Positive practices are here to stay
Several weeks ago, I had the honour to participate in an American forum on retirement residences with other big industry players. Initially I was supposed to go to Chicago to hold a conference there, but seeing as we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, I got behind my computer and connected to the event via videoconference. I was asked a number of questions about my vision of private seniors’ residences and Le Groupe Maurice’s business model, which is unique in the industry. Two questions in particular captured my attention. In fact, I’ve been asked these same two questions over and over again since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Maybe you’ve thought about these questions too, so I’ve decided to share my answers to them with you.
Do you believe that the current health crisis will influence the future of Le Groupe Maurice and the retirement residence industry more broadly?
As some of you probably already know, we recently opened a new residence in Laval and we’re about to open another one in Sainte-Julie. These two brand new residences, each containing nearly 400 units, are opening their doors with an occupancy rate of 85% despite the fact that we’re still in a pandemic. What do you think that means?
It’s far from my intention to say that the crisis hasn’t affected us. All organizations have felt the adverse effects of this totally novel virus. What it does mean is that even in a situation as alarming as a pandemic, seniors have no less desire to live in a compassionate environment surrounded by people who are experiencing the same reality as them. This pandemic has cast the spotlight on issues like loneliness and well-being among the elderly. All the values that are fundamental to what we want to offer to seniors have been put to the test. But the pandemic has also shown us our need for solidarity and our ability to rally together to help each other through the challenging times. This strength in unity—the idea that we’re much stronger together—makes me even more convinced of the importance of seniors’ residences, and gives me the energy to carry on with the mission that I began over 20 years ago.
Another thing that makes me optimistic about the future of seniors’ residences is the fact that I see so many happy seniors there. Not only that, but there’s growing demand for retirement living spaces that allow seniors to live active, fulfilling, socially rich and independent lives: in other words, to continue being who they have always been. At the same time, the pandemic has reminded our society that there’s an urgent problem with the resources that are offered to our senior citizens, a population that will grow by more than 50,000 people per year over the next 30 years. The needs of these individuals are numerous and complex, and residences cannot be the only solution. We need a collective effort to find the solutions together.
Will the pandemic change the way you build your residences?
Will we continue evolving and improving our product? Absolutely! Are these changes due to the pandemic? No, not at all. Our residences constantly evolve based on the changing needs and aspirations of seniors. This evolution is visible from one residence to the next. That said, these transformations are not the result of any crisis.
The pandemic has certainly highlighted the importance of some of our practices, which we’ll be prioritizing as a result. They include transparency, communication and understanding our customers. But people aren’t necessarily looking for a different product since the pandemic struck. They want to do business with companies that are capable of admitting their mistakes and that can offer them understanding, empathy and reassurance. That’s why we’ve had a long working relationship with the public health authorities—which has intensified since the start of the pandemic—aimed at finding solutions to deficiencies in Quebec’s senior care system.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to minimize the virus or the concerns that it might raise. However, I believe that we shouldn’t give it more importance than it deserves, in the sense that we don’t need to call everything we do into doubt. We need to keep doing the positive things that already work and benefit our residents. One day, this crisis will be over. And once it’s finally behind us, we’ll be happy to find our fundamental values intact. I’m convinced that we’re entering an era of greater empathy toward senior citizens, and Le Groupe Maurice will always be there to champion their cause.