In our Inspiring Leaders Series, we interview visionaries driven by a passion for excellence that’s manifest in Canada’s most innovative retirement communities.
"It's about what you can create that really can solve certain problems and make [senior living] better than it's ever been before. I mean, what if you could make senior living so great that people can't remember a time when they lived without it?"
In the interview transcribed below, we spoke to Louisa Flinn, vice president of sales and marketing, along with Anna Louie, marketing director, of PARC Retirement Living. They shared with us how they’ve seen the industry grow and evolve in recent years, new trends developing, and how PARC both anticipates and drives those.
Louisa Flinn: So, if I think back to seven years ago, I felt like it was a lot more of a closed industry, a very small industry, but I found over the last … five years, some big changes this happened have happened. And some of those big changes tend to be in more transparency. That's more transparency in things like pricing, more transparency in the type of value propositions that each of the types of senior living are offering. And also, there's been a big movement into the world of wellness. And that's very near and dear to my heart, because I come … from that industry as well. Having been in the fitness industry as a secondary job for me my entire life.
So I found that the senior industry has really moved more to the active living, the wellness, the sort of holistic aspects of how to live a much better, healthier life as we age. So I think there's been demands from all sides of sort of the demographic wheel, if you want to call it, to sort of say, hey, this needs to be bigger, better, improved. We need to really look at, especially as the boomers are just on the cusp of moving into the world of senior living, that things have to change.
Anna Louie: When I started seven years ago, it was more of a needs-based reason why people were moving in, either I had a fall or, you know, I became a widow or something. And now it's more about them thinking long term about how they want to retire, how they want to live the rest of their life.
Boomers are going to demand that senior living adapt to their needs, and being vital and vibrant. [It must] have nuances that are different for different types of people. It's not a one size fits all.
Louisa: I had a brainstorming session, and I don't know if Anna was in that initial one or the secondary one, and we came up with crazy ideas, Airstream trailers and yurts and all kinds of domes. And then I was driving home one day, and I saw this Bulldog Trailer. And so I quickly phoned the head of our construction team. I said, I have this idea. I said, you're either going to love it or hate it. And it's an eight by 20 [trailer that's] bright orange, but we could somehow fit it out and put in all the plexiglass and make it perfect for a meet up center.
And the more we thought about it, the more we thought what an interesting idea. And we went out to Ripco and we looked at these and of course everybody said, oh, we should get it in neutral yellow or something like in black and white. And I went, “Are you kidding? Orange? It should be orange!” People at first were a bit stymied... but as they started using it, they were thrilled because that was a period when COVID was very much about, don't go near anybody, and [people were concerned about] aerosol droplets, and people were really scared. So, this provided them the ability to see their families and to talk with them face to face.
And people have been missing that for about a month, I guess, at the time. So, it was a big hit because that importance of families talking, laughing, connecting, being together. It's so important no matter what age, but especially when you're a little bit older. That is the highlight of your day.
Louisa: Rainer's [PARC founder Rainer Müller - editor] a highly innovative, intelligent guy. He's an architect, and he's a businessman, and he has a lot of interesting ideas for the future, and I like that... I like that it's not just about the P's and Q's, about the numbers, it's not about always making money. It's about what you can create that really can solve certain problems and make it better, better than it's ever been before. I mean, what if you could make senior living so great that people can't remember a time when they lived without it?
You know, that it's not a one-size-fits-all, it's a reflection of the type of lifestyle you want to live as you get older, as you age. [You want people to be] proud to say, my parent is having their best life ever. Or, that's where I want to live when I get older.
Anna: We've been doing some testing, our operations team has been doing some testing with technology, and there's a lot of companies that have technology in the circadian lighting systems, to detect how often a senior gets up at night to go to the bathroom, for example. And that could be an early sign of a UTI, a urinary tract infection, which could lead to falls and some other serious issues down the line. But if we're able to capture that sooner, that would be great and that would help with that resident's health. And so we're kind of looking at ways and how we can use technology to advance your health and wellness
Louisa: It gives us an idea of what we think is going to happen next, but also it tells us the level of capability of people as well, and what we need to build, and how we need to adjust... We’re highly environmental. [We're] using great technology in all our new buildings, great environmental aspects, green roofs, and lighting. What Anna is talking about is now, drilling down into... doing more in the suites, touch screens, finding out what the daily activities are, maintenance, all of those cool things.
They're all right there. It's just some of them are a bit cost-prohibitive, of course. But as we move forward, those are the things that you'll start seeing in senior living, especially in independent or assisted living, because [people's] mental cognition is still very vibrant.
The senior industry has really moved more to the active living and wellness, the sort of holistic aspects of how to live a much better, healthier life as we age. There's been demands from all sides of the demographic [that] say, this needs to be bigger, better, improved.
Louisa: Two things come to mind for me. The first big one is active living, active ageing, no longer one-size-fits-all. It's about living a great life in the last, call it 10 to 15 years of your life, not moving into … I hate to use this terminology because we don't use it, but … moving into "an old folks’ home." It's about moving to an environment where you're with peers, you're actively living a life that is stimulating and that you can count on. So that's the first thing is, there's going to be that.
The second thing that dovetails from that is the demand for that. I think boomers … and I'm a boomer … I think boomers are going to demand that senior living adapt to their needs, and [be] vital and vibrant and have nuances that are different for different types of people. It's not a one size fits all.
I think that they will want to live that healthy social lifestyle and they will be looking for providers to give them that. Technology is just one part of it. I don't think it's going to determine the future. I think it is going to just be part of the future and it will be part of all those things we do. But hey, when it comes down to it, if you're an 80 year old and you want to do gardening one day, and you want to talk about the politics the next day, and you want to go to book club another day, and workout in the gym, you can do all those things. And I think in senior living and as providers and developers, we have to provide that type of active living environment and community for seniors going forward. So I'm excited about the future, to be honest with you. I'm very excited and I do think boomers will be pushing super hard.
PARC Retirement Living has locations across southern British Columbia’s most vibrant neighbourhoods. PARC’s approach, as revealed above, is rooted in an up-to-the-minute perspective on older Canadians' needs, one that’s paid dividends in exceptionally vigorous communities. Learn more about PARC Retirement Living.