the entire continuum of services for seniors. “We have members who provide adult day, in-home services, transitional care, assisted living. Our guiding principle has been to serve seniors in whatever place they call home,” she said. She’s lobbied hard to help seniors stay in

their homes as long as possible, urging the state to make extensive use of the elderly waiver under Medicaid. At the same time, she has devoted efforts to ensuring a smooth transition for those who move to senior communities. Right now, for example, she’s working with acute and primary care physi- cians to ensure information flows smoothly during these crucial periods of adjustment. In the political realm, she has likewise

sought to build bridges in her efforts to influence policy. “Ultimately it’s about a shared vision, and the shared values that flow from that vision,” she said. “If the vi- sion is that people get the right services and the right support to live their best lives, then everyone can have a role in that regard- less of what service they may be providing. People can come together around that vi- sion and they can work together across the whole continuum.” It isn’t always easy to get to that point.

In 2015 for example Minnesota set out to overhaul its nursing home reimbursement policies. At first, providers and regulators and other stakeholders may not have seen eye to eye, but eventually a common vision emerged, making it possible to go forward. “We agreed that we could all support in- centives for positive health outcomes, in an ideal reimbursement system. That gave us a starting point. If you can get to that high- level agreement, that becomes a checklist against which you can measure the propos- als on the table,” she said. More recently Kvenvold led an effort to

address the potentially contentious issue of maltreatment in senior communities. Lead- ingAge Minnesota helped restore calm by launching its Safe Care for Seniors initia- tive. “This is the providers’ responsibility and it is a responsibly that they embrace. We are giving our members actionable steps that they can take,” she said. ADVICE TO YOUNG WOMEN: “Col-

laboration today is expected and essential. Always ask who else needs to be at the table in order to accomplish things. Try to iden- tify common ground and actionable steps for moving forward.”



Having spent nine years in skilled nurs- ing, Dee Navarro still drew a blank when a friend approached her about a job opening in senior living. “I didn’t know what IL and AL were. But

I went to check it out and it was a gorgeous building with wonderful amenities. I loved my years in skilled nursing, but this was very different,” she said. Having made the leap in 2000, Navarro

has never looked backed. “It was almost like going to Disneyland: The community was vibrant, I was dealing with folks at a more optimistic stage in their lives,” she said. “Plus, this was a chance to do more sales versus admin stuff, and I saw that as an opportunity to grow my career further.” Her early work in senior living dovetailed

ideally with her personal needs at home. As a recently-divorced mom, she was able to stay in the same spot as an executive direc- tor during her kids’ critical elementary and high school years. When the kids moved off to college, she moved up into management. “Eventually I became director of opera-

tions for a region, with out-of-state commu- nities. It’s sort of like an executive director on steroids, with the chance to groom and nurture other executive directors. I felt like I could empathize with them in their daily struggles, while still helping them to meet their goals,” she said. Navarro continues to grow her career. In

2017 she took on the job of regional direc- tor of operations of MBK Senior Living after serving for a dozen years with Blue Harbor Senior Living. “When I was approached with MBK’s op-

portunity, when I went to interview in their of- fices, I automatically felt that this was a culture I wanted to be a part of,” she said. “One of the phrases we use is the Japanese phrase that translates to ‘the good work.’ The company encourages the staff to give back to the com- munity and even asks residents to participate, whether it’s an Alzheimer’s walk or knitting baby caps for a local children’s hospital. When I saw all the things they did to give back to the communities where their buildings are, it was just heartwarming.” Her biggest professional challenges these days are around staffing, a sore point for

many senior living leaders. Wildfires in California have made it that much worse for Navarro, as many potentially qualified workers have been forced to relocate. “We are having to get very creative,” she

said. “Wages have had to be adjusted. We’ve made sign-on bonuses part of the package. We’ve increased our educational support. And we are doing a lot more community outreach, and a a lot more work to educate youth who are coming into the workforce, in terms of where they can go with their careers.” That kind of outreach not only helps to

keep the pipeline filled with ready workers; it also is a source of professional pride. “The industry has been my life-blood, it has been very giving to me, so getting people turned on to the industry is actually something I really want to concentrate on. It’s very per- sonal to me,” she said. ADVICE TO YOUNG WOMEN: “Every-

one is going to get old, the aging process isn’t something we can avoid, so this is not just a job, it can be a career. The roles may change but this industry is one that you can stay with for the long term.”


Katie Potter took a non-traditional route to the top of her profession. The chief executive at Five Star Senior Living is…a lawyer? Yes! She started working with Five Star while

handling the company’s legal fairs as out- side counsel at Boston law firm Sullivan & Worcester. She moved to The RMR Group, a massive investment operation that manag- es Five Star. While she still holds the RMR title, since January she has invested herself full time in managing the senior living en- terprise she has come to know so well. As a lawyer “you do one transaction and

then you move on to the next. You never get to be part of the integration, part of seeing it through,” she said. “I was excited at the possibility of being more engaged in the business enterprise.” Potter has been busy on the business side

since taking the helm. She’s led her team through an effort to significantly revamp the way the company reviews contracts and vets its vendors. She’s also worked closely with HR to put a renewed focus on recruiting and retention. At the same time, Potter has focused on her own professional development. Many top

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