Close up of a grandfather having breakfast with his grandchildren

Redefining the Senior Living Industry

Redefining the Senior Living Industry

Van Cluck, president and CEO of Blakeford, takes a look at the changes he’s witnessed in our industry over the years.

Twenty years ago when Blakeford was opening its doors for its first residents, I was just getting my feet wet in the senior living industry. It was 1996, and for about a year I had been the Business Manager for a stand-alone Independent Living community here in Nashville. One of Nashville’s most renowned innovators in health care, Dr. Tom Frist, had started that particular community some 35 years before I arrived on the scene. When he had started it in the early ‘60s, it was considered a truly innovative concept in senior housing. But, when I came into the industry and to that particular property, innovative would not have been an accurate description. Antiquated would have been more correct. And unfortunately, at that time, antiquated really described much of what was happening in senior services.


Over the past twenty years, however, Blakeford and many other innovators in the senior lifestyle space have worked hard to reinvigorate and redefine an industry. We no longer just do “housing”. Instead the industry is working to provide the best lifestyle options for seniors as the inevitable changes of life occur. The focus on wellness and lifestyle may be one of the most significant innovations the industry has embraced. Today’s senior wants to see housing wrapped inside of hospitality and healthy living options that create holistic environments where we can age well…not just age.


Technology has also become a key component in the senior living industry. Blakeford partners with a number of other senior services providers from across the country to work with inventors of new technologies. The inventions that come from such investments will continue to transform the way we deliver services.

Blakeford transitioned several years ago to a fully electronic health record for all those we serve. However, many other healthcare sectors are trailing behind in this space. Hopefully one day we will see a truly transportable personal medical record that will cross health care disciplines in order to assure immediate access to critical health information for all. Many healthcare providers continue to view information in a proprietary way.  But, the senior living industry is leading the way and helping to drive discussion and negotiation ensuring better outcomes.


The philosophical move away from “just housing” has also brought new products and services from which seniors can benefit. For Blakeford this move has led to the creation of Blakeford at Home, our non-medical home and community services provider. Additionally, we’ve created LiveWell By Blakeford, our continuing care at home product. Both innovations and similar services across the country are in response to the ever growing sentiment of seniors that they desire to age in place.

The senior living industry recognized several years ago that we would never be able to build enough real estate options to serve all who would need serving. The costs are just too prohibitive. So by bringing supportive services to where you live…HOME…we can match both the demand and desires of consumers. Community lifestyle is still the option many will choose. But for those who find community elsewhere, the ability of the senior lifestyle sector to serve those individuals will continue to increase as time goes by.

I am deeply appreciative of the 20+ years that I have had the opportunity to serve seniors. I am also appreciative of industry partners who continue to embrace innovations that allow us to serve many more and to serve them with even better choices. As the “silver tsunami” hits its peak, we must be ever more vigilant and innovative to ensure that seniors continue to have access to the best services we have to offer. I am grateful to be a part of an industry that embraces innovation and wants to continue to be a positive force for aging.

Van Cluck served as chief executive officer for Blakeford, Inc. where he oversaw the strategic direction for the corporation which includes Blakeford at Green Hills, Blakeford At Home, and LiveWell By Blakeford.