The Future Leaders Awards program is brought to you in partnership with PointClickCare. The program is designed to recognize up-and-coming industry members who are shaping the next decade of senior housing, skilled nursing, home health and hospice care. To see this year’s future leaders, visit Future Leaders online.
Kyle Rand, Co-founder and CEO of Rendever, has been named a 2021 Future Leader by Senior Housing News.
To become a Future Leader, an individual is nominated by their peers. The candidate must be a high-performing employee who is 40-years-old or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put vision into action, and an advocate for seniors and the committed professionals who ensure their well-being.
Rand sat down with Senior Housing News to talk about his career trajectory, the ways the industry is evolving, and how he is working to make Rendever more than a virtual reality company, but an industry partner and leader helping to create the future of senior living.
What drew you to senior living?
Growing up, I volunteered and scooped ice cream for my local senior living community. It was the best experience for a number of reasons. We got unlimited free ice cream. But also, I will never forget, there was this one moment where this gentleman came in, and I made eye contact with him, and I said, “You want rum raisin with chocolate sprinkles.” And there was that little moment of recognition … he was so happy to know that there was this kid who just knew something about him. Something so small, and something so simple, and that really has stuck with me forever.
As I went to school, unfortunately, I lost one of my grandmothers my very first semester that I was there. We had a special relationship. So I ended up joining a cognitive neuro lab. I spent a lot of time studying the cognitive decline in the aging population … It was an fMRI lab. So we studied changes in the brain that correlated with some deficits in economic-based decision making models.
And then as I was graduating, my other grandmother was diagnosed with her second round cancer. And that triggered that long, complex decision making process of what her aging process should look like. I got to kind of experience, one step removed, what that process looked like and how stressful it was, and how it impacted all of our family dynamics. And unfortunately, we moved her into a senior living community with absolutely the best intent, and best hopes, but it wasn’t the right fit. And she fell into the trap of social isolation that we are set out to solve today.
Looking ahead to the future of the industry, if you could change one thing, what would it be?
A family should not need to be at a point of extreme need in order to go and make a connection with the senior living community … That’s one of the contributors to why public perception is the way it is around senior living. I think that there’s a huge opportunity to change that dynamic.
The senior living community should really be more proactive and become kind of a common place for anybody who falls into this demographic to have an opportunity to call, engage with and build connections. So I think it’s not a discrete discrete action item, but if there’s an overall movement that I want to see in the industry, it’s this movement towards communities being epicenters of communities for the greater population earlier on in the aging process.
What do you foresee as being different about senior living heading into the near future?
As the pandemic was playing out, we all learned that we had to really cater to family needs more proactively. I think there was a lot of stress, a lot of uncertainty about what COVID-19 meant for the community, for the residents. Senior living communities became a beacon of information about the disease, and every single staff member had to understand the needs of the resident and the needs of the family and the approach to families. They had to become way more proactive.
And then that led to these reunions that were just beautiful and emotional. I think we can take those two things together, and we can make sure that our approach to family engagement is just so much stronger. Some communities have always done it well, but I think because of the pandemic, everybody had to do it well. And I think that one of the things that I’m looking forward to is family members’ involvement continuing to be a little bit more of the day-to-day experience of what it means to move into a senior living community.
If you could go back in time to your first day in the industry and give your younger self advice, what would you say?
I think the most important thing for anybody coming into this space is to understand that this space is a giant network of partners.
We’re here to tackle social isolation, but what else could we do to help these senior living companies in order to set them up in a way where — beyond the technology — they’d be better set up to actually spend time, money and energy on creating authentic connections? I think it took us a little bit of time to understand that in order to do that, we had to be true partners from a business model perspective, and we had to build ancillary products.
My role specifically has become more future-looking. We’ve built a virtual reality platform that is being used by hundreds of communities all over the world, and with that success, how do we make sure that we are continuing to build momentum for the industry as a whole, and help the industry come out of the pandemic and really emerge as a place that you want to go and live?
How would you describe the future of senior living in one word?
To learn more about the Future Leaders program, visit https://futureleaders.agingmedia.com
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