We partnered with the VHA Diffusion of Excellence to facilitate the Age-Friendly Summit, bringing together frontline staff from every Veterans Integrated Service Network to accelerate the adoption of the “Age-Friendly Health Systems” (AFHS) movement.

The goal of the gathering was to enhance care for older Veterans by implementing the 4Ms: What Matters, Medication, Mentation (Mind), and Mobility.

“What an incredible two days. Thanks to your facilitation, I know all of us are leaving the Summit ready to deepen our impact and champion this important work moving forward!”

Throughout the event, we served as the emcee and kicked the summit off with an engaging question swap activity that allowed participants to get to know one another, setting a collaborative and energetic tone for the event. It was important to the organizers that participants truly felt part of a community of practice so that they could co-design the future of the movement together. This session paved the way for deeper, more meaningful conversations throughout the summit.

We then facilitated a series of World Cafe discussions centered around the theme “Creating Connections: Engaging All Care Settings in the Age-Friendly Health Systems Movement.” In the first round, participants shared personal insights and discussed how they planned to integrate these insights into their Age-Friendly journey. The second round focused on identifying key conversations that could drive the AFHS movement forward, while the third round explored ways participants could support each other in taking bold steps together. After each round, participants summarized their takeaways onto a board that we organized around themes.

A behind-the-scenes look at the event from a facilitator’s perspective

Next, to align on priorities and approaches, we led a focused discussion on co-creating age-friendly priorities. Participants emphasized the need for action over endless meetings, with poignant remarks such as, “Age friendly does not need more task forces – we need more doers!” This session helped attendees gain clarity and develop a framework for a shared understanding of the path forward.

We utilized a method called 1-2-4-All to build consensus on key priorities. Participants started by listing their top priorities individually, then paired up to combine their lists, gradually forming larger groups until the entire group shared their collective priorities. This process culminated in a visual mapping of shared priorities on banners around the room, fostering a sense of collective ownership and focus.

Next, we engaged participants in a design session, encouraging them to brainstorm unique approaches to pursue the identified priorities. Using post-it notes, participants generated ideas and posted them under each priority banner. Periodic wild card rounds challenged them to think outside the box and incorporate unique tools and approaches, leading to innovative solutions.

Following the brainstorming session, a gallery walk allowed participants to review and vote on the unique ideas generated. Using stickers, they upvoted the most promising ideas, narrowing them down to the top initiatives for each priority. This collaborative process ensured that the most impactful and feasible ideas were selected for further development.

The summit concluded with a call to action, where attendees agreed on the top projects to pursue. Participants formed working groups around these projects and used facilitator cards to prioritize actions and create a visual heatmap of their efforts. Each group then mapped out specific tasks on a calendar timeline, assigning leaders to ensure accountability and progress.

The Age-Friendly Summit was a transformative experience, exceeding all expectations and energizing participants. Attendees left with a clear understanding of the 4Ms and how to implement them, a five-year plan to scale up age-friendly practices, and a strong sense of community and collaboration. As one participant expressed, “When I walked in the room, I was kvelling at the energy, enthusiasm, and all of the different ways that people are already feeling success. Their success is my success, and I am so happy that this work is going on.”

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