Brenda Bacon is President, CEO and Co-Founder of Brandywine Senior Living. The operator focuses on high-end communities and is pushing the intergenerational senior living trend to its next evolution.
In this Hot Seat interview, Bacon shares her Netflix favorites, how challenges inspire her, and why her top advice to other senior living industry executives is to “see” their employees.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
People have often asked me over the years to meet them for breakfast. I have said, “You DON’T want to meet me for breakfast, believe me.”
What is your personal mantra?
Humility, not hubris.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
To make every person understand that the cards they have been dealt in life are an opportunity. We all have scars on our back. Use those scars to be stronger for your family, your friends, your team members … and yourself.
It’s 7 am on a Saturday. Where are you right now?
Scrolling through the emails that came in overnight.
What is your favorite weekend activity?
Thinking. Reflecting on what we learned this week and how to put that to use. Cleaning through all the paper (I am still a person who values the written word), trying to figure out if there is something on Netflix that would distract me from that (e.g. “Night Agent,” “Extradition,” “The Mother”) umm …is there a pattern here?
What inspires you?
A lot. I look for inspiration in everybody and everything. Challenges inspire me.
If you could trade places with any other person for a week, who would it be and why?
The Gray Man … not the movie, the books.
What is your go-to breakfast? What makes it your go-to?
A banana smoothie that my husband makes. Easy and I don’t have to stop what I am doing to get nutrition.
What was your first music concert? When was it?
Smokey Robinson at the Howard Theater in D.C. How old does that make you feel?
What’s your favorite destination worldwide?
Oh, that one is hard. I think about The Atlantis in the Bahamas, The Bay Club in Jamaica, but I think the ones that win are London, and my home in Voorhees, New Jersey.
What’s the emoji you use most often?
…there is nothing better than being able to laugh at even the most ridiculous and inane things.
What was your first job in senior living and what was your biggest on-the-job lesson from that experience?
My first job was creating and designing a skilled nursing community. While the community was very successful, I realized there was a great opportunity to create a more vibrant environment where laughter, support and independence could be celebrated.
If you could change one thing about senior living as we know it, what would it be?
That people would see it as an environment that you would aspire to be in. No more depending on your sassy daughter or your too-busy son to tell you what to do. No more wondering about breakfast, lunch, or dinner because you have a whole staff that takes care of that. No more having to plan and calendar a lunch, card game, or cocktail with a friend; just open the door to your suite, walk down the hall and ask a friend if they want to go to the pub downstairs and have a glass of wine or a Gentleman’s Jack with Coke.
What is your most important people management principle?
Everybody brings their own crazy to the table. They also bring their own special talents, interest and dedication. If you focus on those things, you build a winning team.
Who is your greatest career inspiration?
Many people have inspired and inspired me. I’m most inspired by changing lives: In government, in the private sector, whether with children or seniors — there is no greater gift.
What’s one thing all senior housing professionals can do to improve the resident experience?
To pay attention, and really “see” your frontline workers. The housekeeper is not there to dust the dresser, she is there to notice the new picture of your grandson on the dresser. That housekeeper has to believe that is her true mission.
If you were recruiting someone to join the industry for the first time, what are three words you would use to describe the senior living industry?
Needs your talent.
Complete the sentence: In 2050, I hope senior living is….
…a normal part of everyone’s plan … and they are looking forward to it.