Sounds for seniors

Louie Richmond, a former public-relations guru in Seattle, has retired and returned to his first love: the cello. He plays at retirement homes and has just signed on as music director at Village Concepts University, which engages residents of the assisted-living chain in classes for credit. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

After a life in PR, Louie Richmond’s latest pitch is musical outreach.

Most people know Louie Richmond as the quick-witted public-relations man behind a number of Seattle-area hotels and restaurants.

For years, he was the face of the Alexis Hotel, then the Sheraton Seattle before opening his own firm, Richmond Public Relations — a place he eased out of last year and into retirement.

Before any of that, though, Richmond was a musician. A cellist. He started playing when he was 6, majored in music, then performed and taught for years before changing careers and entering PR (though he did help start the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s concerts-in-the-park series along the way).

Retirement has allowed Richmond to return to his first love, this time engaging those just a little bit ahead of him in the dance of life.

He has volunteered to be the music director for Village Concepts University, a pilot program that allows residents of the Village Concepts assisted-living chain to earn credits by taking classes. Everything from music to science and technology, political science and agriculture. There’s even an internship program, where residents volunteer off-site. So far, four of Village Concepts’ 16 campuses are participating.

Village Concepts University started last year and was inspired by research that shows that an educational model involving course study and credits can enhance brain cognition and physical and emotional growth in the elderly — as well as offset depression.

This week, Richmond, 73, will hold his first class at Village Concepts, focusing on Bach and his cello suites.

“I guess I’ve come full circle,” Richmond said the other day in the living room of his Blue Ridge home. “All the people who knew me all that time never knew I was a musician. It was never a part of the conversation.”

Now, it is all he wants to talk about, to do.

It all started several years ago when Richmond agreed to accompany a friend who was playing piano at a Christmas party.

The friend’s mother was a resident at The Summit at First Hill. When she died, the friend donated a piano to the retirement home in her mother’s name and invited Richmond to accompany her when she first played it for residents.

Richmond did, and kept going back, then added the Kline Galland Home in Seward Park to his play list.

“I wound up loving it,” Richmond said. He has been playing there every other week for the last five years and last year was named Volunteer of the Year.

“This was a highlight for a lot of people,” he said without ego, “and for some, the only chance to hear a live concert.”

He has played at the bedsides of those too sick to get down the hall to see him play.

One woman, a former cellist, gave him all her sheet music.

Another resident asked that Richmond play the Bach Cello Suite No. 2 at his memorial service.

Tracy Willis, the director of corporate development for Village Concepts, praised Richmond’s relationship with the residents.

“He really understands the importance of not just performing, but engaging with residents,” she said. “We’re so used to playing for people, and not considering their feelings about what they are seeing or experiencing.

“So we’re bringing residents into the process.”

Richmond not only plays, he talks about Bach and what was going on in his life at the time he composed his cello suites — and what was going on in the United States at the same time.

“That makes it more relevant to people,” Richmond said, and more accessible.

“I think, ‘Why is classical music so staid? And how can it be more relevant to people, more entertaining?’ “

“Clap when you want to clap,” he tells audiences. “Ask me questions.”

It helps, he said, that he’s 73.

“If I was in my early forties, I don’t know if they could relate to me.”

So often, he said, people talk down to older people, or they assume they can’t hear and talk too loudly at them.

“One woman said, ‘You treat us well. You don’t play silly music.’ I treat these sessions as if they were paying money.”

Bach wrote six cello suites; Richmond performs four.

“I’m saying to myself, ‘Next year, I’ll do the fifth.’ That way, I’ll always have something to look forward to,” he said. “I have goals. The great thing about music is that you never get there.”

He is grateful to have an audience along for the ride, listening, engaging and encouraging him. He hopes he does the same for them.

“I have an obligation to the composer, first, to play it well. Then I have an obligation to the audience.”

“I do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Richmond said. “And that sounds so cliche-ish. But there’s no other answer.”

NBA star gets into the senior housing game

Senior housing operators want their communities to possess an “it” factor: Something that catches future residents’ interest and persuades them to move in. For Federal Way, Washington-based Village Concepts, the “it” factor may come in the form of former NBA player Brian Scalabrine.

Scalabrine, who has played for the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and New Jersey Nets and is affectionately known as “The White Mamba,” has partnered with Village Concepts to build its newest community—The Adriana—on his land in Des Moines, Washington.

“Des Moines is a diamond in the rough, affordable and close to the water,” Scalabrine told Senior Housing News. “There’s a need for affordable senior housing, so we’re providing that need.”

The new community, named after Scalabrine’s daughters Adria and Elliana, is anticipated to open its doors March 2017. The five-story, 101,427-square-foot building will have 119 units and be available to seniors earning 60% or less of the area’s median income.

It’s not everyday that a former NBA player gets into the senior housing sector. And it’s unusual to find a partner—athlete or otherwise— who is so involved in the development process, Dave Baus, the development coordinator at Village Concepts, told SHN.

“It is a rare opportunity to be involved with a landowner who actually cares about seniors and is willing to walk with the developer,” Baus explained. “It was nice to see an owner take interest.”

Scalabrine became acquainted with Village Concepts through a friend, who introduced him to Chief Financial Officer Peter Jorgensen. At the time, Village Concepts was looking to expand its portfolio of 15 independent living, assisted living and memory care facilities across Washington state, and Scalabrine was looking to develop his plot of land in Des Moines.

Without Scalabrine, the land, which is a few blocks away from the city’s marina, would have cost more, Baus explained.

“The landowner in this deal has made it so the project can happen,” he added. “The site is an excellent site.”

Andy Langsford of Bellevue, Washington-based Venture Real Estate Group is one of Scalabrine’s investment partners. The team for The Adriana project is led by Jeffrey J. Hummel Architects of Seattle, and CG Engineering and Emerald City Engineering are the project’s engineers.

The value Scalabrine’s name brings to the community is not lost on Village Concepts.

“I think having a caliber name athlete brings strength to the project,” Baus told SHN. Scalabrine is well known in the area, too; he attended Highline College in Des Moines, he’s involved in the community of Enumclaw, Washington, where he grew up, and “he’s out there in the sports world.”

“He brings awareness to the project,” Baus explained. Already, Village Concepts has had three people who said they’ve wanted to move in to The Adriana.

For Scalabrine, the decision to go ahead with the investment is both practical and personal.

Des Moines has a special place in Scalabrine’s heart. His wife grew up about a mile and a half away from The Adriana site, and her parents still live nearby. He used to take his wife on dates by the water. He has felt for years that the area is underutilized, and could be better than it is.

This may not be the last the senior housing industry sees of Brian Scalabrine.

“I really like the sector, and I love working with Village Concepts,” he said.

Baus likely wouldn’t mind the chance to work with Scalabrine again.

“He’s as cool as they get,” he said.

Local NBA player partners with Village Concepts to build $23 million affordable housing in Des Moines

The Adriana, a retirement and affordable senior housing, will be built on the vacant land in the foreground.
The Adriana, a retirement and affordable senior housing, will be built on the vacant land in the foreground.

Former NBA Player and South Sound Standout Brian Scalabrine and Village Concepts are Bringing The Adriana to Des Moines This Fall

Last week, construction broke ground on The Adriana, the newest in the Village Concepts series of community-focused retirement and affordable senior housing. The $23 million project is scheduled to break ground this September in Des Moines, Wash.

The Adriana will be co-owned by Brian Scalabrine, a former NBA Boston Celtics player, Highline College student and elder care advocate. The project is named after his two daughters, Elliana and Adria.

Scalabrine and Village Concepts share a common mission; to provide outstanding housing for seniors where they can feel comfortable, valued, and safe. At Village Concepts, a family business, this philosophy has been passed down to Chief Executive Officer Stuart Brown, the third in a line of strong advocates for the elderly and those in need of assisted living facilities.

For Scalabrine, the desire to support senior housing efforts stems from childhood, when he would visit his grandparents in their mobile home park. Puzzled by the complacency surrounding the inexcusable treatment of the elderly, Scalabrine has been searching for a better solution for senior housing ever since. Investing in The Adriana is his way of giving back and honoring the countless contributions the elder generation has made.

Last week, Village Concepts donated $32,000 to the Des Moines Legacy Foundation’s senior center, a local organization dedicated to strengthening the community and creating opportunities for advancement.

“We’re honored to become a part of the fabric of the growing Des Moines community,” said Stuart Brown, Village Concepts CEO. “We’re excited to offer the Adriana as the premier community retirement location in the Des Moines area.”

The opening of The Adriana will help fulfill the need for affordable housing for seniors and contribute to the revitalization goals of Des Moines’ marina district. Residents of the new facility will be able to stroll through the nearby Saltwater State Park, visit the public library or take classes at Highline Community College. The Adriana will feature 119 units spanning across five stories and is slated to open fall of 2016.