The Story of a Life Time, My Last Soundtrack

An E-Legacy

Today, you’d be hard-pressed not to find traces of someone on the internet.  People will share just about everything with the world allowing each of us a brief glimpse into their life. I’ve often wondered what happens to these pages if the person who owned them passes away. Would the last post or image they share reflect how they would want to be remembered?

What if there was a place that allowed us to record our own story? Not by the everyday musings of our social media pages, but rather by a space designed for us to share our e-legacy with our friends and loved ones our favorite songs, write our most meaningful memories, or display our precious photos. A place that we could feel confident that if we were to pass away the story of our time here on earth would be written by none other than ourselves.

My Last Soundtrack (MLS) has done just this.  Through their innovative and thoughtful lens, My Last Soundtrack has created a safe and welcoming space for anyone wanting to share their story, leave a legacy, or give the gift of collective memories to family and loved ones.

#Disrupters

Founders Carl Hammerdorfer and Joe Cannon began MLS as an opportunity to personalize the music played at our funerals or memorials. Since its conception, however, it has grown into so much more. And through a new lens of the dying process created an opportunity for family and loved ones to better prepare themselves for the end of life.

Last week I had the exciting opportunity to speak with Sue Kemple, the CEO of MLS, and Ally Cannon, Director of Marketing, to learn more about the site and the goals and solutions it seeks to offer the field of aging. Having already written a book on her own experience with grief and intrigued by the idea of applying digital solutions for individuals to cope with death and grieving, Sue saw an opportunity to expand the scope of MLS to individuals on Hospice. Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 1.01.58 PM.pngA welcoming and customizable platform to share our story, MLS also becomes a tool, which will allow end of life conversations to occur more organically. MLS is committed to the idea of living well, dying better, and being remembered the right way. Their platform disrupts sterile conversations we have around the dying process and creates a gateway for people to better prepare for their advance directives in the comforts of home with close family and friends.

My Last Soundtrack

In addition to connecting with Sue and Ally, I was able to create my own Last Soundtrack!  I was pleasantly surprised about how easy the site was to use and customize. And the end result was a beautiful design, which I can continue to add and change as needed! The best part is I can also share with those closest to me who I think would appreciate such a personal gift.

 

 

As I was customizing my own site, I couldn’t help but think of what a great tool this could be for family caregivers caring for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s.  In Nursing Homes, the Activities Department is often required to conduct an assessment on a new resident’s likes and dislikes.  It becomes a helpful tool if and when the same resident is no longer able to express their interest we have a record and can quickly adapt activities to their past preferences.

An MLS site has the fantastic potential to allow families to collect their loved one’s favorite songs, their hobbies, or even memories and use them as reminiscing activities while providing future care.

Dying Better 

No matter what stage of life you are in My Last Soundtrack is a unique and fun way to tell your life story. However, through the lens of aging, MLS has created a space where we can forget about the concerns and fears we hold towards dying and refocus our attention on what matters: the life we have led, the music we loved, and the people we have been blessed with to share the journey.

To learn more about My Last Soundtrack and to create your own site check out www.mylastsoundtrack.com. You can also follow them on Facebook and on Twitter.

 

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Look for their logo Ed The Raven

 

Nathan and Nikki Lamaster, Founders of SMART CEUs Hub- Recreational Therapy Approved CEUs

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With a background working in Activities, I am always a bit (a lot!) partial to stories, people, and businesses that support and expand the scope of the Recreation Department.   A Recreational Therapist has a unique opportunity to get to know older adults living in a skilled nursing center not only by their diagnosis but also by their hobbies and life stories.

The American Therapeutic Recreation Association defines Recreational Therapy as a systematic process that utilizes recreation and other activity-based interventions to address the assessed needs of individuals with illnesses and/or disabling conditions, as a means to psychological and physical health, recovery, and well-being. However, close ties to Bingo and ball bouncing often limit the perception of the job description.

Just like those in the medical profession, a Recreational Therapist is trained and certified to provide care and are also required to maintain Continuing Education Units or CEU’s to retain their certification.  Busy schedules, limited budgets, and even a lack of awareness of the profession often create barriers for professionals to obtain the necessary number of CEU’s, which can be both frustrating and detrimental to their career.  In steps, SMART CEUs Hub.

Nathan and Nikki Lamaster started SMART  CEUs Hub because they saw a need for accessible educational resources for recreational therapist all over the country. I learned about SMART Hub through their active social media presence on Instagram and after speaking with founder Nathan Lamaster quickly realized that this married duo have the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that is just what the aging services needs!

With a profound respect and understanding for the needs of older adults and the desire to help others, this dynamic pair is expanding their reach in the aging services and helping Recreational Therapist all over the country stay current and productive within their profession. I had the chance to ask Nathan and Nikki about how they got started in the field and why they believe the work is so important.

SMART CEUs Hub Explainer Video

How did you get your start in the aging services?

Well, this is funny actually. My aunt Karen works as the Director Of Social Services at a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) in California, and when I was a young kid, I got the chance to sing and entertain the residents. I even got the opportunity to dress up as Santa Clause one year and help bring the Christmas spirit to the people living there. As for jobs in the field, I got my first job in aging services at the age of 16 working as a server for a 5 star Assisted Living Facility (ALF). Then when I graduated College with my undergraduate degree, I worked as the Director Of Activities for a few SNFs in California and now part of my job in Texas is working on specifically the behavioral health portion of geriatrics.

Why do you think recreation is so important for our elders?

I believe what we do helps give purpose to our lives whether that be entertainment, hobbies, volunteering, our faith, or anything that gains our focus. One of the biggest issues I have seen affecting the senior population is feeling like their best days are behind them and that they have a hard time seeing their purpose. As a Recreational Therapist, we get to help people in all areas of their lives including physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. I believe God has given me this mission field to work in.

Where did the idea for SMART Hub come from?

SMART CEUs Hub came from seeing a need in the Recreational Therapy field for quality, affordable, online, educational presence specifically designed for Recreational Therapists, as well as giving job opportunities to Recreational Therapists through our SMART Instructor Program.

How does your business enhance the field of aging?

Our SMART Instructors are all considered experts in their specific areas of Recreational Therapy. The knowledge that they bring to the table helps other Recreational Therapists to be the best at serving their clients like a ripple effect.

Are you interested in becoming a SMART Instructor?  You can sign up here for more information.

How do you for see SMART Hub expanding in the future?  

SMART CEUs Hub has some big plans scheduled to be happening in October this year which is our 2 year anniversary of being in business. Our goals are to reach as many Recreational Therapists throughout the country as possible to help spread the knowledge of best practices in Recreational Therapy and gain more online exposure for our field. Who knows? Maybe traveling conferences are in the future for us!

For more on SMART CEU Hub check out:

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Founder Bio: Nathan and his wife Nikki relocated from California to Tyler, Texas in 2013 right after they were married for his wife’s Christian radio career. While living in Texas Nathan found that very little people knew what Recreational Therapy was as compared to in California. A lack of awareness of the profession meant that positions were limited. As many Recreational Therapist across the country were in the same situation, Nathan began to think of ways to help his profession gain more exposure through a greater online presence. This was when he decided to create a quality, affordable, online, educational presence specifically designed for Recreational Therapists and taught by Recreational Therapy Experts (known as SMART Instructors) throughout the country. Thus in 2015 SMART CEUs Hub was born and continues to grow its influence.

 

Meg LaPorte the Founder of Age in America, a Collection of Stories Designed to Challenge Aging Stereotypes

17992364_205406703283763_1150171843449567255_nAmerica is built on stories.  The collection and dissemination of oral history have long been a way to preserve the past and, for the generations who came before us, a way to pass on traditions and family legacies.

For older adults, in particular, these stories are built from the memories of their life and the nostalgia for days past. Even the most mundane of the everyday events are looked back on with fondness.

Today, much like the stories being shared, the aging process occurs behind closed doors.  Rarely discussed and often avoided, as many people choose to refuse the aging process rather than embrace it.

Age in America offers alternative narratives and challenges long-held assumptions about what it means to be old by, as their motto suggests, chronicling lives, challenging stereotypes, and changing perceptions — one story at a time.

The founder, author, and creative director of Age in America is Meg LaPorte. She cites that she is influenced by close colleagues and leading experts in the field Dean Judah Ronch, P.h.D of the UMBC Erickson School of Aging. And Bill Thomas, MD an author, entrepreneur, and physician whose wide-ranging work explores the terrain of human aging (ChangingAging, About).

Meg received her Graduate degree from the school and is currently writing for Dr. Bill Thomas’s blog ChangingAging.org.

First Stop…Age in America, Baltimore!

Inspired by the Human’s of New York series, Meg found a beautiful way to bring the stories of aging America out of the confines of the nursing home and share them with the rest of the world. She admits that although she had periodic moments of doubts,  the “candor that the residents express is amazing” and their excitement and receptiveness for the series drives her love and desire to share this important work forward.

She believes that by demonstrating that we are all essentially the same–human and interesting and imperfect–we can shatter the stereotypes of aging and help to eliminate discrimination of people based on how old they are.

Still relatively new, this project is evolving. With such a strong network foundation and support, Meg foresees that this project will continue to unfold and grow in a variety of directions.

In just a few months Meg has introduced her readers to a number of people living in and around Baltimore city.  From lost love to second chances, the residents Meg has interviewed do not pine for their youth, but proudly describe the path they’ve taken that has led them to the person they are today.

Nancy, 82

“…But I won’t let that get to me. I’m very blessed.” -Nancy

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To read Nancy’s story visit Age in America

Meet Nancy, 82, from Arbutus, MD.  She has volunteered her whole life and lives by values taught to her by her mother at a very young age.  Despite having a recent surgery and blindness in one eye, Nancy continues to volunteer at her local senior center every day. She says, “I just live down the street, and I used to walk it, but I can’t judge steps and curbs anymore so I can’t go outside. But I won’t let that get to me. I’m very blessed. I do all the things I can do.”

Robert, 83

“…I lived in West Virginia every summer on my grandparents’ farm. Those are my best memories.” -Robert

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To read Robert’s story visit Age in America

Meet Robert, age 83.  Robert worked for the B&O Railroad in Baltimore City for over 30 years.  Born and raised in Baltimore he reflects on his youth “I would get on the streetcar and go to Baltimore as a young kid, go to the movies, come home late on the streetcar and I never had any problems.”

Robert’s and Nancy’s stories highlight the importance of Meg’s work, which connects stories to faces and brings a new presence to their local communities. With their respective reintroductions to the reader and to the community, Meg’s project weaves together past and present narratives into a larger and familiar story that we can all identify with.

The Future is Age in America

Age in America’s vision is to create a society where ageism does not exist and where aging is not feared but revered. And their mission is to reframe perceptions of aging in America with oral histories, storytelling, and images that illustrate the positivity, diversity, and value of being older.

Over the next year, Meg will be conducting interviews in cities across the country.  With a set list of questions, she hopes to capture the stories of our nation’s past from the people who lived through it.

If you would like to be interviewed for the project or you would like to host the project in your community, please contact Age in America via email: malaporte@me.com.

 

Meg LaPorte

 

Meg LaPorte is a journalist specializing in aging issues. She served as managing editor of Provider magazine for nine years and holds a master’s degree in Management of Aging Services from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.