Today we’re buzzing with Joe Ger, the CEO at Retirement Life Communities.

When it comes to building retirement communities, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who possesses more knowledge and experience than Joe (though his son Daniel might give him a run for his money soon).

RLC‘s much-buzzed about Palisades on the Glen project was recently voted “Best Retirement Community in Mississauga” and the company’s communities in Cobourg and Stratford are widely recognized as the finest in their respective communities.

We chat with Joe about how the retirement community industry has evolved over the years and how RLC‘s communities offer a truly five-star lifestyle.


BuzzBuzzHome: You’ve been in the retirement community industry for a few decades now. How has the landscape evolved since you entered the industry?

Joe Ger: The nomenclature has really changed very significantly from the early 1980s when the concept started to evolve here in Canada. The concept of the retirement community migrated up from Florida to the Jersey coast where there is now a major conglomeration of retirement communities. The climate there has four seasons so it’s far more applicable to what would happen here.

At the time, retirement housing was basically what we now call “heavy care”. You moved into a hotel-sized room. In some cases the bathrooms were shared between two rooms or were even in the hallways. You showered in common like in a YMCA. If you were lucky and you had lots of money, you could get your own private one. Meals were served military style.

It was a programmed environment where you lived there to be cared for by others. It didn’t matter if you needed a lot or you needed a little, that’s all there was.

Our version of retirement housing today compares favourably with a five-star hotel. It has a spa and a couple of dining venues in it. It has condominiums that people can buy and a choice of rentals as well. Compared to what it was, it’s basically like being on another planet. It’s only been 20 years, but it’s changed so much.

BBH: There’s a pretty significant demographic change underway within Canada. How does RLC plan on adapting to that demographic change?

JG: Our philosophy has been consistent. What we see in RLC is that we are delivering a lifestyle option where individuals are recognized as what they are, which is as individuals who want to live within whatever lifestyle they choose. We give them a palette within our community for them to paint it any way that they wish. If they want to be a condo owner then they can buy their suite. They can choose to live in a one or two bedroom unit. It’s all about choices. We think there’s going to be more of that.

Because of our climate, challenges in mobility occur as people age. We believe that each one of our complexes should contain as many accessible services as possible. We have clinics within our complexes that provide a range of services from general physicians right through the gamut to therapists. Those clinics aren’t just there for people who live in our complexes, they’re there for the entire community. If you don’t live in our complex but need those services then you’re free to use them.

BBH: Many people who are moving into your communities are moving out of communities that they’ve lived in for many years. What are some steps that you take to cultivate a vibrant community within your projects?

JG: We provide an extension to the local community. That’s at the very core of what we do. Frankly, one of the primary reasons seniors move into our communities when they are still physically independent is because of the social environment they enter into. They may feel isolated living in the home that they’ve lived in for the last 40 years. The neighbourhood they’ve lived in has changed and its all young families and they’re the only ones left. With us, they enter into a community where there are people that they probably know or will get to know. It’s a place to make friends. It’s a place to engage in community living as opposed to isolated living. It’s a very engaged and active lifestyle.

BBH: What are some specific attributes of Palisades on the Glen that make it such a desirable community?

JG: It’s extremely well-located. We are basically at the intersection of Dundas and Mississauga Road, so there’s access to the QEW and the 403 a few moments away. Within the complex itself, we have two completely different dining venues. Because each unit has a kitchen we have a cooking centre where you can learn how to cook for one. We have exercise classes that are just for fun but there’s also the kind related to physiotherapy. We have a movie theatre for nights when you don’t want to go out to the movies. All of this has been designed to a five star standard if we’re using the hotel nomenclature to describe quality.

While it all sounds like it’s expensive, we’re actually very affordable. We market ourselves as affordable luxury. We provide a great deal of value for what people pay.

BBH: It might be self-evident for people in the industry like yourself, but why is it so important to build communities of this calibre?

JG: It’s like any other consumer product. In the hotel industry there’s a whole range of quality standards. There is a demand in this marketplace for every quality standard. As a result we have created apartments, condo suites and amenity spaces within our communities that are luxurious and tailored for seniors’ needs. The people working in our  communities are also five star, that is a fundamental priority that will never change.

BBH: What are your plans for the future of RLC? Do you have any projects that will be hitting the market soon?

JG: At the moment we have expansions going at our existing projects in Cobourg and Stratford. We’re also planning to expand on a national scale.

BBH: What’s it like working so closely with your son Daniel?

JG: He joined me six years ago. We were already with him when he was at his previous firm. They were producing radio and television ads for us. In more recent years he’s developed all the skills necessary to deal with the business. I find it very rewarding working with him. We love working together and we’re a great team. We agree on our direction very closely.

It’s a family business. My wife is involved as well. She does all of our interior design.

BBH: What do you like to do when you have a day off?

JB: In the winter I really love skiing. That’s my primary destination. When I need some warmth, I spend my time at the family home in Brazil. And the rest of the time is all family! Our first grandson was just born so we’re very busy with that.

Thanks for buzzing with us Joe!

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