Hello, I’m Laura Anastasia. I am a graduate of Binghamton University, which almost feels like a lifetime ago–well, it kind of is. After graduation, I wanted to experience the grown-up life of getting a job, earning an income, and having adult conversations with intelligent people. Oh… how my world has changed since my college days!
I worked in diverse fields- accounting, marketing, sales analyst, and even as an auditor.
Fast forward to 2004, when I got married and had my first child a few years later. This was my absolute favorite job, and nothing compares to now having the role of wife and mom, which is one of my proudest achievements.
I went from reading the NYT and analyzing sales numbers and procedures to watching Sesame Street and picking up Cheerios. Some days felt neverending. I didn’t know how tired a person could feel until my three children entered my life and, sometime later, the addition of my two dogs. I dove into the life of a wife, mother, teacher, chef, chauffeur, and dog mom. Honestly, I loved that I got to spend this time with my kids, and was fortunate to do so. Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed a thing, and I am forever grateful for the time watching my children grow up.
This Mom is Getting Back in ”The Game!”
Fast forward to 2019. I decided to get back into the game, well, at least slowly. I was rusty, but I wanted to get this part of myself back that I had buried in a bin of old suits, my work bag, and books/ projects I had worked on in my career.
In July 2019, I started to work with Speak2. What drew me into Speak2 was its mission of helping our forever-loving seniors. I was fortunate to have fulfilled many of my dreams, and I wanted nothing more than to give back. What better way to do this than through your job role? Helping to create and become part of something to aid seniors’ lives seemed to be a perfect fit.
I started working with Matt to help him incorporate and set up Speak2. I was his #1 cheerleader, and I couldn’t wait for more to join me, cheering the company on. I truly believed in his vision, and my instincts told me that this would be life-changing. The concept of Speak2 to me was pretty genius, especially in this fast-tracked, ever-changing world, where seniors can inevitably get lost in.
Things were going smoothly, and I learned a lot about the business and what goes into starting one from the ground up. Matt was great at throwing things at me (not literally), leaving me scratching my head on how I was supposed to proceed. After some tough and challenging moments, we began to make progress with time and lots of patience. We were filling a database of potential contacts and talked about how we could make the product serve seniors better.
The Pandemic and Speak2’s Future
The doors that were opening for Speak2 started to shut one at a time slowly and then at record speed, eventually slamming shut. The pandemic hit our world. What did this mean for Speak2? We weren’t sure, but we held on tight and rode the storm. I never stopped cheering and believed in Speak2 as strongly as the day I committed to the job.
During this time, Speak2 continued to evolve in the background. With the needs that developed around senior living , Speak2 became the answer to the daunting problems we faced. Seniors were trapped, not being able to see loved ones. It was hard for both sides. They needed to feel engaged with others, purposeful, and reminded that they were loved. Speak2’s sole mission is to have families and friends connect with one another. With this pandemic, Speak2 was RE-CONNECTING one family at a time.
As the world slowly opened its doors, the Alexa device became the next best point of contact, all through voice and video. Seniors were getting to hear their loved ones’ voices on Alexa, and they were able to see faces on the Echo Show screens. Messages and videos were made based on moments that children and grandchildren celebrated, whether an “A” on a test or a goal in soccer. Videos were shared of milestone moments occurring in their family’s lives. It helped the seniors feel that they still were a part of everything going on. This feeling was crucial to their mental state, and Speak2 helped fulfill this need and provided a remedy in such a scary time in history.
The Voice Change
Speak2 also took on other roles that helped residents connect more inside their community. residents can ask for maintenance, a nurse, what activities are going on, and even what is on the menu. Alexa executed these requests with its voice. This capability within each resident’s room became appealing to staff, families, and the residents themselves.
However, Speak2 wanted a more “at home feel.” Alexa’s voice was okay, but we wanted it to feel like a real person was sitting in the room. Well, that’s where I came in! I sometimes think this was one of the things that helped us stand out in the senior living world. As you walk the hallways, it is no longer the only voice of Alexa in the resident rooms. Today, you can hear my voice (with a slight Brooklyn accent) coming through, reciting the week’s menus, daily affirmations and activities every month. To give it that comforting feel, you can hear me comment on activities that sound fun or necessary for the residents’ well-being. I will also mention dishes that are my personal favorites or that sound delicious and need to try. We gave this way a shot, and we are so happy to report that it was a hit.Staff members and residents love the human interaction. Hearing this feedback really melted my heart as a person, a mom, and being part of Speak2. I’m so happy and grateful to play a part in these residents’ lives. It may be a small part, but I’ll take it.
If I can help make one resident smile or chuckle with the sound of my voice or the comments I make, there is no better way of getting back into the game. We cannot forget these seniors who are our friends, teachers, family, and parents who were present, guiding us through the first part of our life journey, and now we (Speak2) are here to help these same people through the second half in hopes of making everything a bit easier as they age.
Being a part of the Speak2 family has been a truly rewarding experience. I love the “game” I am in. I’m so grateful that Speak2 took a chance on me in 2019 and let me be a part of what is now an incredible team.