Kayla Barlow, vice president of resident experience with Arrow Senior Living Management, has been named a 2022 future leader by Senior Housing News.
Arrow Senior Living grew by about one-third during the Covid-19 pandemic and the St. Louis-Based operator is planning more growth in the near future with 12 developments in the pipeline.
To become a Future Leader, an individual is nominated by their peers. The candidate must be a high-performing employee who is 40 years old or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put vision into action, and an advocate for seniors, and the committed professionals who ensure their well-being.
Barlow sat down with Senior Housing News to talk about her career trajectory and the ways that she sees the industry evolving, including the need for more on-site and comprehensive clinical services.
What drew you to this industry?
I was a guest at a wedding and when the wedding ended, I could tell that no one had a plan to clean the venue. So, I took over and led the effort, and, as luck would have it, a guest who worked in senior living told me I should go work for them.
I thought it was a joke or a pleasantry, but it was a serious recommendation. At the time, I was comfortable in the banking industry, worked nine to five, and had all of the holidays off and it was pretty easy.
But the woman from the wedding stopped by my house and talked me into it. So I put my notice in and the rest is history. That was almost ten years ago now.
What’s your biggest lesson learned since starting to work in this industry?
That no one in the industry can do it by themselves.
Working in senior living is hard. I am often in positions where I bear so much responsibility that I can’t leave — day in and day out. And in the early days of my senior living career, I did attempt to go back to the banking industry, but I didn’t even last a week in that world.
When I was back in banking, I was still helping the senior living company while also working in finance. I should have never left.
In this industry, you build so many relationships with residents and family members that impact you. I am a very relational person and I found that banking just didn’t feed my soul like senior living does.
If you could change one thing with an eye toward the future of senior living, what would it be?
The way lay people see senior living. The average person might envision a nursing home, but it’s so much more than that. So, at Arrow, we are prioritizing education among the general public.
For example, we started a social media hashtag to bring awareness to what senior living actually looks like.
We have also ramped up intergenerational programming for residents and local members of the community and launched a coloring book that depicts a senior living community where the community is staffed and run by dogs. In the book, for example, the housekeepers are Afghan hounds and the resident services caregivers are golden retrievers.
We hand these out at job fairs because we’re looking for a younger generation to work out our communities.
What do you foresee as being different about the senior living industry looking ahead to 2023?
Resident independence. We are already seeing a generation of senior living residents that are more independent and who want their voices to be heard — they want a sense of purpose.
This generation that is moving in now wants to help create events in their communities. They want to have a say essentially in their entire experience in the community. This year, residents felt activated by Martin Luther King Jr. Day. They created acts-of-service projects that they have since worked on throughout the entire year.
That speaks to how willing they are to strive for a sense of purpose.
In a word, how would you describe the future of senior living?