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Retirement home operations: A ‘new’ insider’s view

It’s been one month since I started a 6-month contract in administration at one of the largest retirement communities in western Canada. On 20 acres are residential buildings ranging from independent living duplexes and condos to supportive living and residential care. Development began with duplexes for independent seniors and additional sites with increased services followed. Due to its range of services and amenities, seniors are frequently transitioning into and within the community. This campus of care is a model community which promotes choice and smooth transition. Quality of life is made practical here.

Gaining perspective

After spending the past five years with a provincial industry association representing and advocating for seniors housing, the opportunity to observe operations has been fascinating.  Often association executives employed with industry associations have industry or related experience. This was experience I did not have prior to my association employment. I gained much knowledge and information through research, committee work and member communication, but had felt I was missing perspective.  After four short weeks in industry, I already better understand the challenges in balancing the choices of individual residents/seniors and choices for the community as a whole.

Achieving balance takes commitment

Balance is an ongoing challenge. Finding balance as an individual is important.  Remembering that as individuals, we are always a part of a larger community for which balance is even more important. No man is an island, right? Balance impacts all aspects of operation from budgeting, future planning, and risk management, to menu selection, energy consumption, and wellness program implementation.

Achieving balance takes commitment. A focus on quality of life places importance on multiple aspects of an individual as well as community. This holistic approach includes physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being; belonging, and ongoing growth. A model of care that pursues measuring and evaluating these aspects for residents is much more likely to provide a high quality of life for them. To achieve this, much collaboration and strong communication between providers and seniors and their families is imperative.

More than usual business

The job of caring for the elderly is much more than usual business. Providing 24/7 quality resident service while promoting as much independence and choice as possible is a very challenging. Though it’s only been a month, I can sense that the challenge is also very rewarding. Plus I got a hug from an Oma last week for faxing something. That was pretty sweet.

Originally published on March 14 at

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