Outgoing Argentum chair Brenda Bacon, left, and her successor, Loren Shook.

Argentum leaders will be doing some introspection to determine how the organization can better help certain types of senior living providers and also will be conducting some external education efforts to explain senior living to “key, influential leaders” in other organizations, Loren Shook, Argentum’s new board chairman, told those attending Tuesday’s opening general session of the group’s 2016 Senior Living Executive Conference.

Shook, a founder, CEO and chairman of Silverado, said he has formed two new task forces, one to identify how Argentum can assist smaller and emerging operators, and the other to see how the organization can serve continuing care retirement / life plan communities. In addition, he said that he and others from Argentum have met with AARP President Jeannine English and her staff “to really further their understanding of what we do in this industry and how we can partner together for the benefit of the seniors in the United States.” Argentum plans to work with additional organizations, among them the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Shook said.

Shook accepted the chairmanship from Brandywine Senior Living President and CEO Brenda Bacon, noting that she had served an unprecedented three one-year terms as chairwoman of the board as it implemented new programs and transitioned to serving not only those working in assisted living communities but also those in independent living, CCRCs and others in the industry.

With Bacon at the helm of the board, Shook said, Argentum implemented many of the ideas that had arisen from the One Voice effort, abandoned in 2014, that sought to unite Argentum (then the Assisted Living Federation of America) and the American Seniors Housing Association. Those ideas include the development of community-level standards (to which 1,964 communities now have attested; see sidebar), the creation of a commission to certify senior living executive directors (the beta test will be available in June) and the start of an advocacy fund, which now has raised more than $1 million “to help us push forward our agenda on the pubic policy front.”

Bacon shared credit with Argentum President and CEO James Balda, who joined the organization in January 2015, for making those ideas a reality.

Balda said that although the organization changed its name in 2015, its mission remains the same. Argentum, however, he said, has shifted its focus to three areas: advocacy and public policy, education and professional development, and programs and innovations, with five imperatives — workforce development, quality improvement, operational excellence, consumer choice and memory care — that will drive its work in the future, he said.

About one of those imperatives, workforce development, Shook said: “We’ve got to go into the high schools, talk to the guidance counselors and give them tools to present to those students that this industry is a great industry where you can not only do well, but you can do good for others. They don’t even know that today. That’s part of what the workforce development effort will do.”

The remarks of Shook, Bacon and Balda preceded those of opening session keynote speaker Christopher Gardner, the formerly homeless stockbroker whose ascent was the subject of the film “The Pursuit of Happyness” starring Will Smith. Gardner shared anecdotes, words of wisdom from his mother and an endorsement for professional passion in a talk that had attendees laughing and crying.

“Who’s the best in the business?” he asked those in the audience. “If nobody says your name, you’ve got work to do. If nobody says your name and you don’t care, you’re in the wrong business.”

After exhibit hall hours and educational sessions, Tuesday’s conference activity ended with the Hero Awards, emceed by Soledad O’Brien. Speakers included former presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. This year’s honorees:

  • Abbi Laushine, life enrichment director at Epoch Senior Living’s Bridges by Epoch at Westford in Westford, MA
  • Al Kuzio, transportation coordinator at Five Star Senior Living’s Summit Place in North Myrtle Beach, SC
  • Dane Taylor, concierge at Kensington Senior Living’s Kensington Park in Kensington, MD
  • Elizabeth Buchinski, Clare Bridge program coordinator at Brookdale Senior Living’s Bay Pines in St. Petersburg, FL
  • Kathy Weaver, resident care partner at Enlivant’s Oakley Place in Greenville, OH
  • Lindsey Hernandez, life engagement manager, Autumn Leaves’ Fossil Creek in Fort Worth, TX

Attendance at this year’s Argentum meeting, at about 2,600, set a record, Bacon said. The conference continues through Thursday.