An interview with Michael Lavallee, CEO for Seasons Retirement

By Steve Moran

The term “in for the long haul” is a common phrase that means you are 100% percent committed to something that usually requires a great deal of time and effort spent on “IT” — something that may take years to achieve. To actually accomplish the goal, you have to be in for the long haul, not the quick trip. You are ready to carry the burden — whatever it may be — over great distances and obstacles to reach the goal.

In our industry, like any other, it is sometimes easy to get caught up in short term, quick trips that generate easy, immediate results. However, to be truly successful, truly committed to our residents, we really need to focus on our long term caring options in order to best suit seniors for the next step and continuing stages of their lives.

Seasons Retirement seems to understand what it means to invest and commit to the long haul. I spoke with Michael Lavallee, the Chief Operating Officer for Seasons Retirement Communities in Ontario, Canada. Michael explained that Seasons was a spin-off of one of the development arms from Chartwell and was born through a small acquisition back in 2009.

Fewer Pit Stops

Rather than short term pit stops that serve as a temporary fix without providing long term stability, Michael clarified that the strategy behind Seasons is providing long term living solutions that evolve with the resident as the resident progresses to the next stage of their senior living needs.

“Today we have a portfolio of 11 communities, all of which are essentially stabilized, except our newest property that we just opened in Milton. In 50 percent of our properties, we do dementia care and we’re committed to dementia care. We think that being good at dementia care is a great strategy for our lifetime relationship with our residents. It is a great way for us to be able to create a transition.”

The Right Direction

Memory care has been sort of the hot topic around the country, with everybody thinking they have the best approach. So my question to Michael was ‘What does your flavor of memory care look like and what makes it unique as you envision care for dementia?’

“It’s a great question and I don’t know that anyone has it right or wrong with the exception of one thing. When you have a great connection with families and residents, the resident has meaningful experiences every day. You know that if you do something that sets that resident off on the wrong foot at the beginning of the day, all day will be wrong footed. When you start to really build on those kinds of intimate moments of understanding your resident and what makes them tick, It sets the tone for the small moments.  

We believe that you can have ginormous wow moments — one a year, two a year. But it’s those little wow moments every day, all day, that really build one experience on top of another, that at the end of the day can really make a difference to someone’s satisfaction level — their happiness, their meaningful experiences that they’ve had.”

Sights Along The Way

I am very big on resident stories and finding ways to reach out and get to know each person individually. Not to sound too sappy, but I feel strongly that getting to know each person in your life — on a deeper level — is like glimpsing a new and beautiful vista along this cross-country road trip of our lives. Each person has a different viewpoint, a different perspective, a different story to tell. So it was with great enthusiasm that I listened to one very cool example of what Seasons is doing to achieve this goal with their residents.

“We just recently had our own Remarkable Resident Competition within our portfolio,” Michael began. “We challenged all of our families and all of their adult children and our staff to find one resident story and tell it to us. Talk about how it translates to their life today.

Tell us how it was that they came to be with us today and what their life has been like. Tell us the stories from their war time experiences — where they had these tremendous hardships that they prevailed through — but also the contributions they made in their communities where they lived as parents, and later on, as widowers or widows. 

This year is the third year in a row that we have done this. This year we had three winners that we had to give equal billing. We did not have a one-two-three, they were all number ones! As a prize, we rewarded them with a free month rent.”

Seasons definitely seems to be on the right road and I am excited to see where the long haul takes them.

To learn more about Seasons Retirement and hear more from Michael Lavallee, I encourage you to listen to the rest of the podcast below: