Mike: Welcome back, everybody, to an extra special episode of Cosmic Soup. Let me tell you; things are heating up at the old 3rdThird HQ. We’ve all been like busy little bees up in here buzzing up a storm, putting together our hive minds, and preparing to deliver gobs of sweet, sweet senior living awesomeness.
Mike: Before my buzzy bee analogy gets any creeper, allow me to elaborate.
You see, after many moons of planning, the creative team behind 3rdThird Marketing is officially launching their highly anticipated parent company 3rdPlus, which is super awesome because it combines their branding, marketing, culinary coaching, and life enrichment services all under one umbrella.
Today, we brought the one and only Cynthia Thurlow Cruver back to the show to talk about the development and launch of 3rdPlus. If that wasn’t epic enough, we’ve also got Derek Dujardin, Creative Director to the Stars, and Dr. Kelly Tremblay, Neuroscientist, Audiologist, and 3rdPlus contributor to add to the discussion of the company’s evolution and exciting new offerings.
Hey, Cynthia. Hey, Derek. Hey, Dr. Kelly. Welcome back to the show. Thank you all so much for joining me today. I’m very excited to talk to you about this exciting new launch.
Cynthia: Mike, it’s awesome to be here.
Dr. Kelly: Thanks, Mike.
Mike: We’re going to talk to each of you here as we go throughout the show but, Cynthia, I kind of want to start with you because this whole new concept does start with something that’s been kind of brewing in your mind for a while. Please tell us what is 3rdPlus, how does it differ from 3rdThird, and how did this grow out of your personal experiences?
Cynthia: Well, thank you, Mike, for asking. 3rdPlus is an umbrella company. It’s an organization that houses different divisions within it that all have the same vision, which is to make aging better.
It evolved because, with 3rdThird Marketing, we continued to perform focus groups during branding engagements and just learning a lot about our target audience who are people in their third-third of life. Then after that, we developed the Culinary Coach to help senior living communities deliver better food, and then Community Coach to help communities with any assistant to operate better. Then, lastly, we have a new program, Sparks, that we’re launching, which we’ll talk about later, I think.
The fact is that today people live as much time from retirement to death as they do from birth to college or through college, and so we’re all excited – everybody at 3rdPlus and all of our entities (sister and brother divisions) – that we want that last part of our lives to be really fulfilling. When you look at what some options are in the senior living landscape, we want to offer more, and we want to build something that we would want for ourselves and for our own parents. That’s the genesis of 3rdPlus.
Mike: Yeah. Really it was kind of an organic process just starting with 3rdThird Marketing. As we moved things along, we just started kind of growing all of these different legs, and we started adding new ingredients to the soup, it just really became necessary to just create a bigger umbrella. Am I understanding that correctly?
Cynthia: That’s exactly right. with 3rdThird Marketing, as it originated, was always different because we focused on positive aging messaging and positive aging mindsets. Then just as we grew with more solutions and services, it just became necessary to put them under one umbrella.
Mike: Yeah. It makes perfect sense.
Let’s start with something that you and I both have a huge passion for, which is food. I know about your passions because you and I worked together for a few years back in the restaurant business when I worked as your chef. Let’s elaborate on that a little bit. Tell us about where your passion for awesome food comes from.
Cynthia: Well, my passion for awesome food, of course, starts in the restaurant industry and having been a restaurant owner. I love hospitality. I know that food is more than just putting material in your mouth, chewing it up, and swallowing it. That’s not dining.
It starts there, but I’m also keenly interested in organic farming. I’m an organic gardener.
Then I’m also interested in how food is medicine. I know it is because I know how I feel when I eat well, and I know how I feel when I don’t eat well. For instance, if I’m eating smoked salmon for breakfast with some blueberries, I feel awesome that day.
Mike: Oh, yum!
Cynthia: I know. But if I eat, say, pancakes, I’m not going to feel that great in the afternoon. [Laughter] So, anyway, that’s where my passion comes from.
Mike: What if you had smoked salmon blueberry pancakes, though?
Cynthia: It doesn’t count because I’d have to put syrup on it. [Laughter]
Mike: Oh, that’s terrible. What if you had a Big Mac for breakfast? How would you feel?
Cynthia: I would probably not eat the rest of the day and I’d be really thirsty.
Mike: Awesome. I for one believe in the food as medicine philosophy because clearly what we put into our bodies has an effect on how we operate throughout the day, how our mental capacity stays kind of in-tune, so absolutely.
You kind of have talked before also about your mom and the community that she’s in and how their cuisine is not a good example of what it should be. Tell us a little bit more about that.
Cynthia: Well, she lives in a lovely community. It’s beautiful. The design is nice. She loves her apartment. I know they do as well as they can with the food based on what their operational budget is, et cetera, but I bring her a lot of food. I bring her fresh foods, fresh ripe tomatoes, berries. I make healthy foods and I bring those to her, so I supplement her diet with farm-to-table cuisine.
That also influences me. I just want better, and I also grew up with my grandmother in a nursing home. My dad was in end-of-life care. I just know it can be better, and that’s what I’m excited about.
Mike: Cynthia, regarding the farm to table thing, one of the things that I have noticed as I’ve gone into communities is there is a particular roadblock where a lot of communities are either locked into a contract with a vendor or they simply don’t know what steps to take to be able to make a farm to table or a local connection possible. How do we approach that? What are your thoughts on that?
Cynthia: Yeah, well, there are a few reasons that that happens. Number one is an organization could be using a food contractor. Food contractors require that you only buy their food. By the way, they mark that up. Then the other option is maybe being locked into a buying agreement that doesn’t allow for the order guides to buy locally or from farms.
Then the third reason, sometimes it’s honestly just purely bandwidth. Dining teams just don’t have the bandwidth to change their order guides and to source those foods and work them into recipes and menus.
At the Culinary Coach, that’s one of our focuses is to help dining departments with new menus and recipes. Then we also help them with purchasing and purchasing guides so that they can more easily weave farm-to-table foods and local foods into their dining programs, which is really lovely.
Mike: Yeah. I absolutely love that.
Well, now we’re going to switch gears, and we’re going to talk about aging and messaging with someone you’ve been working with for quite some time now, and that’s our own creative director in resident mad scientist Derek Dujardin. Derek, tell us about how you and Cynthia started working together on anti-ageism marketing. I’m really interested in hearing this story.
Derek: Yeah. Reluctantly at first. When Cynthia said that she had this agency that was focused on senior living and doing senior living advertising, I remember seeing all of the terrible ads that were out there in the ether. None that they had done, but just in general, I thought, “Oh, my gosh. Why would I want to do something like that?”
She goes, “No, no, no. We’re going to do really good adverting. We’re going to do conceptual work. We’re going to do research. Whatever branding we do is going to come from an informed place.” She goes, “Gray hair is not a target audience or persona.”
I think what’s kind of out there in a lot of the aging services industry is this idea that you hit a certain age, you hit 75 or 80, and all of a sudden you stop being this person. You become just this caricature of a person. The work looks like that. It’s like you could put anybody’s logo from any community from any product (and even swap photos between them) and it’s like they pretend that nobody is ever going to notice.
That wasn’t what I was all about, and then Cynthia said, “Hey, we’re going to do this really, really great work.” Right away, we started winning awards, and that was satisfying.
But better than that is watching how these people worked really hard at their jobs, and they do such a great job within the community, but how they were being presented as a printed piece or on the Web just wasn’t reflecting of the great work they were actually doing in the community. There’s this disconnect, and there’s also this not really understanding that everybody has this internal ageism that they project into places.
You see pictures of somebody with gray hair and maybe they’re being treated as though it’s more of a care message than a lifestyle message. That whole thing ends up kicking the legs out of what you’re trying to do because people have a strong reaction to that.
That was where I started, and I just really loved the vibe of helping people. I’ve been in consumer advertising forever. I worked with Nike. I worked with Starbucks. I worked with T-Mobile, lots of healthcare, hospitals, lots of different branding, really, really high-end campaigns, luxury brands, but they’re not nearly as satisfying than working with a community and seeing how they might start out with a struggle or a challenge and then how (through some applied creativity and some intelligence) we’re able to take them to the next level. And then, a year down the road, two years down the road, they’re at full census, and it’s just because they trusted us and decided to take the dive.
Working together like that is really satisfying. I get more satisfaction out of my work now than I did even 20 or 30 years ago when I was fresh out of college and in love with the industry. Just seeing how it helps everybody and it helps these people that I really respect get better at their jobs, I love it.
Mike: Yeah. You’ve been around long enough to have seen the evolution from the way things started to now where things are going.
Derek: Yeah. Yeah, and it’s been this coevolution because one of the things that we pump into is that we can drive leads all day long (into a community), but if that community hasn’t put some structures in place and have some core competencies, there’s an old saying that says, “Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.” I believe that’s true that if we drive community, we drive people to a community, and that community is missing some steps, not only – like we said, that’s why you have the Culinary Coach. The food is really good, really healthy, and nurturing. The operations coach. All those things help. What they do is to make aging better.
If we can help facilitate that and help them put some of these things in place, that allows everybody to win, and this win-win-win helps with their bottom line, which makes them better. It means they have more resources, which means they can help more people, and they focus on what they really love to do.
Yeah, so that’s been, I think, the evolution along the way is like, “Okay. We can drive leads all day long. But what do we do when people get there? How do we help them do that even better?”
Mike: Yeah. Cynthia, do you want to add to that?
Cynthia: Yeah. Thank you, Derek. It really is a holistic solution because, literally, it could be anything. I experienced this in our own business. We’re communicators, but if you look at our website, it hasn’t been updated for a while. Thank God we’re building a new one. [Laughter]
Cynthia: Companies just need help sometimes. You’re on your day-to-day grind. You’re meeting all of your daily expectations that you have to meet. But it’s nice to have an objective person or organization to come in and say, “Hey, we can help you with that. If you need a little sales coaching, we can help you with that too.” It makes everything more successful.
On the culinary piece, it’s the same thing. It’s hard getting three meals out a day. You know that, Mike.
Cynthia: It’s hard, and so the Culinary Coach is really a support to the culinary teams of communities. It’s also a support to executives who have never managed a restaurant before, which is really hard. We can give them some coaching and some tips. We also have materials, menus, recipes, procedural documentation – all sorts of stuff that can make every community really successful in their dining department.
Mike: I can definitely attest to that, to how difficult it can be to not only put out three meals a day, but to have those three meals be different enough from each other to avoid just the repetition that is often prevalent in the industry, as well as make them modern, exciting, healthy, and something that (as you would describe as being) is an exciting part of the day to look forward to rather than just meeting a physiological need. I definitely think that there’s tons of room to grow in that avenue, but the challenges face you every day.
There are always tons of roadblocks. We just strive to kind of drive around those roadblocks and find other avenues to give people new ideas. I think that as long as people are receptive to them, I think that the pathways now are there to make a huge impact and help people age better, as you always say. I think that’s awesome.
Then how did Dr. Kelly Tremblay come to be a major ingredient in this soup?
Cynthia: Well, I am so thankful that Dr. Kelly Tremblay works with us. She’s a consultant, and she’s helping us to build something truly special that does not exist yet in the senior living industry. It goes along the lines of, as we get older, let’s create the future that we want to grow into. Part of that is intellectual engagement. Part of that is positive aging communications that we feel optimistic and excited about our next chapter. When it comes to activities, bingo can only take you so far. Interesting intellectual information is much needed in the industry.
Again, going back to how organizations are doing the best they can with the hours they have to work with, so wouldn’t it be nice if you had beautifully curated content and activities delivered to your residents. That’s where Dr. Kelly Tremblay comes in. She has a ton of experience with senior living communities in the respect that she studies aging. She’s a neuroscientist who studies aging. She spent some time with us in learning this industry, and so also because our parents are growing older and we want them to be excited about every day.
I hope that answers your question.
Mike: Yeah, I think that answers my question. But let’s hear from the source directly. Kelly, give us your amazing insight as to your experiences with 3rdPlus so far and where you see it going.
Dr. Kelly: Oh, thanks, Mike, and thanks, everybody. As you can hear from the team, there’s an infectious energy. There’s an infectious commitment to healthy aging.
When I met Cynthia, I was just so inspired because here she is charting new territory and creating a future that I think we all want to help make better because we too will be old at some point. Not only is she talking the talk; she’s walking the walk.
When I met the team, as Derek said, they could all be high-paid executives in major companies like Nike, as he mentioned. But they are here because they share her mission. The average age of the company, the average age is about 50+ themselves, including myself.
I just saw the genuine place and the heart that was going into these projects. And so, when we talked about what a day in the life is of a senior in a senior living community, it can be heartbreaking in many places. Even before COVID hit, we knew that social isolation and loneliness is a huge public health concern.
I know as a professor for over 20 years that, on any given day, I’d be asked to give a talk in a senior living community. I would gladly do that whenever I could, but I couldn’t do it every two weeks or every three weeks because I had a job to do. But it showed me that there was really a thirst for knowledge.
There’s a natural curiosity in people that doesn’t go away with age. Just like we are curious in our 20s, there’s no reason why we can’t be curious in our 70s and 80s, but not everybody is on the university campus to be able to appreciate the knowledge that’s in front of them.
I’m now a retired professor with more time on my hands, and so I was just glad to offer my services to this team and help provide some content for our seniors. Let me give you an example, Mike.
There is a movement to bringing senior living community onto campuses, for all the reasons that we’ve just spoken about. Plus, there are some good signs to support how living amongst people of multiple generations can be really healthy and good for the spirit and mind.
University campuses, college campuses often have the same kind of amenities. A university hospital, for example. Also, entertainment opportunities, so maybe there’s theater and book readings, the bookstore, and things like that. That excites me. I wouldn’t mind growing old on a college campus.
For all of those communities that don’t have access to attending a lecture just for fun or maybe not being able to take advantage if some states offer free auditing or tuition for seniors, but not everybody can take advantage of that. Just like me, many professors can’t take time away to visit senior living communities and share information on the latest research, for example, or share somebody’s newly released book.
What we’re doing is reaching out to people in our collective network, many of them professors from around North America, and invite them to share their knowledge in a program called Sparks. The idea is hopefully we can spark some curiosity and spark some conversations.
Let’s not assume that just because you have gray hair and you’re older, that all you want to do is watch Wheel of Fortune and play bingo.
Dr. Kelly: Let’s use this opportunity to bring people to the same room, hopefully, when we can, and create some activities around an event. For as long as COVID separates people, we know that many communities have the opportunity to transmit this speaker series through televisions in people’s individual rooms. It’s an opportunity to connect with people whether they’re together or individually.
The program is called Sparks and I’m happy to contribute to that and share resources in my academic community with Cynthia and her team.
Mike: You’re also being relatively modest, Kelly, because you also bring so much more to that. We’ve done many deep dives with you over the neuroscientific elements that you bring to the table. We’ve had tons of awesome healthy food discussions. We’ve had many fun times doing really cool webinars, health reboots, and all that kind of stuff. I think that what you bring into the soup is kind of that little special sauce that kind of spices it up just a little bit.
Dr. Kelly: [Laughter]
Mike: We’re really excited to have you on board here with all this.
Dr. Kelly: Well, I think I’m practicing what I preach, too. I’m over 50, and I may know a lot about the brain and about aging, but I am guilty of signing on too because I’m learning about food. I know the importance of the brain and the mind-gut connection.
But now that I’ve retired from academia, I have more time. One of the passions I have is food and how I can use food to age better because, like so many people, I have inflammation issues, and I want to age as well as I can. Now that I have the time, it’s been so great to be surrounded by brilliant minds in the kitchen with you chefs, and also with people like Derek who know no box, the creative ways that you can combat ageism, make aging more fun, and take the stigma out of aging is pretty cool. I feel like I’m learning by contributing as I go, so that’s exciting.
Mike: Yeah, I think that is definitely exciting.
Well, we’re going to switch gears one more time here. Cynthia, let me get your perspective. Obviously, we’ve talked about COVID millions of times over the last year and a half. We know about the workforce crisis and how things are getting increasingly difficult in that regard. Do you want to mention anything about that and some of the approaches that we’re taking to help combat that?
Cynthia: Yeah. It’s interesting because we’ve been developing 3rdPlus literally for two years now and we’re finally launching it. Of course, COVID came along in that time. And so, the tools and approaches we had already had in place now are even more relevant because, with COVID, certainly having your immune system in optimum shape is important, which is food. When residents can’t get together in person, they can certainly get together virtually, which is going to be possible with Sparks.
The other thing is with sales and marketing events on the branding side. We created some really nice content that’s valuable for anybody, whether or not they’re looking to live in a community. We’ve written books and have put together webinars that consumers really are looking for. They want the information. That’s been helping our clients drive leads and bring in people to learn about their organization.
All of it has been coming together with COVID. I certainly hope it’s over soon. But in the meantime, certainly, the 3rdPlus offering is here, and I think it’s really helping our customers to get through the pandemic and be financially successful at the same time.
Mike: Was there anything anybody else wanted to add to that?
Cynthia: I think that we’re just incredibly lucky to work together, as Derek said. We are all playful. We work really hard over here, but we have fun, and we can be a little silly sometimes. I’m super honored and delighted to have all of the talent that is here at 3rdPlus, and we’re excited to launch at LeadingAge this fall, so I’m excited to be there late October.
Derek: I think we have the highest labradoodle per capita of any agency in Northern America.
Derek: I think there are like four or five people that have labradoodles in our agency, so it’s pretty crazy.
Mike: It is our unofficial mascot.
Cynthia: [Laughter] You’re right. We’ve got a lot of curly energy here.
Mike: Kelly, I heard that you have an exciting announcement regarding Sparks. The suspense is killing me. What’s going on here?
Dr. Kelly: Oh, what a drumroll, Mike. No, as part of the launch, we thought it was important to give community a taste or a sample of what type of content Sparks will be offering, so there is this wonderful, wonderful English professor from Clemson University named Keith Morris. Here’s an example of how he will be offering a masterclass, sharing some ideas and pointers on how individuals can take their life stories and turn it into fiction or a creative nonfiction project.
I’m excited about that because even though maybe I’d want to write a book about my own life, it’d be the only book that I would want to read; no one else would want to read.
Dr. Kelly: But I am sure there are people with amazing life stories that have stories to tell. What a great opportunity to work with a professor to create that into some literary art. That’s an example.
Derek: You know I think that’s so great because, also, for your descendants or whatever, you could have this volume that is the highlights of your life, or something like that, that you can leave behind for your grandchildren or your great-grandchildren. Plus, I know that when I’ve done a lot of writing about my life, things get clearer. I start seeing things that maybe I didn’t see before. Reading that, looking at your life, and then seeing it as a story changes it. You kind of detach from it, so I think that’s really cool. That’s great. I want to sign up for that. I want to do that.
Dr. Kelly: [Laughter] Yeah, it kind of brings a photobook. Think about our old photo albums when we grew up as kids. They don’t exist nowadays, right? Everything is digital. You have to go looking for photos. Having a narrative piece just sounds really enlightening to me.
Mike: Yeah. Sounds amazing.
Cynthia: The other thing that’s cool about it is you think about unlived lives. That’s where the fiction part comes in. If you chose to do it, you can write in some fiction. What if you wanted to be a ballerina dancer? Well, you can write that in. [Laughter]
Derek: [Laughter] I love it.
Mike: Well, I for one am excited about all of the cool new things coming down the road with 3rdPlus, with Sparks, with the evolution of the company, with all the cool things that are going on with Culinary Coach and Community Coach. I think that the world is ready for some really fun, invigorating ideas to be launched into the world of senior living and aging services.
I’d like to thank you all for hanging out with us today and giving us a little bit of extra pizzazz to the universe and for bringing some extra awesome spice to the Soup. You all are awesome. Thank you so much for hanging out today.
Derek: Thanks, Mike.
Dr. Kelly: Thank you.
Cynthia: Thank you, Mike.
Mike: Thanks, as always, to all of you out there in radio and podcast land. We’ve got even more great news, as if that wasn’t awesome enough. We’ll be at the 2021 LeadingAge annual meeting and expo in Atlanta, Georgia, October 24th through 27th. Make sure you stop by Booth 2637, say, “Hi,” and check out all the amazing services that 3rdPlus has to offer. We’d love to work with you and help you get to that next level. Hopefully, we’ll see you there. Until then, have fun, stay safe, and we’ll talk to you soon on Cosmic Soup.