This week we’re buzzing with Daniel Ger, Vice President of Retirement Life Communities.
Retirement Life Communities have been building, owning and managing retirement residences since 1988. Their services are known throughout the industry as being top notch.
It’s also a family business started by Daniel’s father. Daniel joined the company five years ago and has been loving the dynamic industry ever since. We buzz with him about why he chose to join his father’s firm, the integral role the staff play in the company’s communities and the joys of gardening on a summer day.
BuzzBuzzHome: What inspired you to get into the retirement community industry?
Daniel Ger: Well, for one thing it’s a family business. Retirement Life Communities was started by my father around 25 years ago. Over the years we’ve always sort of talked about me joining the firm. It sparked an interest in me more from a business side. It’s a very dynamic business. The retirement industry is basically a real estate industry, a food service industry, a health care industry — it’s an industry with about four or five industries in it. I liked the complexity of it all. Of course, everyone knows about the booming demographics so from a long term perspective, I thought it was a really neat place to be in.
BBH: Had you been working with your father prior to officially joining the company?
DG: I owned an advertising company before this. We did a lot of the marketing for RLC throughout the years. Although my dad and I were not working together in a partnership, I believed in the product and had an innate understanding of what it was and how to present and sell it. I ended up selling my business around 2007-08 when I decided to join the firm.
BBH: When you made the jump, did you find that you had a good grasp of the business or was there an adjustment period?
DG: I had a good grasp. I grew up in a very entrepreneurial environment so I’ve been very comfortable with business over the years. There were nuances in the industry that I needed to get used to. But I’m the third generation of developers — my grandfather was a developer too — so this is dining room table talk for me.
BBH: What’s the philosophy behind Retirement Life Communities?
DG: The core philosophy has to do with an underlying respect for the aging population. Our goal is to create environments that promote independent living as much as possible, providing many optional supports and services for individuals to age with grace and dignity. It’s really about respect and encouraging people to keep developing and not slow down.
BBH: Tell us more about Palisades on the Glen. What makes this project stand out?
DG: Palisades on the Glen is certainly our flagship project. Built by PCL and designed by Quadrangle, the high-rise exudes a superior quality. Everything about it is five Star. The location is phenomenal. It’s built right above the Credit Valley Ravine. You’re in the city of Mississauga but surrounded by a serene cottage-like setting. It’s on the grounds of a little inn we own called the Glenerin Inn which is a historically protected building. So the general feel of the area and the grounds Palisades on the Glen sits on is really one of a kind. From construction to location, services and amenities, everything about that project is as good as it gets.
BBH: How do you go about assembling your staff? How important is the staff you’ve chosen to the overall experience at Palisades?
DG: The staff is probably the single most important part of any retirement project.
The things that drive our business are basically people and food. Paul Tremain, the Executive Chef at Palisades on the Glen formerly worked in the banqueting kitchen of Glenerin Inn which is well known for its food. Our General Manager Stephen Grosfield, is incredible. He’s got a 20 year history in managing health care environments. He really understands hospitality. It’s staff like that that help set tone for the rest of the community.
Gourmet food and dining choices are additional aspects we make sure to deliver well. Unlike other retirement homes, our menu is not a fixed daily meal plan with mandatory seating times. When you come down to the dining room you can sit wherever you like and are presented with a leather bound menu. Like in a restaurant you can order from several meal choices and daily specials. If you don’t want what’s on the menu you can also ask the chef “I liked what I had yesterday, can you make that again for me?”
What’s unique about Palisades on the Glen is that we offer condos and rentals all in the same building. Whether you own or rent, all residents have access to same amenities, activities and services. The nice thing about having a condo in a retirement community is that you have a fully equipped kitchen for cooking. We’re trying to give people as many options as possible.
BBH: What do you make of the recently released census data? How will this affect the company’s strategy?
DG: Canadians are getting older. The senior population is growing at a faster rate than any other age group. Over the last five years, there has been major growth particularly in the 80+ demographic and those numbers will continue to climb. That’s our market. There are a lot of people out there who require the housing and lifestyle services we provide and as boomers age and seniors live longer, the nature of retirement living will change.
The baby boomers are an incredible demographic to work for. Many are used to living in huge homes. I can’t see them easily adjusting to life in a 600 square foot condo or apartment, and as a result RLC will continue to push boundaries in lifestyle and housing choices for retirees in the future.
There’s already been a major shift from 20 years ago when retirement homes resembled hospitals. In our buildings, you’ll find 1,400 sq. ft. two-bedroom plus den condos and that style will continue to shift to accommodate growing needs. I could see us moving toward bungalow and townhome developments that incorporate the services our current buildings offer. Perhaps we’ll create a retirement community surrounded by bungalow developments where the main building serves as a common campus for dining and recreational activities. With so many new ideas and possibilities on the horizon, retirement living development is a very exciting industry to be in right now.
BBH: What do you like to do to relax on a summer day?
DG: Right now I am busy preparing for a baby that’s coming in a couple months and setting up our house. I’m also getting into gardening. I’m in my thirties so I feel my days of sitting on a patio every Saturday have shifted to sitting in my backyard planting. But in my free time I still like to jam. I play guitar, drums and bass.
BBH: Blackberry, iPhone, or Android?
DG: I’m very much an iPhone guy and I’m an Apple man all around. I’ve been converted.
BBH: When were you converted?
DG: Three years ago. I don’t think there’s a computer in my house that’s not a Mac. I’ve got iPads and iPhones everywhere.
Thanks for buzzing with us Daniel!