‘Tis the Seasons: Retirement home network seeing budding success in a changing, aging landscape
By Perry King
The population is aging and more people are retiring. Addressing the challenges inherent with this trend has been a paramount concern for Seasons Retirement Communities since its creation in 2009.
With eight retirement communities in Ontario, Seasons has been able to hone in and make retirement residence living a more appealing option for families. With a five-pronged philosophy focused on commitment, active living, results, enthusiasm, and service, their business development has budded in four years of operation, turning heads and spurring more residences to be developed.
“The demographics for this sector are very powerful, very compelling,” said Seasons’ chief operating officer, Mike Lavallée. “We do not believe the current inventory meets the needs of today’s seniors, and the population is going to double in size in the next 20 years.”
“There will be significant pressure on operators to provide additional services and high-level amenities for the more affluent and discerning senior who is going to live a very long and healthy life.”
Seasons is an active user of social media. They want to use this creative avenue to break down perceptions of the traditional retirement community and better communicate with their residents and beyond.
“We recently launched a YouTube video of residents from all of our communities having fun and lip-synching the song “Good Time” by Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City.,” said Lavallée, excitedly. “It showcases our commitment to social media, which is becoming an important medium for communicating with our residents and their family members.
“It also showcases what active living really looks like: it debunks the myth of what seniors are exposed to when they live in a retirement residence.”
From the social gatherings — from tap dancing to calisthenics — to the food, Seasons wants to provide an exceptional retirement lifestyle in beautiful, state-of-the-art residences. They are proud of what they have accomplished in such a short time.
“I know everyone talks about having great meal experiences, but we really do believe that the dining room is the hub of the business,” Lavallée said. “We work very hard everyday to make sure that it’s the best experience for everyone.”
Lavallée, the first person hired at Seasons, previously worked in business development. His 12 years of experience has focused on seniors’ housing and retirement living in large and small-scale businesses.
“Seasons came together as an investment vehicle for a group of institutional and pension fund investors to enter the seniors housing market class,” Lavallée said. “When an opportunity to create an acquisition took place back in June , the portfolio was being managed by another operator.”
Lavallée was brought in to build the team, create the management platform and establish development strategies. The portfolio included six retirement homes, a long-term care centre and two development projects. Since then, those two developments have come to completion, and the investors divested from the long-term care residence.
It’s a positive sign of good success, and Seasons’ focus on high quality healthcare in their retirement communities, especially in the area of nursing, is elevating Seasons’ profile exponentially.
“We feel it is necessary to have more skilled nursing staff in the building while our residents are awake,” said Lavallée, who mentions that registered staff are on hand from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
By taking a page out of the Disney Corporation’s handbook, Seasons has internalized and centralized their recruitment process. They want to bring in exceptionally skilled team members but they also look for something more.
“From a vocational point of view, we have the ability to train our people with the skills that they need,” Lavallée said, “But, their attitude and aptitude, their ability to be empathetic with our residents, to care about them and want go above and beyond to deliver exceptional service, is something you just can’t train.”
These positive facets of Seasons’ identity has contributed to their success. Two additional sites, in Milton and Stoney Creek, are in development and will be open in the next two years; it is a sign of growing demand as well as a sign that the Seasons’ recipe for success is working.
“When a resident is happy, they’re much more likely to forgive you if you burn the odd pork chop,” Lavallée said. “At the end of the day, what’s most important is ensuring our residents’ needs are surpassed, that their expectations are always met.”