Sloan Bentley was living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area when she received a call from a recruiter to interview for the chief executive position at Des Moines-based Lifespace Communities. With 12 senior living communities in seven states, including Deerfield in Urbandale, Lifespace is the seventh-largest not-for-profit senior living provider in the country. Bentley, who took the Lifespace job in March, has worked in the senior housing industry nearly 29 years, most recently as the CEO of Seniority Inc., a senior housing marketing and consulting firm. She and her husband, Dan Weimer, recently moved into a house they bought in West Des Moines. 

How did you decide on senior housing as a career? 
I was blessed to be raised by my grandparents, and I was very close to them. My grandfather walked me downtown in Martinsburg, Ohio, every day, and we’d stop by most of the front porches and visit with his friends. I just got to know their stories and gained an appreciation of seniors and what they’ve given back, their life experience. I knew I wanted to be in health services, and I went to school and they had a gerontology program, and it just seemed like the perfect marriage. 

Do you have a guiding philosophy about what senior living should be? 
For me, it’s a passion of serving our grandparents. I was raised by my grandparents, and I was taught to “Honor thy grandfather and honor thy grandmother.” That was a great lesson that I learned in my grandparents’ home, and to be able to dedicate my life to that was what really instilled that passion in me. 

What are some of the trends you see in senior housing? 
One of the future elements of senior living is bringing true hospitality services into our retirement communities. I think people think of a retirement community as really more health services. But really, many of our residents move into our communities very young, very independent and enjoy having the hospitality and freedom of choice, but with the provision of exceptional care and services. 

Other significant changes ahead for the industry? 
The biggest need is going to be for more senior housing, because we have a tsunami of baby boomers coming in. They’re not ready to move into retirement communities yet; they’ve just started to retire. How we’re going to meet their needs is really the biggest question. (In addition to in-home care services), there will also be a great need for housing and care for seniors, not just in Des Moines but nationally. And it will also be for a variety of economic needs. 

Earlier this year Deerfield underwent a financial restructuring. How did that play out?
Deerfield found itself in a financial predicament like many retirement communities throughout the United States during the Great Recession. During the financial restructuring (which concluded in March), we were able to reduce our debt and protect all the investments of every resident who has ever lived at Deerfield. So it was a win-win for us. This year, we’ve had more people move in than we’ve had in the last couple of years. So our momentum of having people move into Deerfield is great, which is important to the financial viability of the community.  

Do you see Lifespace acquiring or building more communities? 
I believe in growth, because the opposite of growth is being stagnant and we don’t want to do that. Lifespace has had a history of growth during our existence, and that will continue. We have opportunities that we explore on a regular basis. We want to ensure that all of our communities are running properly and are healthy, but we will be exploring growth in the future. 

Hobbies and community interests? 
Dan and I both play golf, and we’re looking forward to playing all the golf courses here in Des Moines, and even embracing all four seasons and really just making it our home. The first few months here, it’s been like drinking out of a fire hose, so I haven’t had time yet to think about getting involved. But now that my husband’s here, we need to find a church home and just get involved in the community. I’ve had a couple of people ask me to serve on boards; I’m going to explore all that. Right now I just need to get settled.