As Sunrise Senior Living’s new chief executive officer, I am incredibly honored and excited to join an organization with such a rich, 40-year reputation for high-quality, personalized care.
The first Sunrise community began operating in 1981 with a unique focus centered on the resident and his or her individualized, holistic wellness. Fast forward to today, and our mission still resonates and is as relevant as ever: To champion quality of life for all seniors.
The draw for me to join the Sunrise family is very straightforward. I grew up in a middle-class, close-knit and loving family, which heavily shaped and influenced my own personal values and long-term life goals. The type of work I do and who I do it with matters significantly to me, especially at this stage of my career. It is important to me to be able to bring my authentic self and values to work daily. It also is important to me to know that the work I am doing is meaningful and relevant in the lives of others.
Reflecting on that, I have felt an immediate connection to the Sunrise family not only because of what we do in our communities, but how we do it. I feel an immense sense of pride and satisfaction in knowing we are bringing peace of mind and quality of life to so many families and their loved ones, all in a highly customized and individualized manner.
It also makes my heart sing to know our warm, engaging and compassionate team members help our residents find and maintain a sense of belonging and community as they continue to age. Our team members are truly our front-line heroes who make each day special for our residents by enriching their mind, body, soul and spirit. In addition to Sunrise’s mission, it is this collection of special and committed people, combined with our strong foundation poised for growth, that drew me to Sunrise.
I am keenly aware of the deliberation families go through when considering senior living options for a loved one, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The future of our industry relies on our ability to continue to adapt quickly to evolving circumstances beyond COVID-19. It requires a nimble team that has the skill, relationships and operational capability to find new ways to balance residents’ wellness and social engagement needs with evolving safety measures.
Throughout the pandemic, we have been reminded that a supportive environment focused on the holistic wellbeing of our residents — the core of the assisted living model — has become even more critical. This became even more imperative as in-person interactions with loved ones were out of reach for some time due to COVID-19. Families want and deserve to know their loved ones are in good hands, even if they cannot always directly see it for themselves. Because of that, our business continues to morph and evolve at an unprecedented pace to ensure that every action and decision we make further enhances trust.
To that point, I am focused on maintaining and further strengthening some of the most core fundamentals that have been so important during this global health crisis — transparent, personalized and frequent communications. No matter the channel — whether an email or the virtual communications we are all now so accustomed to — we know that keeping in touch with one another helps enrich the bonds of trust and loyalty. Families need to know that we understand caring for their loved ones is a privilege and not something we take for granted.
We are blessed and thankful that our industry rightfully has been prioritized in society to receive the COVID-19 vaccines first. With vaccination rates continuing to climb daily, I view the future of our industry with a renewed sense of optimism.
To be clear, I view vaccines as the best and most effective way out of the environment we have all lived through over the past year. That is why we are moving rapidly to make the vaccine an essential function of employment at Sunrise, subject to applicable laws and policies for those who can receive it.
Again, we are a trust-based business caring for seniors. Hopefully, this decision is intuitive when reflecting on our mission of championing quality of life for all seniors. As vaccination rates continue to increase, life is, fortunately, getting back to more of a normalized state in our communities (always adhering to local, state and federal safety guidelines, of course). A few examples include: thoughtfully and responsibly reintroducing in-suite family visits, the return to group dining in our beautiful common areas, resident outings, and group activities that bring even more laughter and meaningful connections, not to mention the chance for residents to once again have the opportunity to give and receive hugs.
As we look toward the future, although our residents’ community experience may not look exactly as it did pre-pandemic right away, I believe we should continue to challenge ourselves to design new, meaningful interactions that allow residents to connect with even more loved ones, whether near or far, virtually tap into diverse external programming groups, and explore new, sophisticated channels for driving their ongoing engagement. We must continue to bridge the divide of social isolation and make sure that emotional and cognitive wellness remains as much of a priority as physical wellness.
Of course, none of this would be possible without our exceptional teams — well over 30,000 serving hearts who focus on nurturing the spirit and providing dignified, personalized resident care, no matter the external challenges they may face. We must continue to understand and respect each team member’s unique values and look for opportunities to foster their individual dedication and passion for caregiving. We want everyone to feel a strong sense of belonging, and I look forward to continuing to champion team member training, development and recognition programs that acknowledge their diversity as well as the critical role they play in creating our warm and welcoming homes.
Sunrise will continue to champion and advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging not only within our organization, but in society at large. Being complacent on such important topics translates into being complicit, which is never acceptable. We realize and warmly embrace that organizations such as ours share a moral and ethical imperative to help make the world we all live in a better and more just one.
In summary, Sunrise’s mission of championing quality of life for all seniors never has been more important and relevant than it is today. The organization’s future is incredibly bright, and I look forward to joining and leading this compassionate and dedicated team of human beings with a humble spirit of servant leadership.
Jack R. Callison Jr. became CEO of Sunrise Senior Living on April 1, 2021. He formerly was CEO of Enlivant (formerly Assisted Living Concepts). He remains associated with Enlivant as chair of the board.