This article is sponsored by Direct Supply®. In this Voices Interview, Senior Housing News sits down with Gaurie Rodman, Vice President of Real Estate Development and Strategy – Direct Supply® Aptura®, to talk about the evolving challenges of staffing, health care costs, innovation/technology adaptation and affordability. She discusses how these challenges have convened to create a much-needed catalyst for the transformation of senior living. She also breaks down Direct Supply’s unique opportunity to find solutions that meet the needs of operators, staff and residents while driving economically sustainable strategies, products and facility solutions to meet those needs.
What career experiences do you most draw from in your role today?
Gaurie Rodman: Over the past 30 years, I’ve had a diverse and extensive range of experiences and draw on all of them in my current role. I have my master’s degrees in architecture and planning, and I began my career practicing in both fields. Once I started my family, I joined Milwaukee School of Engineering as a professor focusing on real estate studies while acquiring and managing a portfolio of student housing and launching a real estate development company. Following that, I worked for a large healthcare developer.
These experiences have been instrumental to my role at Direct Supply, where I specialize in senior housing strategies and development. Over the last 10 years, I have honed my expertise in understanding how real estate can support the senior living industry. By bringing together an understanding of finance and operational requirements, and focusing on resident needs and desires, I am able to bring a holistic perspective to our approach. My goal is to ensure that real estate plays a pivotal part in delivering quality care and services to our clients.
What challenges do you expect the senior living industry to face as a new generation of seniors enter communities?
The senior living industry is set to face multiple challenges, fueled by the incoming boomers driving a consumer-centric approach to aging. Unlike the silent generation, this new generation has distinct experiences, expectations, financial capabilities and healthcare conditions. Their transition into the senior living sphere presents its own set of challenges, including rising healthcare needs and costs, affordability, staffing challenges and the role of technology. These challenges might seem overwhelming, but they also present incredible opportunities for us to redefine aging in our country.
By recognizing and embracing these challenges head-on, we have the chance to revolutionize the way seniors live and thrive. We can leverage technology, innovation and compassionate care to create a future where aging is filled with dignity, support and a higher quality of life. It’s an exciting time for the industry, and with the right approach, we can truly make a positive difference in the lives of our seniors and the entire nation.
How important is innovative design in meeting the needs of seniors?
Innovative design is at the core of the solution. There’s no single trigger point that will solve all the challenges related to aging and senior care in our country. Instead, it’s a multifaceted approach that involves where we build, what we build, how we build it, and what we incorporate into it. That’s why I firmly believe that the role of real estate must undergo a fundamental transformation.
We’re moving beyond merely providing shelter to seniors. We’re carefully considering how building configurations impact staffing optimization. Our buildings will take on an active role in caregiving and monitoring, enabled by data and technology. By harnessing these advancements, we can drive operational and staffing efficiencies.
In this rapidly evolving landscape, innovative design will be the key to creating new facilities or transforming existing ones to meet the unique needs of our consumers. The future of senior living lies in embracing cutting-edge solutions and integrating them seamlessly into the built environment, offering seniors not just a home, but a fully supported, technologically enhanced and caring environment to thrive in.
How does Direct Supply assist senior housing providers in creating environments that foster meaningful social interactions and a sense of purpose for the residents?
Direct Supply is uniquely positioned to serve the evolving needs of the industry. Our employee-owned organization, with 37+ years of experience, has been solely focused on seniors’ living and care. What sets us apart is that we don’t operate, own, or finance buildings, but we play a significant role in supporting senior living operators and investors across the nation.
Our expertise allows us to understand the needs of operators and the residents they serve. We can ask the right questions and provide the necessary support, whether through products, services or our advanced technology platforms. With a broad reach, we gather experiences and insights from different communities, recognizing that each place is unique.
Understanding the diverse social interactions and purposes of residents is crucial. What works in one community may not work in another, and our seniors live everywhere. By comprehending each community’s technological capabilities and individual dynamics, we can creatively engineer opportunities for spontaneous social interactions, tailored to their specific needs.
By putting operators and their residents first, we bring a wealth of ideas and concepts to the table. Our greatest value lies in our ability to collaborate with operators and provide solutions that cater to their specific goals and the well-being of their residents. This dedicated focus on customization and support sets us apart and enables us to make a meaningful difference in the senior housing industry.
Can you provide examples of how Direct Supply’s technology solutions have enhanced the quality of care for seniors and led to improved outcomes and financial success?
Direct Supply’s Innovation and Technology Center stands as the largest facility in the seniors housing sector, dedicated solely to finding innovative solutions to today’s problems. Based in downtown Milwaukee, it unites educators and inventors from around the nation with operators to address real-world challenges. We approach technology through three critical lenses — reducing costs, enhancing revenue and improving outcomes. This strategic focus aligns with what operators and their financial investors are seeking — ways to increase NOI by cutting operational costs or driving operational revenue while also adding value for the residents.
One such technology we’ve explored is Servi, a robot designed to transport food from the kitchen to residents’ tables. By implementing Servi, we optimize the human connection. Staff members previously engaged in the mundane task of food delivery can now interact with residents more meaningfully, observing their well-being, and promptly addressing any concerns. This not only saves on staffing but also enhances resident care and engagement.
Our approach considers not only direct benefits but also potential consequences. We evaluate how a technology fits within an operator’s workflow, and whether staff can embrace its usage effectively. While a robot delivering food might initially raise concerns, we ensure that operators understand the benefits and can integrate it seamlessly into their community.
We are optimizing human interaction by employing technology and building design to handle repetitive tasks. This approach also helps with staff recruitment, as employees find greater fulfillment in roles that have a clear mission and purpose.
We are committed to listening to operators, adapting and fine-tuning technologies to suit their specific needs, and ensuring that they complement existing systems. Ultimately, our goal is to provide technologies that empower operators, work for the industry, and serve seniors with care and efficiency. Through our innovative solutions, we strive to drive positive change in the seniors housing industry.
How does Direct Supply optimize operations to ensure the seamless delivery of services that address the various needs of seniors while maintaining financial viability?
Our role is multifaceted, providing professional services, products and technology solutions to support senior living communities. While seniors pay for care and living, operators must efficiently provide those services, which is where we come in. When it comes to design projects, we prioritize understanding the operator’s current needs and their future goals. We know that their requirements will evolve over time, so we work to ensure our solutions remain financially viable for the long term.
Our approach is to turn the mirror on operators, helping them identify their strengths and challenges while looking ahead to where they want to go. We recognize that financial viability is crucial for everyone involved, from operators to investors and building owners. If a project doesn’t meet those financial requirements, it won’t be sustainable for any party.
To ensure success, we consider various factors that contribute to success, including what consumers can afford, operational costs and investor expectations. Our focus is on influencing the aspects within our control to drive outcomes.
We focus our design approach on three key aspects that most residents seek in senior housing — safety & security, health & wellness and social engagement & purpose. We aim to deliver these essentials to our projects by working closely with the operator to understand their operating model, the market and the financial expectations of the project while drawing on our extensive industry experience and introducing viable innovations to the design process. By doing this, we not only meet the needs of residents and operators, but we are able to set them up for continued success.
Understanding operations is our forte, and we excel at listening to our operating partners, tailoring our solutions to their specific needs. Our mission is to improve the lives of seniors and those who care for them across the country.
In a couple of words, finish this sentence: “In 2023, the senior living industry has been defined by…”
…the shift toward pre-covid operational occupancy levels.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
For nearly 40 years, Direct Supply has transformed the delivery of healthcare for seniors via next-gen technology, intuitive digital platforms and outrageous customer service. Learn how you can assess and optimize your project prospects at Aptura.net/StrategicProjectEvaluation.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact [email protected].