Last year saw a number of interesting moves among top executives in the senior living industry—replacing retiring executives, moving to different organizations, and some coming from other industries.

Senior Living News asked a few of the new leaders what excites them most about their organization—either looking back at 2019, looking ahead to 2020—or about the senior living industry in general.

Tana Gall was named president of Seattle-based Merrill Gardens in November 2019—following the announcement of David Eskenazy’s retirement and Merrill Gardens’ acquisition of Blue Harbor Senior Living—and assumed her leadership duties at the end of the year. Gall had served as president of Merrill Gardens 2013-2015, left to start her own consulting business and was recruited to lead Blue Harbor, where she has served as CEO for the past three years. With the acquisition of Blue Harbor, Merrill Gardens now operates 54 communities, with four new ones still in development.

“There are a number of things I am excited about as we roll into 2020. First is our middle market initiative. With our recent acquisition we are poised to develop a more moderately priced senior living option and really figure out how to serve that population, while continuing to advance our successful Merrill Gardens brand. This is a huge opportunity for us, and we certainly haven’t figured it out yet. We are building an exceptional team, bringing together talented folks from Merrill Gardens and Blue Harbor, and we are eager to test some of the theories we’ve got to see what can really work. This is going to be our major focus this year.

The other thing that I am excited about is just working with our teams. I love leading them to come together to solve big, complicated, important issues, and I love seeing our team members create relationships with each other and with our residents and families . . . I take such great pride in the work we do, and it just never gets old for me.”

Kimberly Lody became CEO, president and director of Dallas-based Capital Senior Living in January 2019, following the retirement of CEO Larry Cohen. With a 25-year career leading high-growth product and service businesses with a strong concentration in health care services and the medical device industries, Lody most recently served nine years as president of GN Hearing North America, part of the medical device division of the GN Group, which specializes in intelligent audio solutions for medical, professional and consumer markets. Capital Senior Living owns and operates 126 senior housing communities in the U.S. Lody had served on its board of directors for five years prior to being recruited to lead the organization.

“We have an energetic and dedicated team at Capital Senior Living, and I’m excited about the momentum they have created with their fresh ideas, dedication to our residents, and ability to operate with compassion and excellence. The ‘middle market’ has been a strong focal point for the industry lately, and the most exciting aspect for our company is that we have been serving middle market residents and their families for decades. This segment of the 75+ population is expected to grow considerably during the next five years, which will be a strong contributor to Capital Senior Living’s future growth.

With respect to the industry, I look forward to seeing how contemporary choices in resident engagement evolve. The resident experience will become more of a differentiator as competition in the marketplace heightens. I suspect that operators will develop interesting programs involving the utilization of technology and development of specialized skills, e.g. gamification or crafting beer and wine. These newer experiences will not completely replace traditional programs like bingo and puzzles but will be available alongside them.

It will also be interesting to see the role senior housing will take in preventative services, such as those specifically designed to reduce falls, prevent hospitalizations and address chronic conditions. Health insurance plans and medical professionals will need to collaborate to deliver tangible benefits as they will become a key factor when making senior housing residence choices. Technology will play an increasingly important role in resident care, and the data and learnings from technology utilization will be extremely helpful in optimizing care plans. However, technology can never replace the most important element of care—human interaction.”

Bill Sciortino became chief operating officer at Bonita Springs, FL-based Discovery Senior Living in August 2019, after 18 years leading operations for Vi, the luxury CCRC owner/operator. Discovery currently has 56 communities, 36 of which include memory care.

“Looking back, my first five months on the job seem like a blur now. I have met so many people and visited a good portion of our 56 communities . . . more to come. I am energized by what the new year means to us. We added new communities just as 2019 ended, more as we start the ‘20s, and are advancing several ground-up developments. We have excellent partners working with us and new talent bringing fresh energy all the time. This rapid pace of change is exactly what drew me to Discovery Senior Living.

Many of my challenges are common: we’re all working through the current limitations of workforce availability and the stiff competition of rapid capacity additions in desirable markets. Those challenges will be met with good leadership, and I am encourged by new regional leaders added in December and a realignment of our operating regions (time for some new region names!). These new assignments set us up for continued expansion and enhanced service for our internal stakeholders and capital partners. Also new for 2020: a corporate department dedicated to resident experience and lifestyles; we intend to make experiential living something unique and impactful for both residents and team members.”