When you tour a PARC Retirement Living residence, you’ll see a deep respect and appreciation for seniors. It’s evident in the way that PARC staff and residents interact with each other, the services and programming available, and the purpose-built communities that are located within bustling, central locations.
Behind the helm of all of this is Founder and Chairman, Rainer Müller. As a boy who grew up shadowing his architect and property developer father, and then going on to study architecture in Zurich, Switzerland, Müller acquired vast knowledge and experience, but wasn’t sure where his career would lead. It wasn’t until a personal experience with his mother in 1994 that Müller realized his purpose was clear.
Müller found himself searching for and moving his mother into a retirement residence near Zurich. Little did he know, it was a move that would change both her life and his. Müller saw his mother’s life become richer and more fulfilled because she lived in the heart of her community with access to services, activities and new friends. This experience along with a little prodding from friends in Vancouver led and inspired Müller to focus exclusively on the design and operation of retirement residences.
Today, PARC Retirement Living has firmly established itself as a builder and operator of award-winning retirement residences in BC. Offering more than just a place to call home, PARC Retirement Living specializes in providing fitness, arts and culture, nutrition and wellness programs to support senior health and vitality.
Summerhill PARC in North Vancouver was the first residence to open in 2001, and additional communities soon followed in Burnaby, West Vancouver and another on the North Shore. White Rock residence, Oceana PARC, is currently under construction and scheduled to open in summer 2019.
And, with a growing aging population and a rising demand for senior accommodations, PARC Retirement Living has ambitious expansion plans to build and operate residences in Victoria by 2021, Kelowna by 2022, and Coquitlam by 2024.
We caught up with Müller to learn more about business opportunities and challenges in the seniors industry, and the things he’s most proud of in his life.
What excites you most about being in the seniors industry?
What certainly excites me most is to see all these healthy seniors living up to the age of 100, 101, 102-years old, being independent and having a great life. I hope that I will age just as well.
What do you know now that you wish you knew back when you first began doing business in Canada?
Every country is different in terms of their development and building programs. It’s a very challenging process and the processes differ from municipality to municipality. To understand the process better, it takes a lot of time. Sometimes I’m still learning myself. I would have liked to have had more experience when I first started – that would have been more helpful.
How do you see retirement living changing in the next five years?
There will be more retirement living providers offering more specific services to its residents. I see some providers now becoming more specialized in certain types of care, such as memory care. Providers are also offering more programs to enhance your lifestyle.
What do you think businesses need to do today to adapt to the future needs of the aging population?
We have to understand that seniors each have different life experiences and very different needs. Businesses need to learn to cater to their specific needs – that’s where we can get better.
What are some misconceptions about being in the senior business that you’d like to clarify?
There’s a great misconception that senior residences are the same as nursing homes. And, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are a variety of senior residences that offer independent living, that are basically like condo buildings with services geared specifically for seniors. Seniors that live in these residences are active, independent, and able to direct their own lives.
What are some business challenges that PARC Retirement Living will have to tackle in the next few years?
Some of the challenges include ensuring that all our residences continue to retain and attract qualified staff. We’re also looking at some high-tech programs such as sensor technology to better serve our residents and further ensure their safety. And as we grow the company, we are continually challenged with finding sites that are not too expensive, but will allow us to build sustainable, vibrant communities profitably.
Personally or professionally, what are three things that you’re most proud of?
One accomplishment that I’m quite proud of is finding a very good retirement residence for my mother. She had some severe health issues but I found her a retirement residence where her life became richer and more fulfilled. She lived in the heart of the community where she had access to services and activities, and her family was close by. This was also a turning point for me in my career because the experience led me to focus exclusively on building and operating retirement residences.
I’m also proud of raising my children and being able to get them through the difficult and challenging teenager phase! My children and I are very close and we have a wonderful relationship. That for me is very meaningful.
The third thing that I’m most proud of and grateful for are the opportunities I’ve had to work in different countries and learn about different cultures.
What are three companies that you look up to?
The first company that crosses my mind is Chez Christophe, a Swiss pastry and chocolate shop in Burnaby, BC. The Swiss-trained Pastry Chef and Chocolatier, Christophe Bonzon makes the best croissants I’ve ever had!
Another company I look up to is the Swiss watchmaker, Swatch. The Swiss entrepreneur, Nicholas Hayek had such ingenuity to conceptualize a high-quality watch using efficient manufacturing techniques and a smaller number of watch components than its competitors. Hayek is also the industrialist who invented the Smart Car, my favourite car!
Lastly, I also look up to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. I very much admire the work they do to quickly help people in conflict and those living in war-torn countries.