3 women
Juniper Communities founder and CEO Lynne Katzmann, Brightview Senior Living Co-Chair Marilynn Duker and LTC Properties Chair and CEO Wendy Simpson share words of wisdom during a panel discussion at the McKnight’s Women of Distinction Forum. Credit: Tori Soper

The future is bright for the long-term care (LTC) industry, but its leaders must decide what they want the industry to be instead of waiting for tomorrow’s consumers to present a list of demands, a panel of industry leaders said Monday at the McKnight’s Women of Distinction Forum.

Three McKnight’s Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award honorees shared their collective wisdom and experiences during a session entitled “A lifetime of lessons from the C-suite.” The discussion was moderated by McKnight’s Senior Living Editor Lois A. Bowers.

Innovate by doing good

Marilynn Duker, Baltimore-based Brightview Senior Living’s co-chair and the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, said she was the first employee at the management company that eventually would morph into Brightview.

“For 40 years, I just had a lot of fun,” said Duker, who stepped down as CEO in September. “I feel so lucky to be in an industry that enables us to do good, but also to have really successful businesses.”

But she warned that senior living organizations will need to be innovative to attract baby boomers. Leaders, she said, need to start thinking about what they would want in a community for themselves and about how to help boomers navigate the transition into senior living.

Wendy Simpson, chairman and CEO of Westlake Village, CA-based real estate investment trust LTC Properties and the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, said that industry leaders need to start thinking about what they want the future of the industry to look like rather than wait for the next generation to tell them.

“We’re the industry. We know the industry,” Simpson said. “I think it’s time to start making those decisions and going forward.”

Lynne Katzmann, PhD, founder and CEO of Bloomfield, NJ-based Juniper Communities and the first recipient of the McKnight’s Women of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2019, said she lives by the mantra “Doing well by doing good.”

That mantra came into play when operators took risks and embraced vaccination and testing during the COVID-19 pandemic not knowing whether it was the right approach, she said. “We did it because we felt we were taking care of people,” Katzmann said. “It turned out to be that, and it was good business.”

The world is dynamic, she said, adding that she subscribes to Nike’s “Just Do It” message and that it’s important to keep moving and to understand and embrace change. The next generation of residents will be a new category of individuals, she said, adding that senior living needs to be repackaged because baby boomers don’t see themselves needing current services.

“You can be afraid, or you can go for it. At the end of the day, I choose to go for it,” Katzmann said, adding that what’s important is how the industry views itself and how it packages itself for the next generation. “It will be buildings and programming, but at the heart of it is the mindset that we have to radically change our brand.”

Innovation, she said, is a way of accepting change, and it was a desire to innovate that moved Katzmann to lead an effort to form an operator-owned Medicaid Advantage network called Perennial Consortium, offering Perennial Advantage, in 2020.

“We did it because senior living helps people live longer, better. We manage chronic illness, we save the government a ton of money,” she said. “The only way we can begin to capture that value is by controlling the healthcare dollar.”

She mentioned another innovation, Connect4Life, that was developed at Juniper and licensed to AllyAlign Health. Integrating primary care onsite, encouraging the use of data and electronic health records to drive care, and dedicating a coordinator to bridge senior living residents and providers are the pillars of the program.

Great LTC workplace is priority

Duker said that although Brightview works hard to support its residents, the company’s top priority is being a great workplace for staff.

“If you’re a great place to work, you’re much more likely to be a great place to live, and the financials will follow,” she said.

Brightview has topped or been the only senior living company on lists—Best Workplaces for Women, Best Workplaces in Aging Services, People’s Companies that Care, Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For—recognizing its workplace culture. To community-level employees, Duker said, the company is the community where they work.

“Culture is not what you say it is. It’s the lived experience of your associates every single day in their little Brightview,” Duker said, adding that success goes back to focusing on who is hired and how they are onboarded and trained. “You’ve got to have a culture of continuous improvement or someone will pass you by,” she said.

Brightview recently placed a heavy emphasis on leadership development that led to “exponential growth” across departmental collaborations and brought “incredible value” to the business, Duker said. The “transformational” intensive leadership development program began with its home office staff and is now rolling out to departmental directors, focusing on individual strengths, she said.

Relationships are ‘heartbeat’

Paramount to LTC Properties’ success, Simpson said, are its business relationships with its skilled nursing and senior living operators, which she called the “heartbeat” of the REIT. When the pandemic hit, she said, the LTC Properties’ immediate response was to determine what it could do to help the operators in its portfolio.

“We’re the finance arm for this industry,” Simpson said. “We want to be the finance arm of choice.”

She said she enjoys seeing how women have embraced long-term care and how far they’ve come in managing and operating and “being in charge.” She attributed her success to showing up and doing her job—and being available to do something more.

“That’s how you grow. That’s how you learn outside of yourself,” Simpson said.