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.
Isaac Wallace, design project manager for ERDMAN, has been named a 2021 Future Leader by Senior Housing News parent company Aging Media Network.
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.
Wallace sat down with Senior Housing News to talk about how his grandmother’s experiences in memory care laid the foundation for his career.
What drew you to senior living?
My grandparents lived in senior housing. Specifically, my grandmother was in memory care and hated that.
During college, I was going to write a thesis on senior housing and my professor at the time said, “You’ll have the rest of your career to do stuff like that. Why don’t you write about something else?” So I put it aside and really didn’t think I was going to go in this direction. I graduated during the 2008 economic crisis, and I reached out to a couple firms that were still hiring and happened to get into someplace that mainly did senior living projects. Ever since then, it’s been my path. I’ve got the experience working in it, it’s something I’ve enjoyed working in, and I stayed there ever since.
What is your biggest lesson learned during your career?
You can’t design senior living based on one or two people’s needs, or an individual’s ideas of what it should look like. You need to have operators involved. You have to have a full team of people to come and deliver a project. There are other projects where you can work with one or two people and come up with a solution. Senior housing doesn’t work that way. You have to cater to how people use the building and how the operators function, which is very different from community to community, across the country.
If you could change one thing with an eye toward the future of senior living, what would it be?
It would be great to have less of a focus on the high end market. That is what drives development today. So many projects are all based on a high end user with the ability to afford more. There needs to be a greater focus on all price points, creating models and care options for anybody, and to better define the different levels. I think we’re starting to look at that already. Less emphasis on the money side of things and more emphasis on the people and the relationships that people have with the other people they live with.
What do you foresee as being different about senior living heading into the near future?
The cost models driving where you can build, and the cost of construction keep going up. That limits the markets you can go into, it’s becoming more restricted. There are higher barriers to entry in the market. It unfortunately pushes developers more towards market rate developments. We have to be intentional about trends such as intergenerational housing or other care models. We’ve been studying ways to bring that to the forefront of the market.
In a word, how would you describe the future of senior living?
What quality must all future leaders possess?
Being a self-starter. Have some self-motivation and drive to move forward in your career.
If you could give your younger self advice on your first day, what would it be and why?
Be wise. Everything that you do and every step you take down this road, is an opportunity to learn lessons from past experiences.
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