A Virginia senior living operator is offering a new benefit to long-term employees: free care at their places of employment after retirement. The move is designed to help workers as well as the company in an industry in which staffing challenges are expected to increase as the population ages and the need for senior living increases.

“We felt that if someone dedicated their lives to a company, they should be able to participate in what the company offers to the public,” said Mike Williams, co-owner and CEO of English Meadows Senior Living. “For us, it’s senior living, so we felt that we should help them by removing that worry from their minds, if they ever needed care.”

The private operator began offering the benefit to employees this year. After 20 years of service, workers are eligible for a free year of care at the campus where they worked. The benefit grows to two years at 30 years of service and three years after 40 years of service. The median stay at independent living/assisted living/memory care communities is 28.1 months, according to the 2016 State of Seniors Housing report of the American Seniors Housing Association, so the perk is expected to cover almost everyone’s needs.

Nine of the company’s more than 160 employees across three campuses already qualify for the benefit, including three with more than 40 years of service, according to the company. Several more will qualify soon, said co-owner and President Steve Orndoff (on the left in the accompanying photo, with Williams), who has owned English Meadows with Williams since 2008.

“Consistency is a good thing in our business — and probably most businesses,” Orndoff said. “We treat our team like family. I hope we get many more over 40 years of service.”

Benefits packages for many hourly, full-time workers at English Meadows also include free health insurance, free disability insurance, maternity pay options and a 401(k) match.

The company’s communities, located in Abingdon, Christiansburg and Bedford, VA, are licensed for a total of 400 residents. English Meadows is expanding care options there as well as exploring overall expansion.