Why One American CEO Traveled to Perth

Some providers of ageing services might think that 10,000 miles is a bit far to travel for a conference. But American provider Barb Rode didn’t think twice about attending the 2015 ASCA/IAHSA Joint International Conference in Perth, Australia, last September.

Rode is president and chief executive officer of St. Therese, an ageing services organization based in Minnesota’s Twin Cities metropolitan area. In that role, she’s responsible for the day-to-day operation of a multi-site organization serving about 2,000 older adults each year.

So how does a busy executive find the time to travel to the other side of the world?

After working 43 years in the ageing field, Rode decided in 2015 that it was time to fulfill her long-time dream to attend an international conference. And fortunately, she says, the board of her organization agreed to let her go.

“I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to get some new ideas and connect with people overseas,” says Rode about her trip. “And what better place than Australia? I knew I would never get there otherwise, and if I had things in common with the other participants, that would be amazing.”

An Amazing Experience

“Amazing” is a word that Rode uses frequently when describing her trip to Perth.

She particularly enjoyed the site visits that conference participants took to the Juniper Simulation Centre, Rise Network, the Air Force Memorial Estates, Coolibah Total Caring, and Capecare.

In addition to collecting business cards from her fellow site visitors, Rode says she brought home “a ton” of materials about the organizations she visited.

She’s used the business cards to keep in touch with her new global network. And she’s preparing to present the highlights of her site visit day to her board and her staff executive committee. For example:

  • The Juniper Simulation Centre, which is designed to train nursing assistants and home health aides in a homelike setting, was an “ah-ha” moment for Rode. She’d love to find a way to establish a similar training site in Minnesota.

  • The site visit to Rise Network’s award-winning Aboriginal Social Centre gave Rode many ideas about how her own organization could reach out to its community.

  • Rode was especially impressed by the Air Force Memorial Estates, which features an onsite Aviation Heritage Museum that is operated by hundreds of older volunteers, many of whom live on the estate. “It was just really interesting to see how the museum offers seniors meaningful work,” she says.

Sharing Common Challenges

Rode says she also returned to the United States with the strong belief that American providers are not alone as they face challenges associated with recruiting and retaining staff, caring for people with dementia, and marketing their communities.

“Everybody is having the same problems,” she says about her fellow conference participants. “It was like there wasn’t an ocean between us.”

Appreciation for her newly established global network will keep Rode going back to international conferences, in addition to attending national conferences in the U.S.

“The national conferences are well worth attending because you get an important level of knowledge about what your American colleagues are doing,” she says. “But I see now that international conferences open your networks to the whole world. So how exciting is that? You can’t get that anywhere else.”

Learn more about IAHSA’s International Conferences and other educational opportunies here.

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