Over the last thirty years, the way people live out their retirement has changed. Just ask Joe Ger, Founder and CEO of Toronto-based Retirement Life Communities: "The language has changed. The perception has changed and the environment changed."
Where once builders produced retirement residences that were sterile and devoid of personality, Ger has responded to these changes by building retirement properties that are communities where people want to spend their time and enjoy days filled with interactions and activities.
Ger explains, "Like a good tailor making clothing to fit you exactly... that's where we're going with our communities. I build them from scratch. We buy land, we build them, we get them up and running, we stabilize them and we sell them to long-term investors."
Ger sees Retirement Life Communities, or RLC for short, as a wholesaler servicing two markets. "We build these communities for the residents and we create the financial environment that they operate in, and then someone else who wants to own it forever agrees it's a model that works. It's a stamp of approval for our interpretation of what the market wants... both our markets."
He adds that RLC is a producer of retirement communities, not a long-term operator. He explains that they have their own brand and philosophy, and embed their operating standards so when the next owner takes over, it's turn-key.
Because the face of retirement is changing, retirees are looking to move into a community with various amenities and options. Ger understands this. He says the emphasis is on providing options: "What we strive to deliver is a continuum of care within the retirement community. At one end, there's fully independent housing. You can own a unit or you can rent it; a unit with a kitchen, living room, etc. It's either a condo or apartment, a home within a community; that's the only difference at the independent end. At the other end is assisted living where you've reached a point you're trading space for care. Now the care component comes into play and it is a much more significant piece of the lifestyle for these individuals, because they require support in order to carry on. The philosophy that we operate in is that we provide just the right amount of support the individual requires. The rest is up to them and we encourage their independence to the degree that they can live safely and enjoy their lives."
Over the last twenty-seven years, RLC has produced and sold approximately twenty-three facilities Current RLC communities are in Cobourg, Goderich, and soon to be in Orillia.
What is Next for RLC?
Recently, RLC began work on a memory care model in response to the growing issue of memory loss. "We're calling it our harmony wings or our harmony components within the retirement communities." While many harmony wings residents tend to be physically healthy, their memory loss makes it difficult for them to function independently.
Harmony wings fill the gap by dealing with their loss of memory and independence in a way that keeps them safe, preserving their quality of life and dignity. While it is an institutional environment, RLC has chosen to outfit them in an elegant and comforting home like environment. And, if only one member of a retired couple suffers from memory loss, having them in a harmony wing takes the pressure off the other spouse to provide specialized support around the clock.
In 2016, RLC will open its first facility exclusively for memory-challenged individuals in Orillia, with 54 units.
Ger is also looking at other housing options for his communities. He explains, "Our model encompasses thefull range of housing. We have not yet engaged in the development of an actual low rise community like attached homes or single-floor townhouses, so that may be a possibility. It's certainly one that intrigues me." Ger says for now though, his focus is on the memory care solutions.
Eight years ago his son Daniel joined RLC. Ger says, "It's about an evolution of a company. It's about transitioning to the next generation. So the view is that while I'm the founder, the company has legs because Daniel is the legacy."
Ger is excited for what is next and has no plans to spend his days golfing anytime soon.
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