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255: David Schless

Listen to a preview of the ASHA Annual Meeting with David Schless, President of ASHA Living. We discuss the Where You Live Matters initiative which aims to empower consumers of senior living with information and knowledge, and learn about ASHA’s focus on improving the workforce crisis for the industry. 

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I’ve heard a number of executives say this, and they say, when I come to the ASHA meeting, I don’t set up meetings. I know that I’m gonna, I know that I will interact with people and I know that, we’ll, whether it’s at a cocktail reception or group hike or whatever. I know that I’ll interact.


Welcome to season six of Bridge The Gap, a podcast dedicated to informing, educating, and influencing the future of housing and services for seniors. Powered by sponsors, Accushield, Connected Living, Hamilton CapTel, Referah, The Bridge Group Construction and Solinity. The contributors are brought to you by Peak Senior Living and produced by Solinity Marketing.

Lucas 00:40

Welcome to Bridge The Gap podcast, the Senior Living Podcast. With a great episode here. As we start our 2023 season, we’ve got a veteran in the industry and a great friend. We wanna welcome David Schless. He is the president of ASHA. Welcome to the show.

David 00:57

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be with you as always, and always enjoy visiting with you and certainly no shortage of things to chat about this morning.

Lucas 1:09

So many great topics and you and your team there at ASHA are on the forefront of a lot of different things. You’re on the forefront of research and advocacy. You also have a great program that you’ve rolled out years ago called Where You Live Matters. And then you also have your in-person events, which we have one right around the corner. And Dave, I’d love to start there as we dive into our conversation just cuz we are so excited to get out to Scottsdale here very soon and very shortly. For those that are attending your members there, what can they expect for this meeting in 2023?

David 1:46

Well, I think there’s always for us an attempt to balance really great educational content with opportunities to allow lots of interaction and networking. And I think that’s what we’ll strive to do in Scottsdale as well. We expect to have somewhere around 700 industry leaders participating in the meeting. And again, I think we’ve got a really good mix of educational content with lots of good opportunities for informal interaction and networking. Our keynote speaker is someone that we’ve used previously. She’s a PhD economist who at one point worked for the Federal Reserve Bank and then subsequently was the co-host of Squawk Box on CNBC, Chief Economist of CNBC, Marci Rosell.

And certainly, the economy is very much front and center for all industries and obviously for our industry as well, whether you’re more on the active adult side or more on the full life plan, CCRC side of the business, the economy is front and center. So we feel like we’ve got a terrific keynote speaker. We’ve actually used Marci two previous times, so it’s been a number of years, but she’s a really terrific speaker and very substantive and very insightful. So, she’ll, I think, really set the stage for the discussion. Certainly, the annual meeting, being that it does kind of kick the year off, the meeting will start on the 23rd of January and so we’re really looking forward to it.

And obviously there’s a lot going on in the industry, so I’m not sure that there’s ever been a time where that desire for people to network and do business, educate one another, talk with peers, it’s just really, it’s a very opportune time to do that. So we’re really looking forward to the meeting. The one thing I always say about the ASHA meeting, so our meetings are really different than most organizations, because for us we don’t want to have 3,000 people at the meeting. We don’t make money on the meetings. The meetings are really, it’s an expense for us, not a revenue generator.

David 4:29

And so, for us, we like the size of the meetings to be more manageable. And so, I think one of the things that has set our meetings apart is that we really want people to be able to interact with their peers in a comfortable professional setting. And again, not necessarily have thousands of people. And so, we’re very pleased, obviously, to be back. Hopefully the weather will cooperate with us because we do try and do a lot of these things that we can do outdoors. So we are very excited about the meeting.

Lucas 5:15

Yeah, and Scottsdale will be a great backdrop to do those fun things and have those informal settings. I definitely agree with you. It’s a great start to the year. I always look forward to January’s member meeting, and it kind of helps set the tone. It’s great to hustle and set up some pre-meetings, but the informal meetings as you’re just participating in educational sessions or some outdoor activities are really part of the magic that make those member meetings so special.

David 5:49

Yeah. And it’s funny you say that because I, over the years, I’ve heard a number of executives say this and they say, when I come to the ASHA meeting, I don’t set up meetings. I know that I’m gonna, I know that I will interact with people, and I know that, whether it’s at a cocktail reception or group hike or whatever, I know that I’ll interact, but I really try not to schedule those meetings so I can really just be present at the meeting and focus on the meeting. And I think that is one of the unique attributes of the meeting. And again, that’s not to say that certainly there are plenty of meetings that take place during the meeting, but I think there’s a conscious effort from a number of the executives to not necessarily just fill their day up with meetings and succession.

Lucas 6:50

Totally agree. And it’s always very impactful when you get to have an experience with somebody, whether you are experiencing an educational session with some great discussion or you’re experiencing the beautiful outdoors there that Arizona has to offer. Great meeting. Looking forward to that. Let’s transition Dave into Where You Live Matters. We’ve spoke about this before. You’ve been on the program several times. This continues to be a main focus off of your website. You know, lead generation in the industry is a big topic. And as the demographics continue to be very remarkable in the aging sector, the question for operators in growing occupancy and gaining influences, how do we attract age and income qualified people to come and live at our community? Hence, where you live matters, right, Dave?

David 7:48

That’s right. Yeah. No, it’s, so this was a program that we started back in, we started really thinking about it in 2015, and it launched probably in early 2016. And the thinking behind it was really, can we help empower consumers so that they are better informed, better educated, and really understand the various options that are out there? And when they show up at someone’s community, they’re really at a better place. They’re in a better position to potentially say, yes, I’m ready to move. And that was kind of the initial thinking behind it. We wanted to really be a resource of, a trusted resource for consumers. And and I think we built a very robust site that has, we’ve continued to add useful content and there’s video and checklists and editorial content and just a lot of really great materials on there.

David 9:02

We added a community locator function a couple years after we had launched it. I wanna say maybe 2018. It’s an evolving endeavor for us. I think one of the things that we have been less successful with, and we’ve tried to rectify that is, we know that there’s a lot of great resources that are industries sales and marketing professionals can be using that are on that website when they’re following up with prospects. That’s been something that we made a very concerted effort in 2022 to educate and inform professionals in the industry. And we did a couple of advertising efforts and some of the industry online publications with a brochure about how to use the resources.

David 9:58

So, we definitely think that that’s another important element of the Where You Live Matters program. So, since we did launch the initial website as I say several years ago, we’re right now, in the middle of a complete overhaul of the website. So it is really being completely redesigned. We have a task force of industry professionals that we’ve pulled in to help us. So we’re very excited about that. The new site will launch probably sometime in July of this year, 2023. And we’re very, very optimistic that there’s a lot of things that we have learned since we first launched it that will make it an even better resource for older adults and their families.

David 10:56

And we’re also in that same process, going to be looking at bringing in a new agency to actually help us with the content and the SEO, and so I think it’s  really good time for us to look at the site as it existed since 2016. And hopefully develop something that really takes Where You Live Matters to another level. I will say this, I mean, the thing that is fascinating about it is that we have all of the analytics and over the course of any given day there are really thousands of people that are looking at various aspects of the website, including the community locator tool.

David 11:51

So we can see that it is a very valuable resource. It’s unique because again, ASHA’s not trying to make money on it. There’s no effort to monetize this. We’re really trying to just help older adults and their families and so it’s a very unique resource out there and something that we’re really very, very committed to. There’s a lot of moving pieces and you don’t just build a website and then that’s it. As I mean, there’s a lot that goes into it and content creation and all of the other things that you have to do to get traffic to your site and really paying attention to what people are looking at, what they want to see.

David 12:39

It’s a very involved endeavor. But it’s interesting. I mean, what we have seen historically is that three quarters of the folks on Where You Live Matters are actually older adults. So you might have, well, one might have thought, I know I did when we first launched it that it would be maybe three quarters adult children and maybe a quarter older adults. It’s been the opposite. It’s been about 75% of the consumers on the site are older adults themselves. So, we’re very enthusiastic and optimistic about it. And as I say, I think we’ve got a really good task force that is comprised primarily of sales and marketing professionals in the industry. And, ,Where You Live Matters website is not, it’s not replicating what an operator’s website would look like.

David 13:44

It’s a different website. So I’m really very enthusiastic and hopefully the next time we chat we will be able to maybe talk a little bit more about what the new site looks like and what we think will be more helpful to consumers. But I’m very excited about the new Where You Live Matters website and getting some fresh perspectives on the ongoing social media that accompanies the the program.

Lucas 14:21

Yes. Yes. And we’re very accustomed to that here at Bridge The Gap, and we will make sure that our listeners, we’ll link that in the show notes for easy access as well as a couple of other ones. Rounding out the conversation here, Dave, before we let you get back to your busy schedule. Let’s talk about advocacy. 2023 is gonna be brought with its own challenges as we have continued to see the challenges the industry faces over the past several years. Can you list maybe just one or two different things that ASHA is focused on?

David 14:55

Sure. But I think the big area of focus for us, and this has been the case now really for the past several months. I mean, we’re very focused on anything that we can do to try and help with the workforce shortage crisis. And so we have our own, obviously our own legislative team. We’ve always had outside legislative council. And then probably in September of 2022, we engaged Greenberg Traurig. And in particular Laura Rife, who is really the top immigration attorney and policy expert in the country. And we’ve been, she’s been working with our legislative team on a whole range of different things and some of these fixes or potential fixes are things that the administration can do that reduces a tremendous backlog and processing. And we’re really looking at anything that could possibly be done including creating a new VISA category for senior living staff and everything in between. So I mean, that is just the number one, two, and three issue for us. I mean, it’s just, it’s really what we have to focus on. And obviously it’s a politically, it is a very complicated, challenging issue. As I know you’re aware, but that’s really where we’re incredibly focused on that right now.

Lucas 16:41

Absolutely. Well, I think that has been a major topic and we’ll probably continue to be a topic as we do some special interviews at the Bridge The Gap studios there in Scottsdale at the ASHA membership meeting. We’re really excited about that. So to any of our listeners that plan on attending feel free to reach out to us and come check us out. We’ll be supporting the mission and efforts of you, Dave, and your team there at ASHA, and bringing some specialized content to the industry and listeners so that they can participate in a lot of these conversations. Dave, great to always see you. Great to have you back on the program. We’re very much looking forward to seeing you in Scottsdale here very soon.

David 17:26

Likewise, always a pleasure to visit with you. Look forward to seeing you in Scottsdale January 23 through 25.

Lucas 17:35

And to all of our listeners, we’ll make sure we link all of these in the comment section, in the notes section of your podcast player. You can also go to and we’ll link to all this content there and the transcription of this interview. You can see it in video and also listen in audio. Check us out on social media, ping us on LinkedIn, join the conversation. And thanks to everybody for listening to another great episode of Bridge The Gap.


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255: David Schless