Seniors Housing Business

AUG-SEP 2015

Seniors Housing Business is the magazine that helps you navigate the evolution of the seniors housing industry.

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82 Seniors Housing Business n August-September 2015 By Karla M. Jackson We're in a unique time when Baby Boomers are not only choosing senior living communities for their parents, but also for themselves. Addition- ally, the senior living industry is growing at a rapid pace, and experts are predicting growth to continue for some time. Now is the time for those of us with experience in the industry to share our secrets with those who can help us continue our success and grow our businesses even further. Our senior living interior design frm has more than doubled in size over the last year to meet clients' demands. We have relied heavily on the help of interns to offset the workload of our permanent employees. That strategic approach has given us an opportunity to determine if an intern could be a long-term ft. This interaction has proven to be a win-win for both the students and our company. Students can hone their skills, while we identify and train potential full-time employees. Making the internship productive for everyone can be a diffcult balance, and we are constantly fne-tuning our program to make an intern's time mutually benefcial and effcient. When successful, these programs result in new, fresh, moldable per- spectives, and the intern gains experience by getting a taste of the senior living world from an inside source. Other companies in our industry could also beneft from having a fourishing internship program that develops the senior living leaders of tomorrow. Ultimately, we hope to share the secret to our success, which is designing an environment where residents are fulflled. But as you probably already know, that's not as easy as it sounds. Sharing the load During the recently completed spring semester, we had six interns from across the country working in our offce. Our internship program was created with input from our employees and crafted to make sure we were giving the interns meaningful and important tasks to learn and accomplish. We target universities that have successful, accredited interior design programs, and many are the alma maters of our staff members. Our team encourages the students to offer input, think freely and take initia- tive on a daily basis. They frequently order product samples, create 2D and 3D renderings, craft presentation boards for clients and work in AutoCAD and other design software. Currently, 10 full-time members of our team started out as interns. When they take ownership of tasks and see how they contribute to a project as a whole, their experience with our company is strengthened. This is a win-win for the company and the intern, as the intern seeks to gain experience and the company has an extra set of hands. Teaching the ins and outs of senior living When interns apply to work at studioSIX5, they often are not aware of the senior living industry as a whole or how interior design is adapted to meet the needs of residents, so we have to pass on our exper- tise in order to make sure that their time is well spent. This is a crucial time in infuencing them to consider the possibility of working in the senior living industry. We try to instill a passion for senior living by showing them our own excitement for the industry and where it is headed. We want to be mentors as well as educators for these students so they will consider the senior living design industry as a future career option and broaden their perception of the scope of interior design. The niche area of senior living requires designers to hone their skills and abilities for a particular type of design process; they won't be able to learn what we teach them in a classroom. Laying the groundwork for a bright future Passing along our trade secrets isn't only good for our business currently, but can also ultimately be good for the future of senior living as a whole. Our frm has very strict standards and practices to create an environment where residents and their families can celebrate life. Every color, fooring and furniture selection is vet- ted according to best practices to create a safe, beau- tiful and functional space. As the "silver tsunami" grows and begins to move into senior living com- munities, the entire industry will see an increase in demand. Training interns so they know appropriate standards for design is essential for long-term success of not only their careers but the industry as a whole. The gamble of hiring Hiring an intern or an inexperienced professional can be a gamble, but a rewarding one if the appro- priate effort, time and energy are put into their suc- cess. Since these employees may have less training than others on the team, we try to get them interested in the industry as a whole. We do this by hosting weekly sessions called studioSIX5 University, which is a time we set aside specifcally for sharing ideas and learning. We equip our team with industry standards, trends and design prin- ciples that will better serve seniors. These sessions are not just about learning, but also about sharing. I feel it is my responsibility as a designer and leader in this frm to equip the team with cutting-edge thoughts and techniques, changes in health and safety or welfare topics for continuing education and other licensing changes. Regardless of each individual's level of experience, our team is com- mitted to continued personal growth. Someone who is excited about an opportunity to work at studioSIX5 and willing to put in the effort and energy is always considered above someone with experience. You can't teach passion, but you can teach all of the other elements of design. At the end of the day, those who take notes, work to improve and openly share their thoughts and ideas are the candidates I want on my team, and ruling them out due to lack of experience could be a major loss for any design frm. The industry has transformed over the last 20 years and continues to change as new generations of residents move in. We as an industry must ensure that we pass along the wisdom we've learned while adapting to the ideas of the up-and-coming senior living leaders. If not, who will be there in the future to make sure all of us and our children get the care we need? n Employment A fourishing internship program has its benefts While students hone their design skills, employer evaluates prospective new hires Karla M. Jackson is a design direc- tor for studioSIX5, an interior design frm for the seniors housing industry. She has experience in senior living across the entire continuum of care, with a spe- cialized focus on dementia care. What's on YOUR mind? Got something to say? Got an idea? Got a tip? Discuss your proposal for possible publication with Editor Matt Valley at This is a crucial time in infuencing students to consider the possibility of working in the senior living design industry. We try to instill a passion for senior living by showing them our own excitement for the industry and where it is headed.

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