LWC21 Let’s Hear From the Leaders Session

Thought-provoking insight was shared from exceptional leaders across the non-profit and proprietary segments of the senior living industry. In an open dialog, key developments and current trends influencing their organizations’ leadership were discussed. This was originally produced from our 18th Annual HJ Sims Late Winter Conference in February, 2021. Highlights included:

  • Crisis Management and Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Staffing Changes During and After COVID-19
  • The Need for an Open Line of Marketing & Communications
  • Social Awareness

Resilience in Crisis/Lessons Learned

The COVID-19 Pandemic has created challenges previously  unseen. Suzanne highlighted the  importance of adaptability, and  maintaining the ability to pivot  quickly to rapidly changing  circumstances and state guidance.  Tom shared that most communities  had disaster recovery plans in  place, including Pandemic plans,  however had focused largely for  events such as hurricanes and  earthquakes, with less active  preparation for a Pandemic event.

Speaking to recovery, David said  that while slow, recovery has  started. Beyond the vaccines, there  are positive signs. For instance,  leads, tours and inquiries are  increasing. Both Watermark  Retirement Communities and  HumanGood communities have  seen a significant uptick in web traffic. David acknowledged that  recovery has been uneven across  regions, in part because of differing local rules regarding the closing of  campuses due to positive tests  among residents or staff.

Staffing Changes During and After COVID

John stated that COVID exacerbated, rather than created,  staffing challenges faced by senior  living communities. The question  facing organizations is how much  of the increase in staff expenses is  permanent and which will abate as  the Pandemic eases. Tom added he does not expect a return to pre-COVID levels, due to the lessons around infection control, greater  customer expectations and the need to increase wages to attract and  cetain staff. John pointed out better  wages for front-line health care  staff are necessary on an industry- wide basis, otherwise recruitment  will become increasingly difficult.  Suzanne added increased fees were  previously met with strong  resistance from residents. During  the past budget cycle however, as  the majority of fee increases were  funding higher staff wages,  Aldersgate encountered little to no  resistance. Others also indicated  their staff appreciation fundraising  efforts yielded record results. 


Tom discussed Benchmark’s efforts to maintain an open line of  communication with their  communities, residents and  families. In fact, throughout the  Pandemic each community has  been sending daily communications regarding the status of COVID-19 on campus. John discussed his organization’s efforts to leverage technology, such as tablets, to advance efficiency  while improving resident and team  member experience. 

Social Awareness

Suzanne shared that socially distanced marches were organized  at Aldersgate, with leadership from  staff, following the death of George Floyd. These occurred on and off-campus, were attended by staff and  residents, and even those in the  skilled nursing facility. John  offered that their internal  conversations with staff showed  that while good intentions were  recognized, they are not enough,  that people of color and  LGBTQIA+ staff are looking for  actions and outcomes. Further, it  was understood that this is a  journey, and these efforts cannot be viewed as short-term programs.  Suzanne added they should not be  called programs, as programs  eventually terminate, and these  should be permanent changes. John added that piecemeal or one-off  approaches often do more harm  than good. David pointed out that  Watermark was able to leverage  experienced gained through an  art/training reach-out effort to the  LGBTQIA+ community, called  “Not Another Second,” to  implement training around race  relations. 

For more information, please contact Andrew Nesi at anesi@hjsims.com or Curtis King at cking@hjsims.com.

For coverage on any of our other conference sessions, please visit our events page.

Panel of Industry Leaders

John Cochrane Headshot

John Cochrane
President & CEO

Tom Grape Headshot

Tom Grape
Chairman & CEO

David Freshwater
Watermark Retirement Communities

Suzanne Pugh Headshot

Suzanne Pugh
President & CEO

Replay our 18th Annual Late Winter Conference

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Register for our 18th Annual Late Winter Conference

LeadingAge Annual Meeting Virtual Experience

Thank You to All Who Joined Us (Virtually)

Women’s Brunch to kick off the LeadingAge Annual Meeting

Enjoy some highlights and virtual selfies from our brunch.

Thank You to All Who Joined Us (Virtually)

Women’s Brunch to kick off the LeadingAge Annual Meeting

Date:  Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

Time:  11:30am – 12:30pm EDT

Details:  We look forward to hosting you at our HJ Sims Women’s Brunch.

Registration is required to obtain access to event information, and receive a special token to make our virtual brunch memorable.

If you have not yet registered, please do so using the Registration Form below.

Where:  Zoom. 

As far as keynote conversations go, we are incredibly grateful for Amy Harrison, Chief Financial Officer, Kendal Corporation. Her story is inspiring, and exemplifies the glass ceilings we are breaking as women leaders. It leaves us with hope for the future. Some highlights from Amy:

  • Amy shared her experiences about making career decisions based on personal values and beliefs. And, how important it is to work for an organization and with colleagues that have shared values and beliefs.
  • We acknowledge that the last 8+ months have been incredibly challenging on those of us who are working from home; or more accurately…living at work. We are not alone.
  • We also acknowledge that while a great number of us are working from home, a great many of the leaders at providers have been practically living at work as they combat this virus on the front lines. We thank you all for the sacrifices you have made and continue to make.
  • Let’s keep the dialog going. 

Keynote Speaker

Amy Harrison
Chief Financial Officer
Kendal Corporation 

We are honored to welcome Amy as she shares her thoughts and perspective on her professional journey.

A certified public accountant and experienced finance executive, Amy has been an integral part of the Kendal Corporation family since 2011 as CFO for Collington, a Kendal-affiliated continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in suburban Washington, D.C. Amy was named Kendal’s CFO in 2016.

Following our dynamic keynote with Amy Harrison, we broke into smaller, more intimate group discussions  to share ideas and experiences. Discussions centered around navigating life in our socially distanced times. In keeping with the theme from the LeadingAge Annual Meeting, we shared Dr. Brené Brown’s message, 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living, as a foundation for our discussions.

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