By on Jul 9, 2019 in People

Welcome to our second segment of the Senior Housing News (SHN) magazine series, The Changemakers. Yardi is the presenting sponsor of this insightful set of interviews. SHN sat down with nine industry leaders who demonstrate how adaptability and innovation pave the way for success. In this installment, meet Patricia Will, Belmont Village founder and CEO.

Patricia Will

Will is accustomed to making waves. During her 20-year career, she has boldly challenged and improved upon traditional senior housing models. Will combined multiple levels of care into one building, collaborated with universities for care support, and developed an early-stage dementia intervention program.

The future of Belmont Village looks bright. The organization recently entered a partnership with Baptist Health System of south Texas. Together, they will co-develop wellness-centered senior communities.

What are some changemaking efforts you’re most proud of, within Belmont Village or the industry as a whole?

Will: The first is a simple one, which is including independent living, assisted living, and memory care under one roof, in one building that’s fully licensed.

We did that in an effort to accommodate couples, and in an effort to fight ageism. There’s a notion that people would object, in independent living, to seeing walkers or wheelchairs, and we decided to say that we have capable people who have different needs, and we don’t want to segregate them. That’s something that we did for the very first time on our first building in California, in San Diego, and we’ve now replicated in many parts of the country, although it’s still not done enough. We’ve integrated dining rooms, integrated gyms, integrated social areas and even integrated floors.

Can you take me back to that moment when that was still a new idea, to integrate in that way?

Will: Everyone in the industry at the time said, “You’re crazy. The independent seniors will not come to live here. They don’t want to see frailty in the dining room … in the common areas.”

And we said: “Wait a minute, who is the senior here?” And the senior is 85 [years old] regardless. The issue is whether or not they’re experiencing physical or cognitive frailty. And as a couple, what are you going to do? Tell one to go live one place and one to go live in the other place?

So we said, “This is a big bet, but we’re going to integrate service, and license the whole building so that the senior in independent living who needs medication management can get it or can get assisted living services post-hospital stay and eventually in their unit.” That was now 18 years ago. The building [in San Diego] has done incredibly well. We’ve used the same algorithm over and over, including in all of the projects that we’ve done in affiliation with universities.

We even pushed it further, and in our mid-rise buildings and high-rise buildings, many of them share floors, share elevators, share common area spaces, and I think it exemplifies what we’re after, which is a contra to ageism that typecasts individuals because they appear to be frail.

Read more about Will’s modernization efforts in her Senior Housing News interview.