08/02/2013 05:08 pm ET Updated Oct 02, 2013

Focusing on the Future of Senior Housing

This week was a proud week for me; Aegis Living turned "Sweet 16." I started Aegis armed with a "black box" full of ideas, a heart full of passion and a stomach full of butterflies. I hoped to build something far different in senior housing than what I had seen in the industry to that point. I wanted to be more creative, to give our residents a voice no matter their cognitive state, and be a champion for our staff during their times of need. This resulted in two founding principles: provide the best care for our residents, and take care of our employees who will provide the best caregiving.

When I think of where we are today; these original ideas and principles are still paramount to our family-owned company. We not only aspire to have them but have actualized them, because we aren't driven by quarterly profits, but rather by our compassion. Our success has come from hiring like-minded people who bond together under the premise of doing the right thing for this frail and vulnerable population.

When my career began 28 years ago, the assisted living concept was first introduced because family members demanded an alternative to medical institutions and nursing homes. Families wanted residential settings that were less clinical for their aging loved ones. The success of the assisted living concept is a model built on "shared responsibility." The assisted living community that oversees the resident, the medical doctor(s) who care for them and the family who knows them best, all must participate in the holistic care of the individual for success.

Assisted living communities have now evolved to be a balance of both care and emotional support. Our Chief Medical Officer is vigilant about our quality of care and the exemplary training of our care managers and nursing staff. But just as important as meeting their care needs is meeting their emotional needs -- including loneliness, depression, frustration and confusion.

When my mom was suffering from the late stages of Alzheimer's, I knew that her happiness was found in the smallest moments of joy -- holding her hand, dancing to Frank Sinatra, a soft blanket, French fries... Every day, Aegis strives to bring these simple pleasures to our residents in both big and small ways. This business is personal to me. This is how I honor my mother. And I want to provide every resident with the best quality of life that we can.

My goal for the future as a company, and for our industry, is to better educate society about the realities of aging and the choices that you have in your own care. As the Baby Boomer generation ages, it is time to take a long, hard look at how you wish to spend your final stages of life and to really understand all the choices that you have in front of you. While there is no cure for old age - there is comfort, dignity and care for the aging.

Visit Dwayne J. Clark online at