April 29, 2019—At its annual meeting the first week in April, LeadingAge Illinois presented its Strive and Thrive Award to Akintunde Littlejohn, The Admiral at the Lake’s Information Technology Director. “LJ,” as he is known to friends and colleagues, was recognized for his “vision, initiative and creative problem-solving.”
LeadingAge Illinois presents the award each year to “an individual who demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to excellence. Through innovation and/or creative thinking, the individual has produced or created a result that is a direct benefit to the residents/clients or the organization.”
Early in 2018, LJ launched an initiative to make The Admiral one of the first retirement communities in the U.S. to widely deploy Amazon Echo voice-recognition devices for its residents. He began by surveying Admiral residents about their interest in the technology and found that 10% of independent living residents had already purchased smart speakers on their own. He determined that those early adapters were using voice-recognition technology to compensate for vision and mobility limitations.
“One resident is completely blind and says he can’t imagine life without his two Echo devices,” LJ said. “Another resident was able to call for help using his Echo after he fell out of his wheelchair.”
In October, The Admiral began offering the Alexa-enabled devices for free for use in all 200 apartments of its independent living residents. In announcing the offer, LJ said that “the devices will be preloaded with custom communication tools and community information, like menus and listings of events.”
Nadia Geigler, The Admiral’s CEO, says that because of LJ’s “tireless work on this project, our community has partnered with Amazon and a local university to conduct a full-blown research project testing the hypothesis that voice technology can have a positive impact on the quality and enjoyment of life for older adults and/or can help older adults living in a shared community feel more engaged in that community and connected to its members.”
In nominating LJ for the award, Nadia noted that LJ has a long been “a consistent voice calling on both formal and informal leadership to rise up together to build a real community of people who care for each other and for our residents.” A 2018 graduate of Kendal’s Leadership Fellows Program, LJ has been with The Admiral since it opened the doors in 2012 on its new 31-story high-rise home on Chicago’s lakefront.
Before joining The Admiral’s team, LJ gained extensive health care experience as the IT manager for a network of Community Health Care Centers in Oak Park, Illinois. Before that, he was IT manager of a leading future brokerage with the Chicago Board of Trade.