James Balda at podium
Argentum President and CEO James Balda delivers his state of the industry address Monday at the organization’s annual conference.

MINNEAPOLIS — With an eye toward lessons learned over the past two years, Argentum is working on a strategic plan for an industry seeking to build trust while tackling the challenges of workforce shortages, inflationary pressures and rebuilding occupancy levels.

Argentum President and CEO James Balda kicked off the associaton’s 2022 Senior Living Executive Conference on Monday by announcing the launch of a strategic planning process during a state of the industry address.

With visibility of the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, Balda said, the organization is looking ahead to the future and engaging in “what will, perhaps, be the most significant domestic public policy debate in a generation: how to care for America’s seniors.”

To meet the challenges and opportunities facing the senior living industry, Balda said Argentum is looking to the coming decade and planning for the next three years. That process, he said, will entail looking back on lessons learned from the pandemic to improve the future.

Those challenge areas are ripe for opportunity, the CEO said, include developing a diverse and equitable pipeline of talent and leadership, shifting perceptions of the industry, addressing customer needs, providing affordable senior housing, and addressing the threat of “increasing and onerous regulatory burdens.”

Balda outlined “three big ideas” the industry needs to get right to be successful in the next decade:

  1. People: Focusing on the whole person to provide older adults and employees a sense of meaning and purpose. “We live in a culture that is starved of meaning, and our communities provide incredibly meaningful work,” Balda said.
  2. Trust: Creating and maintaining trust among residents, families, employees, investors and regulators by using data and transparency to establish best practices and guidelines.
  3. Choice: Protecting and expanding consumer choice by creating customizable product options for consumers up and down the acuity scale.

In the next three years, Balda said, Argentum’s strategic plan will set specific goals addressing those “big ideas” through four stragegic imperatives:

  • Develop people: Expand the pipeline of qualified talent and improve efficiencies to meet the needs of a growing older adult population.
  • Measure what matters: Build trust through good data to enhance care and improve transparency.
  • Tell senior living’s story: Become the voice of the senior living industry through advocacy.
  • Know residents: Facilitate the curation of new solutions and offers across providers to meet the changing needs and expectations of residents. 

In related news, Balda also said that an executive director of assisted living, or EDAL, certificate course was being launched formally at the conference. The course features 16 learning modules designed to provide current and aspiring executive directors with fundamental information required to effectively lead a senior living community.

‘Heart of the industry’

The 2022 Argentum Hero Awards also were delivered during the conference’s opening state of the industry address session. Four individuals were recognized for “extraordinary” work over the past year and for being considered the “heart of the industry,” Balda said:

  • Jaimie Harel, former sales counselor, Brookdale Springs Mesa, AZ (award presented posthumously)
  • Janie Whipple, receptionist, Academy Point at Mystic, Ct (Benchmark Senior Living)
  • Johnell Washington, concierge, Victory Center of Forest Park, IL (Pathway to Living)

Additionally, New Perspective Senior Living Executive Director Anthony Vaughns received the Senior Living Community Leadership Award. 

Tom Grape, founder, chairman and CEO of award sponsor Benchmark Senior Living, said that the senior living workforce instills confidence in both residents and families.

“The peace of mind you offer now, more than ever, does wonders for our residents and their families,” he said.

Argentum reported that approximately 2,000 senior living leaders are attending its annual Senior Living Executive Conference, which continues through Wednesday.