CHERYL LUCAS: Hi. I'm Cheryl Lucas. And I'm the director of culinary services for Mather LifeWays. We are a very small organization, but we're 75 years old. And we are in the senior living business. And we are a charitable trust, so we have three different initiatives that we support. One of them is called community initiatives. So community initiatives are a series of wonderful little cafes that are in neighborhoods where the older adults have chosen to age in place. They're kind of a combination of a Starbucks and a diner and a great place to communicate with people and hang out. And we are-- I wish I could show you some pictures, because they're really adorable. They're a bit kitschy, but that's OK, because living in a neighborhood, you kind of want that kind of thing.
So community initiatives is just a fantastic place to hang out. One of the things that I love about community initiatives is that the little restaurants that we have there produce the absolute best quality food. We cook everything from scratch. Everything is made order for you. And it's priced so reasonably that a person who is really struggling with their finances can walk in and have a great meal and spend a great afternoon.
The other side of that is that we have our luxury senior living communities. And these are-- did we just see the French toast? Never mind. Our luxury senior living communities are in Evanston, Illinois. They're in Tucson, Arizona. That happens to be the wine room in Tucson, Arizona, where we do beautiful wine dinners that have the curated wine menus that are associated with beautiful foods.
We are at the luxury end of the market. Someone living in Tucson will spend $1 million to live with us. So we have to be very, very concerned about how we deliver that product to people, because we have a very, very high expectation of what people want to receive on a daily basis. Our cooks, our chefs are all classically trained. We cook everything to order. Unlike you, Michelle, we're only doing 300 meals a day. Lovingly, each plate goes together for our residents. And we pride ourselves in the fact that we can customize anything for someone. When someone comes in to live with us, they tell us what their dietary needs are and we provide that for them.
SPEAKER: $1 million-- is that lifetime or is that per year?
CHERYL LUCAS: No. So the $1 million--
SPEAKER: My wife's going to want to know.
CHERYL LUCAS: OK, so the way this works is we ask you for $1 million for a beautiful-- and you get a beautiful apartment. Then every month, for the pleasure of our company, you're going to pay us many thousands of dollars. So your expectations are very serious, very, very high. When I started out in the senior living business back in '89, we sheltered you, we nourished you, we tried to entertain you a little bit. Today, it's very different. Today, it's all about the experience of aging, how to savor all the different facets of your life. Perfect. I know. The [INAUDIBLE]-- so we got two slides. We got the guy with the sax.
Well, at least I'm entertaining all of you. But one of the reasons that I am here is because, while senior living is not very sexy, it has learned to glamorize itself over the years. We are in the most wonderful areas. We can hire great architects. We can hire great interior designers. The key here, though, is once you build the edifice, the human relationship is really what takes precedence, because no matter how beautiful that dining room is or that lobby is, if I don't feel welcome, then I don't want to live there.
So what we as an industry tend to struggle with at that very high end is that we really are looking to find the balance between what is it like to live in a Ritz Carlton and what is it like to live in a Mather LifeWays? Because it's not really the same, although people are expecting that the quality of the service that we provide be at the level of a Ritz. Yet we get to know you, because we live with you.
So what I would love to see, from my perspective, is truly more education that reaches directly into the operations. I wish that I can say that most of the people that we hire come with great education. They don't. They don't. It becomes our responsibility to develop them. And this is a very competitive market. We are looking continually to find that right person who has that right personality, that has the desire to be more.
As I have worked through my career in this business, we've gone through all sorts of canned training programs. Some work better. Some work less. The fact is today, there needs to be a real understanding of what senior living needs from a hospitality perspective and how to be both caring and nurturing and yet, you now make people feel that this is the best place they could ever want to be in their life. So I am just delighted to be here, to be part of this group. And I hope to learn from you all and we can show you how to have a good time for a lot of money. So thank you all.
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Cheryl Lucas, Director of Culinary Services for Mather LifeWays, speaks about the importance of innovation and the success of community initiatives at Mather LifeWays, a long-established senior living community. The talk was part of the Healthy Futures Roundtable held on October 10th, 2018.