ERS President and CEO Laura Lamb sees a strong future ahead for the organization, with big plans to help older adults and their families navigate difficulties that can accompany aging, and plans to serve middle-income older adults.
Last year was a “challenging, but successful” year, Episcopal Retirement Services President and CEO Laura Lamb recently told Bryan Reynolds, ERS’ vice president of marketing and public relations in the 50th edition of the Linkage podcast.
Lamb not only looked into the rear-view mirror back to 2022, but also focused several years into the future in the conversation. She discussed the organization’s vision for 2030, as well as more immediate plans for 2023.
A successful 2022, despite COVID challenges
ERS, like many other businesses and health-care organizations, faced a number of challenges during 2022, “but the team, as usual with ERS, just really rallies, and takes lemons and makes lemonade,” Lamb said.
Here were the major accomplishments she cited for the year:
- The transformation at Episcopal Church Home, a retirement community in Louisville, Ky., whose campus is being upgraded to meet comfort preferences and desires of older adults, now and into the future. Construction continues on the 25 new Dudley Square patio homes. People in Dudley Square homes live with complete independence on single-level floor plans, and also have enjoyable amenities that aren’t available to single households outside such a campus. Those amenities include the clubhouse that serves as a gathering space for the neighborhood. Meanwhile, Lyndon House, the new, very comfortable apartment-style Personal Care household with 22 apartments, recently opened (The term “Personal Care” in Kentucky is similar to what is known as “assisted living” in most other states). Lamb called Lyndon House “just stunning” – a very warm, welcoming and functional place, with large shared spaces where residents can gather and share fun activities.
- Learning to live with the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. As a healthcare provider for older adults, “we have to strike a balance,” Lamb said, noting, “we still need to protect people, because the disease hasn’t changed,” and it affects older people in higher numbers and with more severity. On the other hand, at times when cases aren’t present on a campus and are low in the broader community, restrictions are being loosened. “We have to protect, but also live together,” she said.
- Progress on the We Can Do Better initiative, a program ERS launched in 2020 in response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. RELATED: We Can Do Better: A Letter from ERS President and CEO Laura Lamb. The program strives to increase diversity and ensure everyone has a voice that is heard. Despite challenges presented by COVID-19, ERS kept its focus on We Can Do Better, and issued its second scorecard, which measures how the organization has progressed since the initiative began. In a related accomplishment, significant funding was received for the Lauren Brown Empowerment Fund, and the first recipient of the Lauren Brown Empowerment Award was chosen. The empowerment fund helps BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color) team members overcome obstacles they face in advancing their careers, such as a lack of transportation to attend classes. In addition to the Lauren Brown Awards, ERS also provides tuition-assistance scholarships to employees.
- Balancing retention and recruitment of ERS staff. ERS isn’t only focusing on recruiting high-quality new team members, but also making sure that those who “have been here through the really difficult last three years understand that we value and appreciate everything that we’re doing,” Lamb said. She added, “We have to retain, and we have to add the right staff, or our culture will suffer.”
Looking ahead to 2030
ERS updates its strategy for the future every year. But every several years, it also gazes a longer distance ahead. During the summer of 2022, Lamb and the ERS board’s strategy committee asked where the organization wants to be in 2030.
Here’s 2030 vision: “As recognized inclusive and innovative leaders, ERS is the preferred choice and trusted resource for older adults along the full economic continuum.”
Lamb emphasized the addition of the word inclusive – a reflection of the We Can Do Better effort – because that’s something ERS wants to have achieved by then.
To be a preferred choice, ERS will have to continue providing high-quality care, she said. And it’s also important for the broader community to view ERS as a resource people can trust when navigating the complicated and difficult landscape of aging issues, such as Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia; and other situations, such as good ways to maintain mental wellness as an older adult.
Another very important part of the 2030 vision is providing retirement-housing options to not only affluent and low-income people, but also for the large segment of the population between those two groups.
ERS offers living options for those that are affluent and live in its continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), such as Deupree House and Marjorie P. Lee in Cincinnati’s Hyde Park neighborhood and Episcopal Church Home in Louisville, Ky. It also provides quality housing for lower-income residents in its 31 Affordable Living by ERS communities in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
“We intentionally added ‘full economic continuum’ so folks know that we’re more than the ends. We want to focus on the middle as well,” Lamb said.
ERS plans to reach more older adults by growing its middle-market offerings from the one it now is a partner – Rivers Edge, in the Toledo, Ohio, suburb of Perrysburg. It also plans to expand its outreach ministries, such as its Center for Memory Support and Inclusion.
Why a 2030 vision? “If you just are focused on the day-to-day, you won’t be ready for the future,” Lamb said. By looking out over an extended horizon, “we are positioning ERS to be here long into the future.”
Plans for 2023
More immediately, ERS also has five major focuses for 2023:
- Keeping ERS’ three CCRCs strong.
- Maintaining an engaged workforce. That entails doing work to be inclusive and engaged, “so we can continue to be an employer of choice,” Lamb said.
- Setting a standard for middle-market models for senior communities, and creating communities over time that other organizations will want to replicate.
- Continuing to be a trusted adviser, and expanding service ministries beyond the walls of ERS communities, such as with Deupree Meals On Wheels and the Center for Memory Support and Inclusion.
- Focusing on a bright future, by examining internal capabilities and overall effectiveness, so ERS remains a strong organization.
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