CEO Reflection on LeadingAge Lessons

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By Ralph Gaines, Embrace Living President and Chief Executive Officer

As I reflect on the past year and look toward how we can continue to better ourselves in 2022, I’m reminded of some lessons we learned at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting and Expo I attended last fall. Eight members of our team, myself included, attended the meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, and it was the first time many of us went and interacted with the people from LeadingAge. From a purely human standpoint, it was important to go and meet everybody. From an educational standpoint, this was an invaluable opportunity to learn from leading experts in the field of senior care about what we can be doing to better ourselves and our residents’ experiences.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives already play out at our organization, and we’ve been very conscious of our demographics at our properties and in our workforce. Our diverse and inclusive organization is 44% people of color, and that includes senior management levels. It’s also reflected in our residents who come from all over the world, and our staff and residents are all passionate about welcoming everybody regardless of background and because of their differences.

What LeadingAge helped me realize was that how we frame these initiatives is also important. We should be focused on discussing the positive benefits of cultivating a diverse workforce instead of getting bogged down in the negative historical connotations of DE&I and creating strict requirements people are obligated to follow without context.

We’ve worked hard so far, but if there’s anything that LeadingAge reiterated, it’s that this is something we have to constantly be working on and toward. We need to make sure our teams are thinking about the fact that successful DE&I models are positive and collaborative. It’s a practice that shouldn’t be a forced initiative based on the past, but a positive initiative rooted in a societal understanding of its benefits where everyone feels good about what we’re doing. We’ve seen that at our organization with increased creativity, morale and cooperation as a direct result of our diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

Fund Development

Fund development is always a big topic of discussion for any nonprofit, ourselves included, and one thing LeadingAge did a great job of explaining was that an organization’s mission and story need to be at the forefront of all fund development efforts. Our mission is different from other types of organizations, and helping donors understand those key differentiators is necessary because it helps solidify our place in their hearts and their communities. For us, those differentiators include our long-time experience in the senior affordable housing space, faith background and relentless commitment to providing welcoming communities that embrace living. We must consistently focus on the unique history of the good we do to make people aware, understand and want to donate.

If you’re interested in donating to help our cause or learning more about how your gifts impact our work, visit

Company Culture

It’s important that our messaging empowers our company and reflects the reason people show up every day. While we all have our own individual reasons why we are committed to our mission at Embrace Living, there is still a larger, collective reason why we do what we do that is distinct to our company culture, and that why is because we wholeheartedly believe all seniors, regardless of income, deserve to age with dignity.

What we can do is reinforce the value of that WHY and provide our employees with opportunities so that they can do what they do well. That comes with strong communication, reinforcement and daily support.

To learn more about what it means to us to be a great place to work, visit

Staying the Course

What we’ve been through the past two years has been a scary, unsettling time. We were in the most high risk category in terms of our seniors, and I think that staying the course, pushing through our fear and staying committed to our plan helped us maintain our operation while battling so many unknowns. Sometimes you just have to believe it’s okay, and with each new day and month, you see that it’s true, and you keep moving forward. You don’t have any other choice: fear isn’t a choice you can let take control of you because then you’re not accomplishing anything at all.

Moving forward, we want to keep staying the course while also making sure that rather than just survive these trying times, we thrive. We can do this by implementing what we learned at LeadingAge to not only do what we need to keep our residents safe but also foster an employee community of diversity and strength while raising the money we need to enable residents and staff alike to better themselves.

To learn how we can help you further better your senior affordable housing community, visit