By Susan Saldibar

I admit, I’ve been super curious as to how the RAL National Convention, held a few weeks ago in Phoenix, went (RAL Academy is a Senior Living Foresight partner). I’ve been chatting with its president, Gene Guarino, over the last several months about his unique approach to RAL and the industry in general. So, I was eager to get his post-conference take on how it went. 

“It was exciting,” Gene tells me. “There was a sense from the over 600 attendees that we are at the right place at the right time. And plenty of industry people were there who are starting to get the idea that, for assisted living, the future is small.” And for Gene “small” refers to a “boutique” senior living option, the goal of which is to offer an alternative model to larger CCRCs and traditional AL communities. “Small is ‘peers’, versus ‘lost in the shuffle’,” as Gene likes to put it.

Honestly, I’d like to have gone myself. But here’s some good news for anyone else, like me, who couldn’t go but wish they had or are just interested in the model itself. Gene is making the recordings of the event and the expert presentations available to you. If you want to get access and experience it all first hand, you can click here to learn how you can get access to those recordings.

After talking with Gene about the conference I realize just how much ground it covered. Nothing was left out. A quick check of the program confirms that this was more than just a conference on RAL. I can see why it attracted so many individuals, from real estate investors to retiring boomers looking for an alternative investment model.  As for the conference sessions, here are just a few that jumped out at me: 

    • Keynote speakers: The keynote speakers were all nationally recognized experts, who collectively covered virtually all aspects of RAL as it relates to finance, law, and entrepreneurship. To name a few: Robert Kyiosaki, author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, the #1 Financial Education book, Harry S. Dent Jr. The NY Times Best Selling Author of “The DemoGraphic Cliff” and “Zero Hour”; and Dr. Bill Thomas, whose “Eldertopia” concept I’ve written about before. Bill is the founder of The Green House Project, a non-profit, which you may have heard of. He’s since launched The Minka Project, a concept involving small prefabricated houses built for aging seniors and compact enough to fit on smaller property spaces. Many cities are now allowing these small prefabs to be installed in the backyards of residential homes to accommodate aging seniors who want some independence but also proximity to family. Really interesting concept that you can hear more about by watching the full session.


    • Finance/Funding: Not surprisingly, the conference put a pretty heavy focus on funding and financials. Sessions covered all aspects of where to find capital, how to grow profitably, and how to maximize rates of return. There were even some “outside the box” ideas from small to medium enterprises (SMEs) like Vern Harris and James Flint of A Better Way Realty. Other funding sessions included panels of financial advisors and lenders, including Mark Del Guercio of the Non Profit Advisor Group.


    • RAL Owners: There were plenty of owners at the conference. One session called “We Did It . . . And You Can Too!”, featured a panel of RAL owners and operators; regular people who have turned RAL into a profitable and emotionally satisfying business. 

These represent just a sliver of the 20+ sessions included in the conference. There is much more. And you can get access to those presentations here.

Oh, I almost forgot, Jonathan Goldsmith joined the fun at the Annual Awards banquet. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, you might know him better as the Dos Equis beer TV commercial’s “Most Interesting Man in the World”.  Jonathan provided the ultimate photo op. How I wish I could have gotten a selfie with him! Oh well. There’s always next year. 

To learn more about the RAL Academy you can visit their website.