Douglas Olson headshot
Douglas Olson, PhD, MBA

Part of addressing senior living’s perennial challenge, recruiting and retaining employees, is planning for the next generation of leaders. Douglas Olson, PhD, MBA, the new president and CEO of the Vision Centre and former director of the Center for Health Administration and Aging Services Excellence at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, recently spoke with McKnight’s Senior Living about how the new center will try to tackle that issue.

Q: The Vision Centre is a relatively new 501(c )(3) nonprofit organization. For those who may not be familiar with it, can you talk about the organization and what it plans to do?

A: The seniors of this country deserve the very best care and services possible, and one of the ways to help ensure that is to make sure that we have the very best leaders guiding the organizations. The supply of leaders in the fi eld today is a challenge for providers across the country, and we also know that the landscape of universities that provide training for senior living leadership is not what we would hope it could be.

The Vision Centre, at its core, is all about finding a way to get new students and mid-career students interested in this field and having the availability of training programs at universities and other creative ways to make sure that they can get into the field and provide the leadership, depth and talent that we need to help organizations. The Vision Centre provides a bridge between universities and providers to make sure that they’re working well together, because we believe that’s one of the “secret sauces” of providing an exceptional experience.

I feel privileged to be appointed as the CEO and president, but I also would be remiss if I didn’t share the fact that there has been a whole bunch of really talented, smart people interested in what we’re doing. We have a great group of volunteer leaders who started with this movement a number of years ago, and we’ve had a number of those volunteers step forward to serve as trustees guiding our efforts.

Q: What other organizations in the industry are involved with this effort?

A: We have eight endorsing organizations. We knew at the very beginning that this problem was not going to be solved by universities alone, providers alone or associations alone.

And so we are blessed that the NAB Foundation, the American College of Health Care Administrators, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, Argentum, LeadingAge, the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, the American Seniors Housing Association, and now also the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, all are stepping forward because they see the value of coming together to solve a problem that really is everybody’s problem.

Having an effort like the Vision Centre focused on this issue helps them support their members and their associations’ interests in a concerted way. All of the associations do some really great things around this topic. With the guidance of our trustees and advisory council, we’ll shine a light on some of those important efforts.

Q: The Vision Centre aims to create 25 university and college programs to prepare future generations of leaders for aging adult service organizations, and from those programs, it also aims to facilitate 1,000 paid internships in the field by 2025. Can you describe how the center plans to accomplish those goals?

A: We want to be able to provide the resources and support for universities and providers who want to advance their efforts. Some of the things that are front and center for us that we’re going to move forward with are an advisory council, a strategic plan and a directory that will include about 60 universities. The directory will share information about each university’s student base, field experiences, curriculum and programs, and engagement with the field.

We also have a website,, which we will start to populate with other resources and tools that people can use.

Q: Are there any other points you’d like to share?

A: I and many other people who are involved believe that this effort will help the entire public image of our field in general.

The connections and partnerships with universities and providers across the country will lift up the entire spectrum of senior living and the importance of it to our country.

This is an abridged and edited version of a conversation recorded for a McKnight’s Senior Living Newsmakers podcast.

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