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Era Living: Changing Expectations for Senior Living

Tina Hall, Business Development Manager at Era Living

Tina Hall joins Suzanne from Aljoya Mercer Island to introduce Era Living and talk about its reputation and mission. Founded in 1987, it’s a family-owned organization with eight communities in the Greater Seattle area. The founders wanted to establish retirement communities that respect and honor older adults by enriching the quality of their lives, a mission that informs and guides how Era Living operates and how it treats residents and employees.

Tina’s father was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, and that experience led her to a career in senior living. She provides some examples of how Era Living lives by its mission. When talking about healthy aging, they go beyond a person’s physical being to create emotional and social experiences, which shows in meaningful life enrichment activities, culinary programs, arts programs, and unique resident and family supportive programs.

In future podcasts, various staff members will talk specifically about what goes into creating these programs, and what a day is like. Some residents will share the stories of their journeys.

Era Living has four communities in north Seattle: Ida Culver House Broadview, Ida Culver House Ravenna, Aljoya Thornton Place, and University House Wallingford. Beyond Seattle are four additional communities: Aljoya Mercer Island, University House Issaquah, The Gardens at Town Square, and The Lakeshore. Learn all about Era Living at Answers for Elders or at their website.


Suzanne: And welcome everyone to Answers for Elders Radio Network, and to each and every one of you who are listening today. I have such an amazing special treat for us all because I have known about Era Living for a very long time. As a matter of fact, I remember even when I was taking care of my mom, she was already placed in another community, and I had the opportunity to walk into one of their communities. And my heart kind of sunk a little bit because I found this community and the culture there so incredibly wonderful. We are so thrilled today to have an opportunity now, for the next few months, to learn all about an amazing transformational new paradigm in senior living. And it’s something if you’ve ever thought about for your loved one or anything like that, these are podcasts that you’re gonna start hearing over the next few months that’s going to probably change your idea of what senior living can be and what it can do.

And we’re so honored today to have four special guests with us. And the first one is a dear friend of mine, a lady by the name of Tina Hall, who is an amazing business development manager with Era Living. And I have known Tina for probably 10 years now. And Tina, I’m so honored to have you with us. Welcome to Answers for Elders.

Tina Hall: Thank you very much, Suzanne. It is absolutely a pleasure to be here. I am absolutely delighted.

Suzanne: I know that you’ve been in the senior living world. but it’s more than senior living. You are such an advocate for seniors. I have seen you in so many networking type events. You, I know that you used to be the president of the Senior Care Coalition and you have a personal story from your dad, and you and I are in similar situations, that we have a personal story and it kind of brought us to this line of work. Is that really what happened with you?

Tina Hall: Yeah, absolutely. Many years ago, my father had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. And prior to that, I really didn’t know anything about senior living, and like you I got a pretty quick education, and that’s what led me to this field, and I loved it. I’ve been in this field for about 17 years and I can’t I can’t even imagine being in any other field. I love working with seniors, and working with their families, and just finding ways to help improve their quality of life.

Suzanne: In this industry, I always say we’re so lucky that when we go to bed every night, we know we’ve made a difference. We’ve know that we’ve let our hearts lead us to love other people. And I think that’s one of the things the gifts that you guys provide to so many of our older adults that may have mobility challenges, they may have some fear about the future, different things like that. And Era Living has really done some amazing things around senior living, and you can totally feel it when you walk in to a community.

So before we even get anywhere, I want to start from the very beginning, Tina tell us a little bit about the history of Era Living and how that culture started.

Tina Hall: Sure. So Era Living was founded in 1987 by Eli and Rebecca Almo. We are a local family owned and operated organization. Our footprint is really just this the greater Seattle area. We have eight communities. And, and originally when the company was started by Eli and Rebecca, they had prior to this been in real estate development, but really, we’re looking for something that was in alignment with their values. And so they noticed that there was a void in senior living and they wanted to establish retirement communities that had a higher quality of life enrichment, programming and dining and, and the various components, but really, ultimately, to establish retirement communities that would honor and respect older adults, that really is in alignment with who they are. And so over the years — they started in 1987 with Ida Culver House Ravenna — they have continued to grow to a total of eight communities. So again, it’s not a large footprint and I think that’s one of the things that is wonderful about Era living.

Suzanne: I think so when you have a company that is a little bit smaller, and you have local ownership and you have family that has deep connections and roots to this area, it matters, it really kind of informs their way of operating. And I think, too, the residents feel like they’re not a number. Every time a new resident comes in, it’s a celebration. It’s not this thing of herding cattle, like some of these really, really large organizations can make people feel like. I mean, there is such a mindfulness within your organization to make that experience unique for each senior. And I think that’s really who you are, and that just goes to your mission. So, you have kind of a a wonderful mission statement that you talked about. But let’s just talk a little bit about that. You said it is to respect and… what is it again?

Speaker 2: It’s respect and honor older adults by enhancing the quality of their lives. And the thing is this, this mission really informs all of our decisions. It really guides us in how we operate our communities, how we treat people, both our residents and also our employees. You know, as, as as you mentioned, I’ve been with Era for 10 years and that is not a unique story. You’ll find that, that people who, who work with this organization are very, very proud to work with a company that puts people first and that really honors the residents that we’re serving. We never forget that residents are always at the center of everything we do. Mhm.

Suzanne: Mhm. And it really shows, like I said, I, I remember like in the early days when I first started going in in this, in this industry and I already had my mom and assisted living. So I’d already made the decision, but I didn’t know anything at the time, the beginning and I was part of that learning process and I think that’s the first time I met you is I walked into the university house at is, and I remember that amazing connection that you have with the residents there. I remember the sense of just so much respect and, and, wanting to make them most comfortable and we were doing an event with the Seahawks and I remember Dave and he was just so precious. But you know what I loved most was seeing your residence. It was like this amazing feeling of going and sitting in Era Living room where it wasn’t, it wasn’t this big show. You know, it was this deep intimate, lovely, dark connection. And I think that’s really who you are. I, I, you’re you’re the warm fuzzy slippers that when somebody goes, goes there, I mean, that’s what I, I think of Era Living is that comfort level. It’s that caring and you guys do lead so much with your heart and that’s, I think really is what shows. So tell us a little bit about how you approach when you talk about the enhancing the quality of lives. How do you approach that in, in regards to healthy aging?

Speaker 2: You know, when we talk about healthy aging in our communities we are talking about more than someone’s physical being. as you know, Suzanne, there are options of, of various communities that, that do a fine job in, in addressing individuals, physical needs. But I think Era Living goes a lot further in that we, we really are trying to create an experience for people. We are are really looking at how can we enhance the quality of their lives, not just physically but, but from that emotional perspective and that social perspective. And so we put a lot of time and thought into creating meaningful life enrichment activities into our culinary programs, into our, our unique resident and family supportive services programs. And the great thing is Suzanne, as we continue through these podcasts, you’ll have an opportunity to hear from various staff members, who can talk specifically about what goes into. Maybe that’s creating a life enrichment program that is violent and robust or, or, or a dining program that, that really takes residents preferences into mind and gives them choices and variety. And you’ll, you’ll hear about what, what a day is like living in one of our communities. We’ll also be talking a little bit with some of our residents who can, who can share their resident experience and what their journey has been in, in from, from the very beginning and then looking for a community. But it also it also takes into account things like our connection with the arts, which is something that is, that is unusual. We have a very robust arts program within our community. So it is, it’s beyond the physical, it is the, the whole person that is at the center of everything we do in your living.

Suzanne: When I think about a senior that lives there, it’s about their expression, it’s about honoring who they are and what their choices are, what their quality of life can be. And then you guys having to be able to facilitate a wonderful connection and collaboration with that each resident and you’re small enough to be able to be able to do that. And you know, so if you’re, if a senior loved one is like this free spirited artist, you’re gonna have a program and programs for them. Or if somebody is really stayed numbers person that may or a military veteran that wants more of a pragmatic experience. You have that too. And I think that’s the thing that’s so amazing about Era Living. And certainly we’re so honored. Now, obviously, we’re gonna get to the end of this podcast, but I wanna go through at the very end and talk about, you have eight communities where specifically are they located?

Speaker 2: Sure, sure. We have four communities that are in North Seattle and those include Alia Thornton, Place, Ida Culverhouse, Broadview, Ida Culver House Ravenna, and University House Wallingford. And then beyond the Seattle, the immediate Seattle area, we have Algoa Mercer Island and you’ll be hearing from Marla A Becker, the executive director there shortly. Wonderful. We also have our University House is Aqua community. Nice. There is the Gardens at Town Square which is in downtown Bellevue and then our lake shore community, which is in South Seattle, right on the shore of Lake Washington. Absolutely stunning view of Lake Washington from there. It’s right on the lake. And you’ve been there probably with doodles.

Suzanne: I have been there with doodles. I have our doodle dogs and we love always going and I, I have fond memories of taking my doodle to your properties. And one of the things that always strikes me is that your residents were always so inquisitive, they want to know, they want to learn, and that’s the really cool thing. And so for those of you that are listening, we’re gonna have Era Living with us for the next two more segments and two more after that and three more after that, excuse me. So we’ve got six segments this month for each one of you. And we’re gonna be right back with Era Living right after this.