In this episode of Making Healthcare, Anthony Cirillo talks about growing up in Philadelphia, his strange career spanning music, sports broadcasting, and healthcare, and his thoughts on caregiving and aging.
Anthony Cirillo is a health, aging and caregiving expert and president of The Aging Experience. He creates solutions for the industry and connects companies and people to partners’ services and products. A professional speaker and media influencer, Cirillo is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives with a Masters from the University of Pennsylvania.
He is also the creator of the Caregiver Smile Summit. His consulting and speaking expertise serves a worldwide clientele including Cleveland Clinic, King Faisal Hospital, Atrium Health and Wall Street startups. He is a member of the Nationwide Financial/NCOA Health and Wellness Roundtable and a member of the Bank of America Elder Care Policy Roundtable.
Healthcare is changing. And our goal for the making healthcare podcast is to capture and share the stories of innovators and disruptors for shaping the future of health care today, they’re making healthcare safer, affordable, and making it more innovative. I’m David Park, CEO of VirtuSense Technologies and the host of making healthcare. Today’s guest is Anthony Cirillo, who is health and aging and caregiving expert, professional speaker and media influencer. Anthony is the president of the Aging Experience, the creator of the Caregiver Smile Summit, and a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives with a master’s from University of Pennsylvania. His consulting and speaking expertise serves a worldwide clientele.
And some of these names include Cleveland Clinic, King Faisal Hospital, Atrium Health, some Wall Street startups, all across the board. Some fun facts about Anthony is that he fell into a mission advocacy for elders when he started performing in nursing homes. In fact he has been to Nashville to record several albums and has performed around the United States.
Another fun fact, he’s an avid sports fan. He actually grew up in Philadelphia. So, um, you know, you can fill in your own blank there, but prior to getting involved in healthcare, he worked for CBS sports. And he was, and he’s a friend of Jim Nance before Jim Nance became the Jim Nance. Uh, and he shared with me earlier that Jim has also, attributed Anthony, as the person who helped him kind of go through college. Maybe we’ll have some time to delve into that. Uh, and a final fun fact is as an avid Philly, as an avid Philadelphia sports fan, back in the early eighties, when the Phillies won the world series, he was there to soak it all in.
So welcome to Making Healthcare.
AC: Thanks, Dave. I appreciate it. Yep. Philly born and raised, but now in Huntersville, North Caroline.
DP: Okay. So, you know, I spent over 20 years in Boston, so, uh, you know, it’s probably wise that we don’t talk about sports with Boston and Philadelphia, but, you know, I appreciate the, uh, the Celtics Sixers robbery in the early eighties and, uh, and just, uh, the Eagles beating the Patriots just a few years ago. So what can I say that.
AC: We have enough rivalries just up and down the 95 corridor without having to worry about Boston. So that’s good. That’s the world.
DP: We’re all friends here today. So please for our audience, tell us more about yourself.
AC: Well, um, yeah, I was born and raised in, in, in South Philadelphia. I can give you the quick cliff notes of how I’ve gotten to where I am at, if that’s kind of what you’re, you’re looking at. I was very fortunate. Uh, you know, you talk about life story, so, you know, middle class, lower hand, lower middle class, I guess, family. My dad actually passed away, which had a big, huge influence. My life when I was 11 years old and he was only 49. Um, and, and so he died of leukemia. And, um, at a time when they didn’t know bone marrow transplants and things like that, which is pertinent to this a later part of my journey when I met someone who could have saved his life, essentially back back in the day.
Uh, but I, uh, because of Our circumstance. I was able to get, scholarships and have some of the best education, you know, you can imagine. So I went to St. Joseph’s prep in Philadelphia. Um, you know, some graduates, in fact, in my homeroom for four years was mayor Michael Nutter, uh, mayor of Philadelphia and mayor Kenny was a year behind us, I think, uh, current mayor, um, I wouldn’t have been able to have that if it wasn’t for the influence, my mother and sister have forced me to take the exam because all my friends were basically going to another Catholic high school.
DP: So tell us more about you growing up in Philadelphia. When you just mentioned your mother and your sister, unfortunately, dad passing was, so what was, what was that life like?
AC: Well, it was great because, you know, no, none of us knew. Uh, that, uh, you know, that we were kind of poor, right? I think, uh, you know, the most money my mother ever made in a year was maybe 10, $12,000, but we would never know it. Right. Um, that here here’s something telling. So. People talk about going to reunions. I’ve been back to Philadelphia for more grade school reunions than high school reunions. In fact, the one high school reuion I mean, you know, I didn’t even care for it. Uh, but we’ve been back for grade school. My most of my Facebook friends are our dear friends from my Philly neighborhood.
And that’s kind of what Philly. You know, in Boston, uh, they’re all about the neighborhoods. It’s all about sitting on the stoop and interacting with your friends. I mean, that’s, that’s how we grew up. We, you know, we played street hockey and body check people into the cars and all that kind of stuff. So, you know, my closest friends to this day are still my buddies from South Philadelphia. I have good friends from. From high school, but, uh, and played in many bands with them. Uh, but uh, in, in, in Philly, you know, it was about the neighborhood. It was, it was close knit. We all went to the Catholic grade school. We all had those stories to share about the nuns and priests and you know, all that kind of stuff.
But we were very blessed because any one of us would tell you that we had the best. Childhood that anybody could think of.
DP: It sounds like it. And I love the picture that you just painted with your you’re growing up in Philadelphia with all your friends and the neighborhood. And I think that’s something that, um, America’s missing these days because we just live in a just different times and different priorities. You, you. Live in Philadelphia up, let’s say you’re 18. You’re done with high school. You’re about to embark on your journey.
Can you describe your younger self at that point?
AC: Well, as most people, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I mean, it’s ironic that what still keeps coming back to me in my whole life is music. So the music story started because my dad bought a, bought me a guitar and he wanted me to take lessons. He had some idea we’re going to go out as a duo. He was going to sing now. I have no idea if he was able to sing or not. Cause I never got to know him. Right. So how old were you when he bought the guitar?
I was I 10, I think I took some lessons and I wanted nothing to do with it. And so then I eventually about a year after he died, I picked it up and self-taught myself on guitar. And then eventually on bass and the first band I was in, you know, I was 13 and it was my neighbor across the street who we’re still friends. He’s a, he does Christian rock now. Uh, he tours and does stuff. Um, so, um, and, uh, you know, I was the bass player in the band because, you know, everybody wanted to be the guitar player cause his guitar player got all the girls. Right. but my guitar was my first instrument. And so really when you’re 18, you know, I had some aspirations of being a professional musician, but I didn’t know that I had to, um, go to school.
And so, you know, I got gotta again. Uh, I stayed local. So I went to a commuter school, Drexel University and, uh, you know, uh, they had the co-op program. So it was six months of work, six months of school. And, um, you know, at one point I just said, I better just get out of the music for awhile and decide what I want to do and let me get involved in activity. So I went up to the student newspaper and said, what do you got? And they said, you want to be sports editor. I mean, I’m an avid sports fan, but yeah, I guess so. And that’s ironically how I got into sports because while I was there, I wrote it a kind of an impassioned letter to one of the local sports casters, uh, and, um, young guy. Uh, and he just came from San Francisco to Philly, real, real, up in comer. And, um, one day he picked me up in his Porsche. And he toured me around, uh, what’s the channel six and Philadelphia action news, still going strong, you know, as ever, and, uh, showed me the ropes there. And that actually got me across the street to the channel 10 studios for CBS, where I was a sports intern.
Um, and when that was done. I was also one of the sports guys was a guy named Jim Kelly, not the quarterback, but a sportscaster. He eventually went to ESPN. He’s even known back in the day for senior PGA tour and for the America’s cup races. So people would know who he is or familiar. And I started producing what was called The Sports World Roundup, his show on the CBS radio network. And that’s when all that I know he’s been started producing
DP: What goes into producing a show?
AC: Well, you know, radio’s a whole lot different than TV, uh, but, uh, essentially it was up to me to monitor all the games that were going on that night, follow the storylines and figure out. You know, there’s going to be at the end of the night. And, you know, we were late night cause you know, it aired in the morning, but we had to stay till the West coast games were over. So it could be two or three in the morning. Um, and then decide, you know, all of a sudden, all these sports casters and, and what we call stringers, uh, like Jim Nance and, and others, um, would call me and say, Hey, I’m at the Astro’s something game, do you want tape? And back then it was real, real tape recorders. And you would unscrew the phone on your. Uh, on your phone and you put these two clips on the phone that went out of your cassette player and that’s how it transmitted through to the studio. Yeah, exactly. And, uh, and then they would take it on reel to reel, and you edited literally with a razor blade and tape.
And so, um, and then we put them on these cartridges. And, um, you know, we’d have a rundown and then Jim would go in the studio, he’d say a little intro to this or that. And boom, you know, go to that. And so, you know, it wasn’t all that complicated. Uh, it wasn’t like producing a TV series or anything like that.
DP: It sounded like, um, you know, you have to think quickly on your feet, there’s tight deadlines to be met and you’re working long hours.
AC: Well, yeah, and it’s interesting because the long hours correspondent with the long hours I was used to as a musician. So, uh, for some reason I became sort of that, that second, third shift guy, because, you know, music, you play in clubs, you’re doing nine to two. Right. And so, uh, that’s essentially what my hours were when I would go into the studio and, and be, uh, you know, watching the games and things like that. And of course, you know, that led to all those interesting fun facts. When the Phillies won the world series parade, I was in the victory caravan, with the media and when, uh, the Orioles beat the Phillies, I was actually in the runway listening to Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt talk about this, probably be in their final days together and as Phillies. You know, I’ve skated on the spectrum ice, uh, with my beloved Philadelphia flyers and interviewed Bobby Clark and all those guys, Rick talk at all those guys. I don’t remember exactly. So, I mean, but again, you know, that people talk about what, so, you know, if I didn’t make a decision to try to pursue something and then understand, well, where do I need to go? I want to go, I got to go in the studio and I got to go find out what these guys are doing. And then, you know, serendipity, one thing leads to another and then. Uh, you know, you’re, friends with Jim Nance even to this day.
DP: Well that is amazing. You’re, you’re, uh, not only America’s aging expert, but you’re almost like a Forrest Gump and you find yourself in a very, very interesting situation, but doesn’t help us connect the dots between your passion for music. And you’re living the sports life, right. Hobnobbing with, you know, influencers. What was your earliest experience or memory, which prompt you to envision something similar to what you’re doing now?
AC: Well, you know, it really came. Probably 10 years after that. So, you know, when you talk about connecting the dots, I finally left broadcasting. I went into medical publishing cause it was a job and you know, I was a decent writer. And then my first hospital hired me again because I was keeping local because I’ve always, I always had the night, I always had the band at night. I had rock bands, wedding bands, whatever. Pretty much always throughout that early career. And, so I wanted to stay local. And so I, I got my first job at a hospital as director of corporate communications and, and that’s where I counsel people and tell them that.
I didn’t connect the dots. In that case, they connected the dots. And how did they do that? Well, they looked at my background. They said, well, he’d worked in the media. So I guess he must have some connections—turned out to be true. I was really able to get us a lot of decent coverage in a crowded marketplace. You know, when you have university of Penn hospital and Honamin and Temple and all these, and we’re a little. Hospital in North Philadelphia at the time called the Episcopal, which doesn’t even exist anymore. Uh, we got our fair share media coverage. Uh, over the time I was there. Uh, then they looked at the fact that I worked for a medical publisher and knew I was conversant in, uh, covering conferences and interviewing physicians. And so. They connected the dots for me about, uh, working in, in healthcare. And so that became my first hospital job, which then led to a second one, which was over a healthcare system, which were new in those days. Uh, it was actually the first cross state health system at the time was called again, doesn’t exist, Graduate Health System. I was over to other hospitals in, uh, in New Jersey and, uh, and that was a little less stressful because. You know, I had baptism by fire as a corporate communications marketing PR director in an inner city, North Philadelphia hospital, because your beeper, no cell phones back then your beeper was going off every night, because there were, you know, drug deals gone bad and, uh, you know, fist fights. Yeah. The other group that had the beepers
DP: and the drug dealers also carried the beepers back then.
AC: Yeah. Right. And then I would get alerted when they were in our ER, because of some gunshots, uh, some, yeah, some crazy stories from my North Philadelphia hospital job. For sure.
DP: So as you, you know, stepped into the world of healthcare, um, you said it’s a stressful environment. Um, is there ever a time when you thought, you know, what. I don’t want to do healthcare. This isn’t for me. Or is there something, an obstacle or a scenario that came about where you made you rethink, if this is something that you really want to do and ultimately, as a result of it going through it, you came out with a resolve that yes, this is where I want to be.
AC: Well, yeah. Uh, and, and it’s why I left. Um, The hospital, the second hospital I was with. So I was in hospital marketing and PR from 85 through 97. That health system that I was part of eventually became part of another health system out of Pittsburgh called Allegheny. And if you, uh, uh, you know, if people are going for their MBAs and healthcare administration, this became a case study, essentially Allegheny came in, They just ran the hospitals to the ground. I mean, the consequences are still being felt to this day. Uh, you know, they raided the foundations to pay bills. Uh, you know, the executives were, uh, you know, had the gold play, literally gold toilets and, you know, it was just. Uh, you know, this was not what I signed up for.
So I left and I, I went to Unisys a fortune 500 company, and I eventually became head of their corporate, unity training organization as their PR person, uh, which was cool because I have resources to do things that I never had before in a big company and was able to travel all over the place to help educate people about this new vision, but I, I got out of healthcare because I was disillusioned. And I also realize that I really wasn’t, you know, I had some influence in the actual experience of a patient, but not really. So that’s kind of when the sign of a sea change came and I got out of bands and nightclubs and you know, I do feel that God gave me a talent to sing and perform. And, uh, and I discovered the whole world of senior living and went into an independent living community. And, uh, that was my first gig.
DP: But tell us how you discovered the, the world of senior living.
AC: Well, you know, first of all, I was looking for another place to go perform. And, and at that point and make money because, you know, I, I needed, I needed a dual income to really, you know, have a quality life. And so the funny part was I had a gentleman who worked for me, Andy, uh, we’re friends to this day. And on the side, he was a juggler professional juggler, he juggled things. Anyway, he said, there’s this whole world of places out there. That are desperate for entertainment. And so, you know, I put my marketing hat on and by the time I left Philadelphia, I was doing close to 200 performances Part-time a year. And in fact, the Philadelphia Enquirer at the time had a, a special Sunday Enquire magazine and they did a whole edition on senior entertainers and that whole niche. And, uh, you know, I’m 63 now I was 42. Uh, I still have the newspaper here in my desk somewhere. Uh, and so I was one of the people they, they interviewed. So in some ways we were, you know, we were kind of pioneers in this whole idea of senior entertainment, but, but what it did was. Uh, it, it kind of solidified my thought process about, you know, what I love then I was realizing that I was giving a lot to seniors and I was getting a lot. I mean, I’m a professional speaker because of my experience in the nursing homes, because you’re not going to find a tougher audience than seniors, because if they don’t like it, they’re going to tell you.
And so I deliberately went in there without a guitar. With backing tracks and a, a wireless microphone so that I could roam around and get involved. And so I tell people, and it’s not far from the truth that I got my dementia training, uh, in senior living. And so, you know, the next corporate job was actually in New York with a startup called Touchstone Health.
And now I remember I’m at Unisys and, uh, so my wife gets a job. She, she. Her job at, um, her employment ended. They wanted us to move to Houston. We’re not, we’re not we’re East coast there’s we weren’t going anywhere. So she started looking, I was the first time in both of our lives that we were going to move and whoever landed first, it was the idea.
So, so she got a job with, um, company called Ingersoll Rand, and she was in Bergen County, New Jersey up in the, you know, right before, you know, you go into New York state and I was, uh, I was, I was still home working for Unisys, but looking for a job. And at the time I got an offer from Lockheed Martin to be their director of corporate communications in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, a job that I would have died for any other time in my career, because, uh, I mean, I, I interviewed for the job earlier in my career and was, you know, not qualified, uh, but you know, multi-billion dollar company employees and all the best spots to go travel.
And I was offered the job and I sat on it because. I said, how are we going to make, how, how can we make, possibly make this work? We’re going to have to live in the middle of New Jersey. And we’re both going to be miserable by the time we get home from our commutes. And then I saw this little tiny speck of an ad in the New York Times and the print edition looking for a startup company, 14 wall street, working with seniors in the boroughs of New York. Wa la!
And so I went up there in 2000 January, 2000. And, um, you know, I was the marketing director. It was called Touchstone Health. Uh, again, another company that doesn’t exist, but we were doing then, but you know, way before population health was a word. Uh, and evidence-based, you know, medicine was anything we were doing that. We were working with what are now Medicare advantage programs.
And they eventually got their own through CMS, but we were working with them doing the medical management. So we had case managers going out in the boroughs. And so I spent a lot of my time out in the boroughs, working with seniors, doing a lot of diner events and education events. My value proposition was why are physicians with this Hill health plan, uh, not just why this health plan, why are physicians with it? And it was all about the model that we had created, but it was all because, you know, I turned down the big corporate job and went for the mission and, and then had, again, I, I thought the cachet of 14 Wall Street would not be too bad on the resume.
You know, the funny part about that is as the marketing director, I would stage events. Um, you know, but when I showed up at events, I became the MC the DJ, and the singer. And if your name is Cirillo and you can sing Sinatra, they love you. Yeah. And so we had a great time and I still have friends from that those days that are, are dear to me.
And of course, you know, we all went through. We all went through 9/11 together, even though that was the one week of all the weeks, I worked for them that I was not in town, but I certainly was there the Monday after the financial district open, then it’ll be an indelible part of my life forever because, uh, while Philly and New York battle on the sports front, New York will always be my adopted second city because of what we experienced there.
DP: I agree. So, uh, um, I spent 20 years in Boston, so there’s that Boston New York rivalry as well. Um, and I met my wife in New York city. She’s from a very small town in Illinois, near Peoria where I live now, but we’ve always talked about how New York would be a place that we wouldn’t mind retiring. And it’s a great walkable city. Um, there are so many things that the city offers. So we, we do love New York as a second city, but I want to go back to two points that you mentioned. Um, one, have you hit your 10,000 hours performing in front of seniors?
AC: You know, it’s interesting. I’ve read that book too. And, uh, I think I’ve, I think I’m double. I really, I mean, we’re talking probably. You know, 3000 performances and then whatever I did in nightclubs, and now I’m doing stuff in my garage, you know, streaming. Um, yeah, I certainly think I met the 10,000.
DP: And a second follow up question I had during your story is as you’re moving about interacting with the seniors, can you share a story, a moment where, um, you really had that human interaction where wow. Um, it just dawned on you the significance of your work.
AC: Well, yeah, I mean, this is one of my keynotes stories. Um, so if you have a few minutes, I’ll tell it to you. Um, it’s called the Story of Esther. And so, um, this is actually down now, after I moved to the Carolinas and I was getting my consulting business up, I was still doing a lot of, entertaining.
And so, you know, I found that all the senior communities and started marketing to them. And so I went up to a place in Hickory, North Carolina, assisted living, and I started performing there and there was a woman named Esther. And I joked that, you know, she became my designated heckler, you know, no matter what I would do, uh, she would give me hell for it.
Uh, so, you know, cause you know, I do some weird programs, you know, every month I try to commemorate the stuff that’s going on. And some of it is, is, you know, stuff you would expect like it’s Memorial day, we’re going to do some patriotic songs or whatever. But, you know, in November, I do pennies from heaven. And then of course, you know, it makes my program interactive. Cause then I have to ask the crowd, why am I doing pennies from heaven? And they don’t know, of course. And then I said, because it’s national accountants day in November, you know, but, um, and of course, you know, Esther rolled her eyes. Yeah. You know, we became fast friends over a number of years.
And so I went up there one day and, the activity director said, um, Esther’s in the hospital and she wants to see you. Can you go after we’re done playing? I said, sure. So we go and we drove in one car and, uh, she’s telling me along the way, while Esther actually died and they revived her and she’s in the Carney currently care unit, I said, okay, she wants to see me Why? She goes, I don’t know, but let’s go and visit her. So I go in and Esther’s, daughter’s there and much to her Esther’s daughter and , uh, Esther’s flirting with me and you know, our daughters say, mom, he’s a married man. That, that Esther wants me for one reason. She wants me to sing a song for her. And, she’s a very religious woman and you know, I’m a guy from South Philly, right.
She wants, she wants a song called “Because He Lives,” which at the time, I didn’t know because he lives, I can face tomorrow. Right. Um, I said, Esther, I don’t know this song. I said, I’m a guy from South Philly. I said, I come down my steps in the morning. We have a picture of the Lord on one wall and we have a picture of Frank Sinatra on the other.
And I say, I bow to Frank Sinatra every morning. Come on. He’s the guy. I do the standards. Of course I do. Way more than that. I mean, I do everything from Ed Sheeran into Sinatra at this point, but, uh, uh, you’re up to date. Oh, yeah. Oh, you wouldn’t be surprised at my repertoire. You would be very surprised at my repertoire.
So, uh, yeah. Train Fleetwood Mac. I mean, it’s, it’s all over the place. Um, but I didn’t know that song. And so I sang unforgettable by Nat King Cole, uh, because, uh, as I mentioned to her, she was unforgettable. So, that seemed to suffice for the moment we left. And, um, a few weeks later the activity director called me and said, um, Oh, no pertinent part of the story I’m forgetting.
I said, I’m going to learn this song for you, Esther. So I have a little recording studio in my house and I put it, I put because he lives, I found the backing tracks. I played the guitars on at the base. Did, you know, multiple vocals and, uh, anyway, mixed it down to a CD and sent it to her. And, uh, and so again, I’m thinking all is right with the world, but then the activity director, uh, Sherry, who I’m still friends with to this day. She Called me and said, Hey, Ester’s in hospice. I said, well, you know, keep me posted about a few weeks later, Esther passed. And you know, I don’t know, normally go to the funerals of residents that I’ve entertained for, because it would be a pretty busy schedule. Right. I mean, it’s just inevitable.
Um, but I went to Esther’s funeral. And when I got there and I’m looking at the program and on the program, um, the song of course is “Because he Lives.” Exactly. And then the daughter comes up to me and the daughter starts crying and giving me a hug. Now people told me later, she never cried up until they, she saw me.
And, uh, and then she’d eventually told me that. So I’m not, I’m not sure what’s coming. Um, She said, did you hear about my mom’s last day of life? I said, no. she goes, well, we played your CD with, because he lives all day over and over again until eventually the daughter knelt down next to the mother and started singing in her ear, telling her to let go.
And Esther die then day. Esther passed. So you talk about defining moments. I mean, when you’re working in senior care, I got to tell you, versus hospital care, the monetization isn’t as nice as hospital care. And so there’s ups and downs. And especially when you’re a solopreneur, you know, you have these dips and peaks and whatever, and I help transition Esther from whatever today is to whatever tomorrow might be in some respects.
And I don’t know if it gets more powerful that I have other Esther-like stories. Uh, but when you compare that to say, well, you know, maybe I shouldn’t be doing so I should, I should do something where I could actually earn some decent money and, and forget about the stuff. And then you realize that you really can’t because, you know, it’s all the esters out there.
And, uh, you know, I know I make a difference with. With, when I do that, I also know, I know it make a difference when I go out and speak and when I write and when I do TV appearances, um, I’m ultimately helping people and if the monetization legacy isn’t as good as the mission legacy, that’s fine then.
DP: I think that’s a great reminder to myself, as well as our listeners, that what we do actually matters and there are people in our. In our life that, um, we’ve been called to serve or to touch, to help. And just, uh, I think that’s shared, I’ve heard many stories. That’s one of the stories that will stay with me for a long time Anthony. Thank you. But I want to take off on what you just said about a mission. So how would you describe your mission in life?
AC: Well right now, I think on a very broad, broad sense, I’m trying to help and I have been trying to help educate people to prepare for aging sooner in life. And I talk about it kind of in three areas.
Uh, I mean their physical health, their financial health, and their spiritual health. And I think everything I do. Uh, and the information I share is all about trying to make those connections because you can’t have one. Or two, you have to have all of them. Right. And, uh, you know, the financial, it’s easy to, you know, uh, estate plans, living wills, saving for retirement long-term care insurance, you know, you know, you could make a laundry list of, of course, you know, physical shape, uh, you know, how you take care of yourself when you’re young is absolutely going to impact how you age, but, you know, it’s the emotional piece.
And I have a keynote I’m so presumptuous, I call it the Meaning of Life, but, uh, It’s really eight things I’ve learned from seniors, uh, about living a quality of life. When you go in to some of these places that, you know, for some of us, most of the general public, these are places you go to die. I mean, that’s still an image that people have of these places, right?
And you go in and people are living their lives. You know, one of the traits that they sort of, some of the most grateful people, you know, I, you can never find, you know, the ones who are living a good life, you know, have, have purpose and they have social networks. You know, you talk about those blue zones, you know, and where people live to ripe old age as they do it because they have social circles and they have lifelong learning and all these types of things.
So it’s those lessons that, you know, you learn. Uh, from seniors, you know, I would say my mission has narrowed a bit right now with kind of, particularly with caregiving and caregiving issues, but that the Genesis of that was the fact that, you know, from December of 2013, through January of 2018, we had five close family members pass.
And that included my mother and my wife’s both parents. My sister who was caregiver for my mother, who is 10 years older than me and my sister and, and pre deceased my mother, which is when we moved my mother to North Carolina and became her caregiver. And then my wife’s brother and my wife’s brother, and my sister died within three weeks of each other seven years ago.
Um, and from a car, a tragic accident working on his car and then my sister from lung cancer. Three weeks later, but diagnosed on the same day that my brother in law passed. So it was just a hard time, uh, in some ways we’re still getting over that, uh, that journey and, and, you know, living our lives now. But, uh, so it’s narrowed a bit, excuse me.
But I would say on the general sense, the mission is, is to help people prepare for their aging so that they’re not blindsided now, because most of this is, is always dealt with in crisis. Now, uh, you can still prepare and still have crises because you just never know what’s going to hit, but I think that’s kind of the nutshell.
DP: So is that, what is that is the Aging Experience, is that the platform is that the vehicle in which you’re helping to carry out your mission?
AC: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s kind of a placeholder. And if you go to the Aging Experience and, uh, agingexperience.com and you see the. it’s a Photoshop image, but it’s, uh, it’s five women, older women in a rock band.
And, uh, and my tagline is just rocket and, uh, and so, uh, you know, and so I should pre pre uh, you know, set some contexts that, with that, one of the things, and I’m not trying to boast here, but. When I started really, you know, coming to it came down to the Carolinas. I started doing a lot of writing and my writing was getting noticed. In fact, you know, it got me invited, you know, King Feisal in Jeddah. Saudi Arabia was because I, I was invited to speak at, uh, the first hospital marketing conference in Dubai in 2004 and 2005, and then taught a course there in 2007. And the interim year went to Jetta to consult. Uh, but, that all came about because of, of my, you know, my writing.
And, and so it took me places that, uh, you know, you would never. You would never expect. Um, now where was I going with that point? Remind me where we were, because I just totally lost my train of thought.
DP: So if your mission is to kind of prepare people for, for, you know, the later stages of life, I was wondering, so is the Aging Experience …
AC: I thought I’ll come back at my mind. It’s roaming around, out here somewhere. So yeah, so the aging experience was, was really to help people, you know, first of all, it was about consulting and then kind of more, less consulting and more speaking and information, resources and caregiving.
What I was starting to say was that. One of the things that I wrote about back in the day was the idea that hospitals should have. And I coined the term chief experience officer. So the reason Cleveland clinic is on the radar is because my article in health leaders wound up on then CEO, Toby cause gross desk.
And that, and some other impetuses, uh, you know, we’re the reason they, uh, they opened the first office of patient experience and hired the first chief experience officer and made it report to the top of the organization because those, some of those were ideas that I had suggested. So I’ve been on the main stage platform of Cleveland clinic, but to talk about that concept.
So, uh, so I sort of have some marketing plus brand experience.
We talked to a couple of key insights from what you wrote.
AC: Well, at that point, I was reading about, um, customer journeys and customer experience in retail and how that they were developing experience officers and. In the hospital setting, it was all about, you know, people were talking more about the satisfaction and satisfaction scores and, you know, we get, you know, they get reimbursed around those now.
And it became clear to me that if you’re really that, you know, enamored with the experience, then maybe you should have. And I basically said chief experience officer now that I have it fully. Fleshed out in terms of what is, what does this person do? Uh, no, not at all. It was a general concept of how do we enhance the experience of people who are scared when they come in these places?
And, you know, the funny part is, is that it’s full circle again, because all the stuff I do with caregiving, it’s about trying to get the family caregivers on the same level, recognized by the health team. Right. Uh, that, uh, and being taken care of by the help team, because it, it all kind of comes together and unfortunately care family caregivers are kind of ignored by the health system, no matter what anybody wants to say.
So, you know, it was all about creating better experiences in, in care settings, which eventually led to, you know, more, you know, quality concerns, efficiency, and cost. Um, you know, that’s, uh, that, that was kind of the gist of the article.
DP: You’ve been writing a lot recently about caregiving issues. How would you say a caregiving has changed in this era of COVID?
AC: Well, um, first of all, you know, the statistics, I won’t get into them cause it’s, it’s boring, but you could easily find them. There’s 54 million family caregivers. There was a, I think a gem word study or something that suggested because of COVID that number this past year could have doubled. Um, so, you know, caregivers, the big thing with caregivers to me is, is caregiver health.
That people are busy taking care of somebody else. They’re not taking care of themselves. Um, the other piece of this equation is how they’re treated by employers. And so, you know, I’ve spent the last year. Uh, working with a former partner and, um, you know, selling caregiver services to help companies, to help their employees make better decisions and educate them about the issues.
So it’s certainly a big workforce issue. Uh, we, we think the current day, the incoming administration is going to actually be a lot more sensitive around these types of issues and put some resources to it. Um, but. I think that the big issue around it is caregiver health, how it’s changed and the COVID number of ways.
First of all, we have way more caregivers. We have more stressed caregivers. Um, you know, you saw those horror stories in the beginning about pulling people out of senior care. Well, that was a real, that’s a real thing. And I’ve done TV segments around this. Like, you know, be sure you’re prepared for what you’re doing here. You know, if you’re just moving mom and dad out, cause you’re concerned. Um, About the quality of care in the nursing I’m going, of course, you know, the pandemic was rampant and most of the people who were dying or dying in nursing homes, uh, you know, are you going to be able to take care of them in the home, but people have chosen to do that.
And whether they had the physical environment set up with universal design, whether they had the finances to do it, you know, those types of things and, and the healthcare needs, you know, cause some of them are acute healthcare needs. So I think we’ve exacerbated the burden on caregivers. Um, you know, occupancy and senior living, according to McKnight’s long-term care was at its lowest.
I think 80%, I read in the last, which is, you know, very low. And I think even like a chain, like Brookdale is down to 70% occupancy. I think it’s changing the dynamics of, what these places will be and really looks more to. This whole emphasis on tele-health and aging in place that we’ve been talking about for years, that really hasn’t taken hold.
Well, I think certainly, uh, telehealth and telemedicine has certainly come to the fore. Uh, and the issues of family caregivers that come to the fore, uh, I don’t think there’s ever, it’s ever going to go back to normal, which, you know, sort of also brings it to something else I’m doing in, in the entertainment realm with, with care.
You know, with that, we’re trying to launch, I can tell you a little bit more about that. Uh, but, uh, you know, so I think, I think we’ve created more caregivers. Who have their own health care needs, because remember in the last year, how many of us have been to the doctor? You know, I waited a whole year before I finally got, you know, I had my annual physical last year, right before it started. And then I switched doctors and finally had my annual physical, you know, again, uh, at the beginning of this year, uh, very cautiously obviously, but people are, people are delaying care and people with chronic conditions. Aren’t, aren’t taking care of them and, you know, and of course mental health issues have come to the fore with all this as well.
And I, you know, we don’t give enough voice to that though, especially with,
DP: we’re seeing a lot of that as well. We interact with a lot of executives in the healthcare provider sector and that’s all true. Everything that you said, tell us. So you’re the creator of the caregiver, smile summit. Tell us about that. What is that?
AC: Well, again, there’s Several reasons that I put this together. So about four or five years ago, I was noticing that all of a sudden there was this trend toward virtual summits. You know, you go online, you can find a plethora of information, concentrated around one topic. And I said, well, nobody’s doing anything around caregiving. My ulterior motive of course, is that, you know, I’m 63. My wife is 65. She’s retired already. She’s out in our sun room, reading a book telling me she’s probably going to be napping by the time I’m done here. So I’d like to join her in that endeavor of, of, uh, of retirement at some point, so I was looking for passive income as well. And so I started, uh, putting these interviews together, uh, zoom interviews with people that speak for zooming even became popular, with, um, You know, kind of experts in the field of caregiving and, uh, around 12 stages of caregiving from, you know, before the journey starts to, after the caregiving is over and everything in between financial caregiving, choosing assisted living you or whatever it might be knowing, we have special demographics, millennials, military, and so I’ve accumulated now 128 really robust videos. People like Tepa snow or dementia, rockstars and Ken Dychtwald, who’s, you know, big in the aging space and, uh, Amy Goyer, who’s the AARP expert, you know, you’ll find her on the today show and all that. So it’s really an education resource and, um, you know, what we’re trying to do now, uh, I have been licensing them with one partner who was them bringing them in with their care full caregiver solution to companies. And now I’m looking for another home for them right now as we speak. So, uh, that’s, that’s kind of the summit. I have an offshoot product of that, that I’ve put together that, uh, I call it a caregiver support program and it’s a 30 day, uh, video series. So every day a caregiver could be gifted this, or treat themselves to 30 emails from me, which have a, I call it your moment of Zen. You know, you wake up in the morning, you’re having a cup of coffee. You know, it’s going to be a stressful day, but you want to take a breath.
And so you can listen to two or three minutes of me. I have a message around caregiving specific message. You’re listening to the kind of a theory will spa music. You’re looking at beautiful images on the screen. And of course I’ll use snippets of song, uh, during the course of that. So that’s kind of the two things I’m doing, uh, around caregiving. The summit I took a year off for the moment because, you know, kind of, because of the pandemic, but, uh, uh, I think that really changes the dynamic of where it might go in the future because I really do want to interview more. And I sort of coined this “COVID caregivers,” because there’s an, you know, there’s a new crop of caregivers that didn’t exist before that are taking care of people who are going to have who’ve had COVID are going to have the after effects of COVID that are. And are not people taking care of cancer patients or heart patients or diabetes patients or people with dementia or Alzheimer’s, they’re going to be COVID, you know, and what the aftermath is, we don’t know of COVID are. So, um, you know, it’s how do you adapt the material to help educate them as well, Even though a lot of it’s evergreen and things you should know in general, no matter what kind of caregiver you are.
DP: to wrap up the podcast, you’ve, you’ve talked somewhat about, you know, what healthcare will look like in the future. Okay, well, for you personally, I would like for you to fill in this blank 10 years from now, I will have made healthcare blank
AC: will have made healthcare better because I’ve called attention to the issues around family caregivers and the health of family caregivers, and brought that to the forefront. So that they become an integral part of healthcare teams and our recognized as such and take care of their own health so that we have a whole ecosystem of, uh, of a health community that’s helping everybody.
DP: Love it love it, Anthony. I encourage you to keep on fulfilling your mission of doing that. I would love to see healthcare become better by bringing all the stakeholders, all the loved ones, all the providers into the same conversation and springing about. Um, and that’s just like the kind of end things on a fun way, kind of stream of consciousness.
First thing that pops into your mind, please. So, um, who would you say is your favorite hero in literature or movies?
AC: Literature or movies? Well, um, you know, I, it was just Christmas. And so George Bailey, it’s a wonderful life, right? As long as you have friends.
DP: So what is your favorite song to perform. For audiences, I guess, most requested song or something that you’d like to enjoy performing for others, as well as a favorite song for you for your own enjoyment.
AC: Oh, my goodness. That’s such a hard one. Cause it changes my songs always change, you know? Um, uh, I joke that one time I did a strolling Troubadour at the Capriccio restaurant and resorts international and people would tip me $20 if, if I would do my way.
Yeah. Oh my God. So you get sick of it after a while. But you know, in terms of people, you know, that, you know that, uh, But, like I said, my repertoire is all over the place. Kenny Chesney and Three Dog Night, Fleetwood Mac on any given day. Any one of them could be my favorite.
DP: So what song recently puts you in a good mood then?
AC: Oh man, what song puts me in a good mood. Um, So I became a big Kenny Chesney fan this year. So, uh, I think “No shoes, No shirt, No problem.”
DP: Okay. Uh, a final question. So if you had the opportunity to meet Esther again, what would you say or do with her?
AC: I give her a big hug and say, thank you.
DP: Amen. Well, there you have it, Anthony Cirillo, just making healthcare better. Thank you very much for joining us and sharing with us, your experiences and your mission.
AC: My pleasure. I think this is one of the most fun interviews I’ve done out of anything I’ve done. Thank you.