What are people looking for when they consider joining a retirement community? Certainly, health and wellness are the priority, and then it often comes down to lifestyle.

We love telling people that John Knox Village is just minutes from the beach with amenities such as heated pools, lakes and walking trails. There’s a reason we say it’s “a lot like that tropical resort you always thought you’d retire to — with all of your best friends.”

To be honest though, it’s that last part I take the most pride in: “with all of your best friends.” JKV is a place where strangers become neighbors who turn into best friends. Administrators become advocates, and CNAs become BFFs. We are a community. This is a place that handles the “what ifs” so there’s room to answer the “what nows.”

The people who choose JKV aren’t the kind of people who want someone to say, “Welcome. We’ll take it from here.” Our residents choose JKV because they know their voices will be heard.

And that’s my job. I’ve spent nearly four decades developing and managing retirement communities like JKV. My philosophy is simple but powerful: I believe in working with, for and alongside residents.


There’s a song from The King and I wherein Julie Andrews sings, “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you.” That sums up the “with” in my philosophy.

In communities like JKV, we’re surrounded by people with beautiful stories and life experiences to share. With humility and vulnerability, we have an opportunity to get to know them and learn from them.

We may be at work, but this is their home. Respecting and honoring that choice means having a genuine interest in each resident’s journey, seeing their value and recognizing what they have to offer. We want them to know they can share this part of their lives with us. We’re there to walk with them, sit with them, listen to them and comfort them.

“With” is about curiosity, asking questions and figuring out what makes each person light up. “With” allows for the kind of deep knowing that leads to the moments of discovery we look for to shed light on how we can help them write this final chapter of their lives.


“With” is about discovering and learning. “For” is about using that knowledge to understand each resident’s expectations.

It could be something as simple as knowing when to take their plate away or knowing how they like their coffee. Maybe it’s knowing what kind of small gesture will make them smile or noticing when they need a kind word. 

The seemingly unimportant things add up to a fuller picture of how to anticipate each residents’ needs so we can better advocate and care for them.


One of the most beautiful gifts in this profession is the ability to connect with so many people, learn about their lives and experience this part of their journey right alongside them.

People often ask me how I handle meeting so many people only to lose them a short time later. The truth is, although our time together may be brief, the memories they leave behind are something I’ll hold on to forever. I believe that life is about the legacy and the memories. We have a chance to share both.

Working for, with and alongside residents builds the intangibles in a community like JKV. That feeling of being in a place where you know your voice will be heard and your story matters. Helping them feel deeply cared for and understood. Creating moments that lift the spirit and touch the soul. Making sure they know they’ll never be forgotten.

Gerry Stryker is CEO of John Knox Village of Florida Inc.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living guest column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

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