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The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

Episode 53: Lisa Cini

Multigenerational AirBnB Mansion Project with Design Expert & Author Lisa Cini

Lucas: Welcome to Bridge the Gap podcast with Josh and Lucas. And we have an alumni back on the show- we have Lisa Cini. She is a three time author; she’s a designer; she’s a mother; she’s a wife; she’s a cook-

Josh: -a mansion owner…

Lucas: A mansion owner- she is literally everything and a huge proponent and advocate for aging. Lisa, thanks for coming back on the show with us.

Lisa: Oh, thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here.

Josh: Awesome.

Lucas: There’s so many topics that we can hit with you, but today, we really want to talk about your writing, we want to talk about your visions and, more importantly (and) most importantly, this gigantic mansion that you’ve bought.

Lisa: Okay, that’s a lot.

Josh: That’s a lot. So, where do we start, Lucas? Where are we going to start with that?

Lucas: Well, let me just kick it over to you, Lisa. Just talk to us about- from the last time you were here, we talked about design and we’ll talk about design but let’s more transition into our discussion on aging. We’ll start there.

Lisa: Well, what do you want to know about aging? I’m getting older and, as you know, my parents and I and my grandmother, we all live together. We found that multigenerational living was really a powerful thing. But one of the other things that we found is there was a lot of technology that my mom’s friends were really afraid of and didn’t know and had no access to. Whether they were staying at their own house or they were going into independent living or assisted living, I really felt like we needed to do something to help expose people in moving from fear to freedom.

Lucas: That’s powerful.

Josh: So, some of these things that you’re sharing on this, these fears, you have made a couple statements even before the show and you said, from fear to freedom. I want to dive right in to talk about limitless living. You gave us just a little bit of a snapshot. We’re so excited. We’ve got millions of questions for you. We’re going to have to determine what does our audience really want to  know because we’re very curious about this. So, talk to us about limitless living. Let’s just drive right into it.

Lisa: Let’s just drive right into it?

Josh: Yeah.

Lisa: You know, one of the things that I noticed is that as we age and as my parents and grandparents and all that kind of stuff did it is that there are certain people that just have this zest for life, right? And there are other people that are like, ah, I’m old. I can’t do that. And they sit on the porch and it seems that what we see out there in the media is all this, I’m old. I no longer have purpose. I can’t do that. And I think that’s why baby boomers are fighting against going into senior living, just quite honestly. 

World War II was more about safety and security and not being a burden and baby boomers are more about freedom. They’re not about safety. They’re about choices and kind of figuring out what the best choice is for them and having flexibility. So, in doing that, looking at products that allow you to reduce your fear. Like, what are some of your fears as you age? Well, I might fall. I might not be as vital. I might lose my purpose. And if I go into senior living, I’m going to lose all of my friends and all of my connections.

So, how do you engage with technology and your interior environment, still stay connected- multigenerational- and really live your best life? Part of that is, can you age in place at home? Or can you do it with your own family? Or can you, you know, go into, if senior living is right for you, go into senior living but not downgrade? Actually upgrade your life. So, in doing that, I was blessed enough to buy this mansion that I was telling the guys that I really felt like God led this to me. And now all these partners are coming together and we’re going to take this place and make it a beacon that anyone that wants to experience or uncover or see technology and furniture that might be a little more helpful to live and really live their life their best them without fear. They can come here and experiment. It’s kind of like an AirBnB. 

Josh: So, our listeners that don’t have the opportunity yet, at least I don’t think they have the opportunity yet, to see some of the visuals that you’ve been able to share with us just in a quick kind of slide deck that you put together, tell our listeners, describe a little bit about this mansion, where it’s located and walk us through it and some of your plans. Because when you were talking about all the things, I’m sitting here thinking, well, do you have to be old to go there? Because I really wanna be there. And you’re like no, no, young and old can be there together. But, just tell our listeners about that.

Lisa: Terrific. So, you know, part of it is it’s in Columbus, Ohio downtown across from Franklin Park Conservatory, which is just a beautiful, super cool area. It’s a 10,000 square foot mansion. It took 7 years to build.

Josh: Wow.

Lisa: Like, I totally want it to be Knights Templar but I don’t think it’s got any of that kind of stuff. But, I keep pressing on fireplaces and things like that. But, it’s just this historic mansion that have several generations living in it. I always here, oh, I live in an old house, I have to move. And I’m like, you don’t have to move when you live in a new house. You have to just make changes and be flexible, just like your body. Just like when you work out- you don’t workout with 25 pound weight increments. You might take it down to 5 or 2 or 3 or even half pound of weight increments.

So, you just change how you do things and modify it so that you can be safer and more effective, but you don’t have to, you know, completely give up things. So, the mansion is 10,000 square foot with different fireplace design in every room, coffered ceilings, gorgeous wood staircases, french opera style, three floors. It’s got a ballroom. We’re going to put a state-of-the-art fitness down in the basement. There’s never been one done. And then all the bedrooms and bathrooms, these AirBnB ones which anyone can come and stay in, will be done by Delta Faucets and Kholer and Bose and Toto toilets and that. So, you can really try out some of the things that’s going on there. I think Shaw Flooring is going to participate and then we have a custom line of furniture that’s going to go in.

Josh: So cool. So, you mentioned AirBnB. That’s super cool. That’s popular. I look for those in all kinds of cities- some of the coolest places I’ve stayed. So, I can envision this being like big time bucket list eventually for a bunch of people trying get to. Will there be anyone living here kind of permanently or is this more of an exploratory come stay for a night and experience all of it?

Lisa: It’s an exploratory stay for a week, stay for a month, stay for a night; you have a family reunion and you want to stay there. One of the biggest issues I had- my parents always travel with us when we go on vacations. We stay in AirBnBs and they’re not very friendly for someone with double knee replacements. So, how do you do something like that where my kids, myself, my husband and my parents can all stay together in a great environment but not feel like, oh, gosh, we’ve gotta, you know, I’ve gotta look on the AirBnB and see all the different little tricks. So, that’s part of it.

The other part is, how do you really- you know, I rent cars a lot. I don’t know if you guys travel, but I get to really test out the cars before I pick one. So, I love that. This is kind of like a rental model to be able to test out and it might be a respite and I could see these in all the cities. 

Josh: So, you’ve been mentioning, at least you did prior to the show and you touched on it now, there’s a ton of like technology, product innovation, probably product testing that’s going to be going on here. Have you had to do, like, strong pitches to go out and find these companies? Or do they just know you because you’re Lisa and you’re cutting edge and you get to speak at a lot of places?

Lisa: Well, you know, through doing my latest book, I really found a lot of technology. And I thought, we’ve got to show people about it. Some of it is so simple, but our senior living kind of community doesn’t necessarily know about it. Some of it’s off the shelf. Some of it’s off in China and the trips and such. So, writing about it and talking to people and researching, I found that people were actually magnetic. They were like, oh my gosh, my mom could use that, my dad. And they actually started offering. Like people are like, hey, I want to do this. I want to be a part of this and I said, you know, this is not- this is bigger than me, this is bigger than Mosaic Design Studio. We’re going to invite the top senior living designers in and we’ll invite the top vendors in that want to be a part of this.

This is about being a light to others, not about, you know, what’s my ROI on the deal?

Josh: Well, what you just touched on is why we love having you on the show and we always appreciate you taking time. It’s not- it’s bigger than you. I always have loved your why because we could talk about Lisa and Mosaic all day and the wonderful work that you’ve done and how you’ve built that platform- your day job, right?

But, there’s so much more and I love how you have opened the door on this and said here’s what I’m doing, come try it out. You’ve opened it up to what other people would perceive as competitors, you’re not even threatened by that at all and I think our industry needs more of that and that’s what we’re about at Bridge the Gap. You’re the prime example of being the bridge.

So, tell us when- what is your projection on when someone could actually come and experience this?

Lisa: Well,  we were projecting for the end of this year, but we’ll see how that happens.

Josh: Aggressive

Lisa: Yes, very aggressive, right? Very aggressive. So, it might be spring. You know, there’s not as much work that needs to be done. It’s more, kind of, interiors and besides adding a conservatory onto it, we’re going to put in elevators so the third floor ballroom can be accessed by everyone for dance and fitness and education.

But, there’s not a ton of stuff that needs to be done really to the interior and I think that’s part of it, too. We’re going to take pictures and video throughout the whole thing to show everybody what’s going on and then we’re going to culminate it with a great, big, unbelievable party. We’re going to have a ball because I’ve always wanted to have a ball and I’ve never been invited, so I’m finally just going to have my own.

Josh: Oh, wow, I thought I was the only one that never got invited to parties. So, yes, and I’m begging you- please let me come to your party.

Lisa: Yeah! You have to dress nice. I mean, you always dress nice but I think it’s going to be black tie.

Josh: Oh wow. Well, I’ve got a black tie.

Lisa: Alright, alright.

Josh: I don’t get to use it much.

Lucas: I’ve got a black boa.

Josh: Oh, woah. We’re going all in.

Lisa: And black cowboy boots?

Lucas: Yes.

Lisa: That’s alright, that’s okay.

Josh: So tell us- let’s talk a little bit more about Lisa and what’s driving you because, you know, again, you’re definitely an influencer. We’ve heard you speak in a lot of places. You’ve written multiple books. I want to hear about your latest book, why you wrote it and also, give us a little precursor for some of our listeners that haven’t already heard you on our podcast may hear this one and I don’t know when they’ll hear it, you’re going to be doing a talk. I heard you’re a keynote at Health to Act, so tell us some of the nuggets that you’re going to be leaving at that.

So, that’s kind of a two part question about your book and your why and then also tell us about some of your upcoming keynotes and some of the points and what you’re wanting to influence people on.

Lisa: Okay, you’ll probably have to repeat part of the question-

Josh: Yeah, no worries! Let’s start with your book first.

Lisa: Alright, let’s start with the book.

“BOOM” is the book and it really is taking the two books that I did before- “The Future is Here” and “Hive” which was about my own family experience- and mashing it all together and figuring out, you know, how do you determine how you want to live. Like, we are no longer prescriptive. We don’t have to say, you know you’re old, now you go here. Or you’re old and now you have to disconnect from your neighborhood and the kids. How do you live a purpose driven life at 65, 75, 85?

And part of that came out of I attend all these summits and longevity and futurist conferences and I’ve been to China and will be going back twice this year and seeing that seterians are no longer that big of a deal. My grandparents were 99 and 100 in the ‘96 and yeah, so that puts me at an easy 120, right?

Josh: We get to see you for a long time!

Lisa: 120!

Josh: That’s amazing!

Lisa: So, if I’m 50, how do I want to live the rest of my life? How do I want to be with my parents? How do I want to be with my kids and you guys? It kind of changes your entire idea about aging, right, and what you want to do and you no longer kind of settle into what you thought you could no longer do.

I have really big dreams because now I’m financially a little bit better off and I’m smarter and wiser and have great collaborators, right. I’m not so fearful. And speaking to the competition, there’s incredible designers out there and to think that I’m the top one or my team is the top one is arrogant. Everybody brings a piece…so that’s part of it that this book culminates that and then it translates into BOOM, into that.

On the speech, what we’re going to be talking about is what are boomers really looking for? And readily what they’re looking for is, how do they have freedom? And choices? Like, you’re not going to tell me that I can’t smoke weed when I smoke it every night. Now, that’s not me, just so you know. Everybody, mom-

Josh: Lisa Cini: weed smoker

Lisa: No, I don’t do that. She will be watching and I know I’ll get a lecture. But, are you going to tell them that they can’t do that? We have clients that are saying no, we’re not going to tell them but it’s not being talked about. It’s kind of an ask but don’t tell policy. So, bringing that out and saying what technologies? You know, the little things like the ear is the new rest. Hearing aids that translate languages, that have fall detection, GPS and monitor your heart rate and let you know if you’re going to have an issue. You know, predictive analytics. Like, what’s out there that can make your life better and not be worried, you know, kind of about what you’re going to do. So, all of those types of things we’re going to be talking about.

What kind of hacks do athletes use? I mean, literally, if you looked at their medical records, have an 80 year old body but they don’t act like it on the field. So, what do they join? What fitness technology? And we’re actually going to be applying that in the spa. You know, a lot of the things that they use are- they use it before they get hurt to allow them not to get hurt where our health care system uses it after you’ve gotten hurt for a PT/OT kind of situation. Let’s do it beforehand.

Lucas: Well and our audience, they love the technology topic. Anytime we’ve brought that up on our show, it’s a very highly downloaded topic, so it’s easy for us to see that people want to hear about it. But something that we’ve just started to mention that the space is talking about in regards to technology is technology not only for the general population but in particular for older adults, is it going to cause social isolation or is it going to be a catalyst to help them live- what you said- their best life in that moment by leveraging technology? I’d love to get your thoughts.

Lisa: I think that that- I am so happy that you brought that up. So, you know, one of the things that they say is that loneliness is the number one cause of death. Really? It’s not like necessarily being overweight or not, you know, fitness or whatever the case is. It’s when your kind of heart dies. When you lose a spouse, or when you’re now off the home and nobody’s visiting you or what not- it’s that stuff. Or, you don’t feel purpose, like you can add value.

So, technology can really help you regain that purpose. So, I see it in a huge way with products like Loop and some of the other Skype products that are out there. I’m actually working with HTC Vive out of China; they’re a top people. They’ve done a large research study and found that with virtual reality that the- and they measured all the brain waves and everything- that seniors with virtual reality have almost the same happiness as when one of their kids come to visit.

Josh: Wow.

Lucas: Interesting.

And then, also I’ve done some VR learning. Like, imagine this- one of the people that we’re working with, they have archeologists and they’ve completely imaged Nefertiti’s tomb. So, you log on with your VR so it’s like a goggle that you can’t see out of but you’re watching a movie or something. But you’re able to walk through Nefertiti’s tomb, ask the archeologist questions, you’re all in your own living room but it feels real and you’re able to see and touch and engage with other people and we see each other and we learn. It’s not these childish, immature VR games that people are producing for seniors. Everybody’s like, why aren’t they playing them? Well, they’re not playing them because they’re either shoot up games or they’re childish, like there’s something wrong with their mind. My parents don’t have things wrong with their mind, even if you have dementia or cognitive issues, you can experience some great joy going into and going on the trip to Paris that you never got to go on or experiencing your best symphony in New York City.

So, I think there’s a way to be connected. I know my kids when they would connect with my grandmother, when they went off to college one was in Rome, one was in California, we’d hook in the earbuds and we would Skype and she would see them and talk. It was like she was right there. That Alzheimer’s was just eliminated and it was amazing how much that connected and how much that heart work- we call it soul space and heart work- how much that did.

So, I think there’s a huge benefit and it needs to come even further. I used to be very anti-VR and I’m becoming more and more positive about it- super positive actually.

The other thing that they’re working on is that, you know, virtual reality vs. augmented- augmented is when you can kind of see things that says, hey, remember to pick up your prescription at CVS when you’re driving past in your glasses or hey, remember you have a doctor’s appointment or that kind of thing. That with VR, what they’re seeing is the glasses will go and do VR and AR, which right now it’s a choice. So, that means you can have it and you can choose how much you want. I think that choice is going to be super important in adoption.

Josh: So, Lisa, you get to speak and work with a lot of different groups that are developing communities, planning communities, along with that, there’s this whole planning for, a lot of people are talking about the boomer generation, they’re kind of not in our communities yet. Are you actually seeing with the design that people are actually planning and doing things that are planning or are we all just kind of as an industry still talking about it and trying to figure it out?

Lisa: I think certain people are doing it with design. They’re planning. I would say, you know, the designs are fresher and, you know, even when I take my kids there, they’re 22 and 24 and they’re like, oh gosh, I wouldn’t want to live here but I would want to live there. So, the designs are fresher.

From an operation standpoint, I think we’re still not there. You know, when you have to sign in and out- do you have to sign in and out of your own house?

Josh: No. Sometimes I feel like I do, but no I don’t.

Lisa: Yeah, do you have to get the key to go to the bathroom in the main lobby? Not usually. Yeah, so those types of things, I think that mentality has to shift. If we’re really saying this is their home and we’re there to serve them, then we should be there to serve them. And almost have more of a cruise ship mentality where we’re there to help you and have your best time that you can be and support you but we’re not here to prison guard you. (20:02-20:40)

Josh: Well, so, you bring up a really interesting point because I think, speaking from an operator’s point of view, you know, we get so stuck in the middle because you know we want to be forward thinking, the technology is overwhelming at the rate it’s coming to the market. But then we’re also saying, you know, what can we implement that adds value that we can afford and not price ourselves. But I’ll tell you one of the biggest challenges is the complexity of the relationship managing the conflicting expectations oftentimes. Because, you know, do we design toward the consumer when it’s actually the adult child making the decision and oftentimes those perceptions of expectations, they don’t even align and then if you think you get that figured out, you have the complexity of the regulatory environment that is trying to institutionalize our industry in my opinion.

So, I mean, where do you see this? I feel like we’re kind of just on this collision path where as the boomers hit the market, you get the affordability issues, the high expectations, the inpeeding regulatory environment- where do you think this thing’s going to come out? It’s almost like, you know, this force that something’s gotta explode at some point. Where do you see that landing?

Lisa: I’m super sympathetic toward operators. I was at Carington Senior Living in house and what happens now versus 20 years ago is ridiculous. Often, there’s a difference between trying to stop somebody from falling and being there when they fall to help them, right? I can put somebody in a rubber room and make sure that everything is padded, they don’t get hurt. But I take away all the sense of space and identity and home-like and that’s why most people don’t want to go back to senior living is they want to maintain their home-like environment.

But, you’re liable.

Josh: Right, absolutely.

Lisa: You’re liable. So, I think part of it is we’re going to see a huge shift to moving into almost a multifamily, multigenerational households with services. I think it’s going to kind of break down the barriers very, very similar to probably 25, 27 years ago when assisted living came on the mark. It was skilled nursing which was a health care environment; assisted living really wasn’t regulated.

Josh: Sure.

Lisa: Because it was a Swedish model. It was brought in. It was a home-like setting with some help and then over time it’s gotten more and more regulated, partly because of nursing homes wanting to maintain their business model and so they said if I have to have a nurse, you have to have a nurse.

Josh: Sure.

Lisa: So, I think it’s got to be more personalized than that. I think some providers that might create those environments, trial them out and see if they works, but they’re probably going to have to build it separate from what they have today. I’m very sympathetic toward that and I think that boomers are going to have to demand for all the services just because so and so needs that. I’ll pay for what I use and I’ll do it with home health and some other things. What your job is to provide me with really nice staff, the proper seat heights when I go to the restaurant, some activities and some friends and that kind of stuff and a little bit of knowing that I don’t have to worry about if I forgot to lock my door or something like that.

Josh: So, real quickly, my last question, Lucas, then whatever you’ve got-

Lucas: I’m on the edge of my seat and I’m just learning here.

Josh: Yeah, so, my last question, you know, there’s so many people entering into senior housing, a lot of what I would say inexperienced development groups that, you know, they get way down the line with their project and have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars and then they realize what they didn’t know and they’re going back and trying to fix mistakes.

So, we talk a lot about building the right team, so speak to that ownership group, that development group that maybe is starting to listen to our podcast because they want to learn something from the thought leadership- what is some of the first steps when that group has a site and market identified and they’re thinking how do I get this place to where we’re going to be able to fill it? So, what do we need to do?

Lisa: What do you need to do? I think, first of all, is that, hey, if you’re out there and this is a money ploy- don’t do it. It’s not that you’re not going to have it but I this is a mission play and you will be found out very quickly if you’re not doing its mission. It’s sometimes hard. You fall in love with people and it’s hard and people make mistakes and it’s a people job, not a real estate play. It’s not a hotel. You’re dealing with lives here and lives that you care about. If you wouldn’t put your mom there, take into consideration you like your mom, you know, but if you wouldn’t put your mom or dad there or your siblings there, you shouldn’t be doing this.

So that’s the first thing. Second of all, senior living industry is very different than a lot of the other industries. Just like we’re doing with limitless living, people are willing to help you. Even your competitors. So talk to them. They don’t want you to fail. They don’t want you to give the industry a bad mark. Hire them. Consult with them. Make them your friends. This is not that kind of evil, oh, I’ve got to go beneath the level and then hire experts. Read a lot. Survey folks. But really understand that operationally it has to work as well as functionally as well as it has to be great for the resident and it has to be marketable. You have to still sell to the older daughter which is, you know, not exactly easy.

Josh: Such great advice from Lisa. Thank you for coming back on our show. Thank you for not bringing the AI cat. As cool as it was-

Lisa: I was so tempted-

Josh: I was so uncomfortable as everyone has made fun of me.

Lisa: Just, if you have a chance, go back on Youtube or on Facebook and replay this because it was so awkward and it was so uncomfortable that I would just appreciate that.

Lucas: I watch it every morning when I start day and it just gets me in the right place.

Lisa: It’s inspirational. It makes you laugh anytime.

Josh: Well, my daughter loved watching that. She thought it was a real cat.

Lisa: Yeah, yeah. Well, I tell ya, when I take it on planes, which you know I do quite often when I’m speaking, the best part is putting it in the overhead storage and leaving the cat noises on. I mean people just, I’m a lonely person-

Josh: They’ll throw you under for that.

Lisa: I’m always like, it’s a robot! And then I do my whole lecture on, you know, this is what we use in Alzheimer’s dementia so it’s an educational thing that gets a lot of attention.

Lucas: We have covered a variety of topics here, including the cat, and Lisa there’s so many multiple ways to connect with you. We love what you’re doing. We love that you’re doing that you’re showcasing this through social media that people have access to this information. No doubt that we’ll put all our contact information in the show notes.

Great topic. Great day. Thank you so much for giving us your time and energy and this has been a great episode of Bridge the Gap.

Thank you to our supporting partners NHI, RCare, NRC Health, TSOLife, ERDMAN and Sherpa.

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Episode 53: Lisa Cini