the community as far as education and then also being able to get residents involved with things like that, being at the Pride Parade, it shows that you’re never too old to learn new things and maybe open your mind and your heart to something that you didn’t know about before. I love the impact that people here have on opening minds and hearts to think about something more than maybe would otherwise and to be able to be involved in the community in all the groups that this impacts is just really inspirational to me.
I think about even the people who aren’t necessarily of the age to come and move here. Eventually, they will be. We’re paving the way for people to be accepting and loving and open to thinking in ways that maybe you weren’t before.
Mike: Great. On the next episode of Aldersgate OnAir, we’re going to dive deep into the concept of ageism. We’re not going to get into that today, but I did want to ask you. What are each of your philosophies about aging? What do you hope to accomplish in your own aging and how does that affect what you do here at Aldersgate?
Brooks: Well, for me, my philosophy on aging is, as cliché as it sounds, it’s all in your mind. It is absolutely in my mind. It’s also in my knees and it’s kind of in my knuckles.
Brooks: And the recovering time is definitely not what it used to be. Again, if you feel like doing it, do it. We have a remarkable group of residents that are doing just that. They are active and it is not just the regular bingo or puzzles. There is a subset for that and that’s fine.
Our group wants to be involved in everything. They want to go to the theater. They want to be outdoors. We’ve got 231 acres. A couple of them want to find every spot on the boundary and see what we have butted up to. That’s their mission.
Brooks: We have an amazing group that is just kind of the mileage on the car but not the life left in the engine.
Brooks: And they are quick to tell you that. [Laughter]
Mike: Right. What are your thoughts, Maria?
Maria: My philosophy on aging, it’s changed dramatically since I’ve come here because, when I interact with the residents here and the people that I have the pleasure of getting to know, really truly getting to know, I think to myself, “That’s how I want to live my life when I’m that age. That’s who I want to be when I grow up.”
I’m constantly thinking about, how do I take what I get to see here and how it’s changed my mind on aging to my own personal life and how can I live the best life that I could possibly live? A resident said to me once about how she gets to fill her days with things that she enjoys and I think to myself about, well, right now, this is what I’m doing in my life. What do I want to do in 10 years, 20 years, 40 years? How can we apply that to what we do in serving our residents? How can they live their best lives, and how can we help them to do that?
I think it’s just really such a privilege to be able to be a part of that, have conversations, and ask the questions of, “What do you want to do? What would you like to learn how to do? What can you help us do?” because, in talking to residents that tell me, “I want to feel a part of it. Can I help you with something?” And so, we have resident committees that help us make decisions.
I have a resident fundraising committee that helps with the fundraising here. You start to get to know about people who have done things that we’re doing now, in their careers, and they love to be able to take what they have done in their careers and help us but also help to move Aldersgate forward in a positive direction because it’s their home, they feel a part of it, and they feel as though they can use their gifts to help advance that mission.
Mike: Which brings everything back to that whole concept of inclusion, right? It’s this very all-encompassing philosophy that you all have developed and adhered to. I think that’s absolutely remarkable.
I understand that Aldersgate is now launching pre-sales for a cool new community in the South Park area of Charlotte that will be positioned on the 60-acre campus of Shalom Park. Tell us about this project.
Brooks: This project is going to be literally one of a kind. There is no culturally Jewish retirement center between Richmond, Virginia, and Atlanta, Georgia.
The campus of Shalom Park in Charlotte has a remarkable group of associations and organizations. The Jewish Federation is there. The foundation is there. The Jewish community center is there. It’s just the pinnacle of Jewish living. From the beginning, they wanted an intergenerational aspect of campus. They’ve got children’s summer camp programs.
They’ve got everything you could ever want except for the senior component. That was part of the vision, to begin with. We do that very well. They have what they know that they do well. It was a perfect collaboration between the two entities.
We’ve already started; just got the name chosen. It’s Generations at Shalom Park. It will have 125 hybrid villas.
The buildings are designed in a chevron shape, so it’s kind of an elongated V. The architect designed it that way so that seven apartments on one floor, six of them have at least two walls with windows on them, so you’ve got great natural light. There will be five of those buildings with underground parking, one community center with multiple dining venues, a movie theater, salon and spa, and then a memory care building that will have private suites for memory care.
Now, all of this is situated on the Shalom Park campus, so the amenities of Shalom Park are also available to everyone that lives there. You’ll literally be able to walk out and go across the way to your temple, synagogue, the JCC and workout, whatever you want. It’s going to be incredible.
Mike: It sounds like it. Anything that you wanted to add to that, Maria?
Maria: I think a really amazing and unique thing about this community that I’m so excited to see unfold is the intergenerational piece. I think, for what I’ve seen with the sales side, being on the sales side of this, and also on a personal side because I see this with my own elderly family members, is people think, “I’m not that old. I don’t belong in a place like that. I don’t want to be around a bunch of other old people.”
This is an opportunity for them to be in a community that a lot of people will already be spending time there, going and using the amenities that are there already existing and the existing infrastructure. Maybe they already go to the temples that are there on that campus. Now they have an opportunity to live there.
There’s the day school, the Jewish preschool, and so you have children going around. You have older aged kids. You have adults. And so, it’s not your typical Life Plan Community or retirement community where you’re around everyone that’s the same age as you. You get to experience life in a different way than you would at a normal Life Plan Community. I think it’s really what sets that apart.
Mike: Yeah. Well, in addition to the Aldersgate community, as we talked about, Aldersgate also offers homecare. Maria, could you describe this program to us?
Maria: Aldersgate At Home is an entity that provides home care to our residents here. Aldersgate At Home serves as our independent living residents and what it does is it helps keep our residents in their homes longer. It keeps them independent.
They offer a full range of services, anything from pet care all the way to 24-hour care. They offer cleaning. They offer walking your dog, medication reminders, and what it really does is it gives the residents the ability to stay in their homes longer, and then it also helps caregivers to have an additional source to help them. Right now, they’re serving our community and slowly branching out into the community around us.
Brooks: Mike, one of the beauties of Aldersgate At Home is that we can serve anyone in our county. We are not relegated just to our campus.
Brooks: We have some people outside of the campus, the Aldersgate At Home, we provide that service to them as well. We’re licensed to do that.
Mike: It’s not just your residents benefiting from the services, but it really does provide a very valuable service to the community as a whole.
Brooks: It does. It allows people, that want to age in place, the ability to stay in their home for as long as they would like. A lot of people don’t want to leave their home and want to be able to stay in their home but just need a little bit of assistance on certain things and this service allows for that.
Mike: Yeah, I think that’s really forward-thinking because, when you think about services being provided, the first thing that comes to your mind is, “I’ve got to be somewhere in order to get those services.” Really, taking it outside of the internal community gives people that little bit of extra sense of freedom and security but knowing that they can have all of the things that they need still at their disposal readily whenever they need it.
Brooks: It does and it also makes for a much easier transition for when they do want to move into a community that they’re already familiar. They have an exposure and a relationship already built, so that bit of transgression or transference or whatever is really much easier for them to come and enter into a community.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah, that’s really just well thought out. That’s awesome.
Maria: Right now, especially during COVID, I think that Aldersgate At Home is an amazing service because, on our campus, we are no longer allowing family members here on campus, which is really hard for people when it comes to thinking about social isolation or maybe if they had a family member who came and helped them do some of these light chores. Aldersgate At Home is still offering their services, and so especially for those who already were using the services, I think the family members feel much more comfort knowing that there are people here doing those things for them since they aren’t able to be here themselves.
Mike: Yeah. Yeah, that’s awesome. Thank you for that.
Aldersgate itself sits on a vast, beautiful, 231 acres, one of the largest green spaces in Mecklenburg County and, in contrast, is right next door to the NoDa district in the diverse community of east Charlotte. Tell us about the unique opportunity that this presents.
Brooks: Aldersgate is actually located in east Charlotte, so that is arguably the most diverse area of Charlotte. You can go three blocks and have so many different ethnicities that have restaurants that you could eat at and it’s authentic. We butt up to several historic neighbors that each have their own distinctive personality.
NoDa is the arts district and has multiple venues for offerings of things out of that. We’ve got Plaza Midwood, which is right next to us. It has an incredible Bohemian feel to it. We’ve got Chantilly.
We are located in basically a little hub that allows you to branch off into whatever you feel like, whatever type of neighborhood you’d like to go to, whatever type of restaurant you would like to go to, whatever you want to do. It is literally a launching pad to go out into different cultural aspects.
Mike: Yeah. Maria?
Maria: I think it’s a really cool part of town, part of Charlotte, because it’s got so much to offer, like Brooks just said. You have so many different, unique options in the different neighborhoods around us. As it continues to grow and develop, you get to see the different personalities of Charlotte, and to be part of that is really exciting.
There are fun restaurants, great food. You’ve got breweries. You’ve got walking trails. I think the uniqueness of everything that we have to offer in this part of Charlotte is what makes us really unique and different.
Mike: Yeah. Well, it sounds like everything that you all do there is unique and different, from the setting being in literally the perfect place, to the programs that you’ve instilled, to the technology that you share, to your philosophies on diversity, inclusion, equity – everything like that. Aldersgate really provides the best of everything for everybody. What would you both like to say to the residents, to the future residents, to the community that really sums up how you feel about Aldersgate?
Mike: I would say that my hope is that everyone who works here and lives here loves Aldersgate as much as I do because it is such an amazing place to be, to be a part of, and to be proud of what we’re doing. Whether you’re a resident or you’re a teammate, you are such an important part of being here. I think, with all the work that we’re doing, all of the things that we’re doing in the community and for our residents, we want people to feel excited about that and feel the fire and the passion that we do about everything that’s happening.
Mike: Yeah. Brooks, how about you?
Brooks: I agree completely. I really hope that the people come to love the fact that you can be your authentic self. Regardless of what that is, this is the place where you can live an intentionally authentic life, be embraced by those around you, be enhanced by those around you, and engaged by those around you because it’s different than anything I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing.
Mike: Yeah, it is amazing. Maria, Brooks, thank you so much for launching this absolutely epic show, Aldersgate OnAir. I’m excited to be a part of it with you. I’m excited to share this with all the listeners. It’s going to be really fun. I like to thank you both for hanging out with me today. I look forward to talking to you again real soon.
Brooks: Great. Thank you.
Maria: Thank you so much.
Mike: Thank you to all of you for tuning into our debut episode. We have so many cool things planned for this show. I can’t wait to share them all with you.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be adding this show to a number of additional platforms, so you can listen and subscribe on your choice of websites, apps, and streaming sites. In the meantime, as we get the show off the ground, we’d love it if you could do us a favor. Let us know what you think. If you have a question, a comment, or an idea for a topic, send us an email at [email protected], and let’s build this together.
Thanks again for listening. It’s an absolute honor to have you on board. We’ll talk to you again soon on Aldersgate OnAir.