Senior care is a growing concern for many people in the world. Hong Kong has a healthy, long-lived population with its life expectancy one of the highest in the world! The government provides a wide variety of social services and benefits to the elders, including community care and support services, residential care services, and social security. Combined with non-governmental support services, these measures ensure that the elders receive the help they need.
With a background in hospitality and hospital administration, Maria Lee has a varied background that I’m eager to learn more about on the show today. Maria is the founder and executive director of Roseville Senior Living Management Limited, a senior living company based in Hong Kong. Her Ventria Residence is pioneering the senior living concept “Retire in style, age in place.” We discussed the development of Ventria Residence Senior Living, and also talked through the latest technology in the senior living industry, and discussed how Eastern vs. Western countries approach senior living and elder care differently.
[00:00] Pre-Intro dialogue
[02:28] Introduction of Maria Lee
[03:15] Tell us about the founding of Ventria Residence?
[09:22] How does Ventria Residence differ from the CCRC in the United States?
[10:32] What implication does COVID have on the senior living development in Hong Kong and what has Ventria Residence implemented to combat the future pandemic of a similar scale?
[11:27] Can you give us some insight on the culture of your Ventria that you plan to instill? What does that culture look like?
[15:12] We need future leaders and I think you're setting a great example of what that leadership looks like. We're setting the stage on how the younger generation will soon care for us.
[16:50] Let's talk a bit about the latest innovations in senior living technology. How are your communities using the latest innovations to protect the residents and staff against COVID?
[17:49] I understand Ventria Residence also has a technology that I haven't heard before is called Chilled Ceiling Technology. Can you explain what this is and how is it helping the residents stay safe?
[19:15] How are you using cloud-based technology to ensure quality health care and safe monitoring of residents?
[19:58] Can you talk a bit about the importance of adapting technologies and products that the residents and the staff to be a closer cultural fit?
[22:53] How do you ensure all the residents are eager to adopt these new technologies?
[23:42] Discussion on ageism among different cultures.
[25:26] Do you think the Eastern cultures' way of respecting elders impacted Hong Kong COVID response?
[26:20] How do you ensure this notion of the importance of respecting your elders flows down to the organization, from you, and all the way down to the frontline staff in your company?
[27:46] What do you think is your biggest strength that enables you to have a unique, impactful effect on older adults? Maybe something that's not well known about you.
[31:29] How and when did you find that senior living was your calling?
[32:21] Do you think working closely with the parents and grandparents, has that changed you in any way?
[34:36] Why do you personally, find it rewarding to serve the aging population?
Roseville Senior Living: https://www.rosevillehk.com/
Ventria Residence: https://www.ventriaresidence.com/
I really appreciate the opportunity and I'm so glad that we connected. There's so much to learn and all the wonderful things that you folks are doing.Maria:
Yeah. And after all, I think you're the most knowledgeable person in the world about senior living because you interview so many people.Hanh:
Truthfully, I am a student of all of my guests,Maria:
I don't think so. After all, you will become a professor.Hanh:
Ah, thank you for shedding your expertise and educating all the folks here in the U.S. So, I'm very much excited for our conversation. Maria Lee joins me today on Boomer Living. Maria is the founder and executive director of Roseville Senior Living Management Limited. It is a senior living company based in Hong Kong. Her Ventria Residence is pioneering the senior living concept, Retire in Style and Age in Place. With a background in hospitality and hospital administration, Maria has a varied background that I'm very eager to learn more about it on today's show. And we'll also talk through the latest technology in senior living industry and discuss how. Eastern and Western countries approach in senior living and elder care very differently. Maria, thank you so much for being with me today on Boomer Living.Maria:
And thank you for your invitation.Hanh:
So can you tell us about the founding of Ventria Residence?Maria:
I started in two Oh nine. I have my own management company for 20 now is 20 24 years this year, but I set up the. Roseville management because of this project. So I started the project into Oh nine. Before the school, the knowledge. So I have to go through all these procedures for what do you call that? Town planning. I have to do the town planning. I have to do the application. I have to do all these all sorts of design and projection. So after I did all this, we decided, the church decided to go ahead. And then I also take over the funding. That is the most difficult part to do the fundraising for the entire project. So imagine I used five years to go and to match, the investor. So, finally I have the (inaudible) group who has 35 buildings, senior living in America. All are offerings 3000 rooms, so they understand. So the church also, the Ventria system, they also have 40 some senior livings in the world, especially the 27 in Australia are doing very well. So that's why with their support and I start to mango with them and learn from them. And then I start my own, division. Aside from senior living, I still have my hotel division. So I build many hotels as I said, within my twenty four years. And then I shift to senior living just to match the church, expectation. But I also do feasibility study for other projects and to help them to set up the guidelines and then the very first, stack. So then they can move forward. So that's how I work. So I started in 2009, but the project won't finish until 2023. It takes me 14 years because government don't have similar operation mode before. So every time when we ever, we try to, apply. So they have to think again and again, "This is a very ...", what do you say? "A very new approach." Because the regulation is some sort of a couple years ago, a long time ago. So like with all the technology and the setting is completely different because I'm using the American standard, that everyone has a room of their own. Mostly in Hong Kong, they all share rooms. So it's very different because they try to have many seniors can stay in the senior home as much as possible. They don't discourage the single room, setting. So this is something you know, about my company. So I do this because of the church, a mission. But the thing is, I'm lucky I have been able to get experience from senior living professionals from all over. So now we have a very, a whole group, that has very good experience with geriatrics and also senior. They know how to handle the senior. And lately you will see from my, you can see from my from my post that I opened a rehab center. That is a total comprehensive rehab clinic that we have our PT physical therapies, and then our OT occupational therapies, speech therapists, and then also the pro-diet and a nutritionist. And then also the geriatric doctor. So we try to, pre, what do you call that? purchase the medical services that we offer in Ventria Residence since I have the group here, because they are not only doing this, but we are working on a very comprehensive, I have to call software. I have been to the States. I have been everywhere. I've tried to look at the software, but not all of them feed our Hong Kong system, because we don't have an insurance system like you in the States. So the whole system in the States, they do everything, the medical record, and the pharmacies and all the records will go to the insurance company, and then they get paid the next day. But in Hong Kong, we don't have any insurance cover like that. So the guy, who uses the service, they pay. So then our system is very different. So finally I have to write my own, but I'm trying to incorporate the operation training model so they can see that, if someone fall, if a caregiver goes in and then what they do, there is a standard procedure. So they have to call the senior right away. They have to know - Don't touch the patient. Don't try to move them. This is sorts of PMP. And then we are trying to educate them. Then, everybody have a standard. This is something that you cannot find in other models. I'm doing this, not because of Ventria. I'm trying to do this for the industry. Yeah. We will share out to the industry.Hanh:
That's wonderful because you can't take some kind of software or technology from, let's say the. U S back to Hong Kong because of the healthcare system, the culture, the government regulation. There's so many moving components and they all different. So.Maria:
Yeah. Same as Australia. They are doing similar thing in the States. They are using the governments, their approach insurance approach, but Hong Kong, we can not, you know. Japan, they don't have also. Yeah. So we are very different, you know. Yeah.Hanh:
It's wonderful that you are spearheading this whole effort because your learnings here with Ventria, you're going to set those standards for the later senior housing to come. So that's wonderful.Maria:
Yeah, that's my wish, yeah.Hanh:
Yeah. You're on your way.Maria:
Now, how does Ventria Residence differ from the CCRC in the United States?Maria:
Actually, it's similar, but we are vertical. It's a vertical building within a vertical building. We have our independent living, 68 independent living units, and then we have 74 assisted living. But the assistant living is different from U.S. We have monitor care, we have nurses on each floor. And unlike some of this only offer care in the States. And then we have two floors with memory care. We call it memory care that you also have. So we can confine them, in the building, but we offer our garden, adjacent to it. So then they can also walk around and then have sunshine and vitamin D as if they are outside the building. So this is something different that we offer in our country. We don't have that much land. You see, we are all concrete jungle.Hanh:
Yeah. Very true. Now what implication does COVID have on the senior living development in Hong Kong and what has Ventria Residence implemented to combat the future pandemic of similar scale?Maria:
We installed the Chilled Ceiling, and then we will have the robot in each room. In terms of isolation, we have the Medicare and then we will, we'll introduce the telemedicine also. So the doctor, and actually we have a clinic inside our building, a comprehensive one, with the rehab equipment. And the doctors will come in, the director will come in. So sometimes they don't necessarily go up to the room and do the patrol, but they can do the telemedicine. So this kind of, equipment or system that can enhance, in future if another pandemic comes again. Yeah.Hanh:
Great. Great. Now, can you give us some insight on the culture of your Ventria that you plan to instill? What does that culture look like?Maria:
The culture actually is I tell you that is the neighborhood people, who like to move in they care about who are their neighborhoods. Because most of them, they have the Western experience. They understand what the U.S. senior home like. I have another, lady came here last week and to visit us. And then she's, she lives in Mountain View, in San Francisco. She understand. Then I told her that I got a lot of inspiration from from the American system, like a V it was operated by a hotel system. It was a Hyatt residence before. And then I went to the field, and they are very inspiring. So I'm trying to offer something, that's a very comfortable retirement community for our local. And then they, the one thing they said,"Because, I lived in the U.S. for a long time. I can retire there, but I missed the Chinese food." So food actually, food is important in the retirement life. That's why I'm offering, authentic dishes. I have a 21 day menu that they can never remember what they have eaten last week. 21 days is the three week cycle. So this is something you need to care. According to my visit, this 200 properties, the Japanese told me medication, why they move in is the medication. The second thing is the food. So I focus on these two items. So of course we need to have some activities as well, but these two are very important. Yeah. So to keep them going.Hanh:
Absolutely. Activities for engagement foods to just satisfy their taste buds and healthy food to ensure that. The living with longevity and it sounds great. This is so exiting time for you.Maria:
You heard about Loma Linda, right? You heard about Loma Linda? So we are one of them. So I understand the new style are very healthy food. So we try to mingle and help the residents to have a healthy life, yeah.Hanh:
That's wonderful. I think it's a heavy responsibility that in the operational side to uphold for these parents and grandparents to continue to thrive. And part of that thriving is that they know people around them care and have their best interests and can really dig into understand their emotional needs.Maria:
I think to really reap the benefit in this, I guess you call it a job for this calling. You really just to have a heart in caring for the folks.Maria:
To me is a mission, a vision. It's not a job. Yeah. So we're creating a business. It's not a job to me here at all. I want to train more young people. Train up a more professional with passion that they can move on. Because one day we have to retire, right? Yeah. So we need to the next rule. That's how, they nourish me 40 years ago and give me the scholarship, that's today. Then I can build the, property. A business for the society.Hanh:
That's very true.Maria:
Well, yeah. So I wish you know that we can have many, similar Ventria Residence's in the region. That's my wish. Yeah.Hanh:
I think you're on your way.Maria:
Thank you. Thank you for encouragement. Yeah.Hanh:
Yeah. I was going to say that we need future leaders and I think you're setting a great example of what that leadership looks like. And I think it's very true that you want to get them when they're just entering into college. And I also believe whatever that we do is we're leaders. We're setting the stage on how the younger generation will soon to care for us.Maria:
Yeah. Yeah. In fact, I started to go to USC to attend a gerontology training in 2017. And then in 2018, I sent another patch, and then in two, one nine, before the pandemic I sent three, also our nursing director, our physio director. So we are trying to offer as much as possible to let them to see the outside wall outside from Hong Kong. How people operate their senior home in the States and also I bring them to Australia. So then we visit a few. Yeah. Actually we hired Australian designer to help us to design a senior home, tell us what the color impact. What is the, dos and don'ts. So to start with a local designer. So we were quite happy to invest in the project, planning. Yeah.Hanh:
Awesome. I can see it now. It's going to be a huge success. So bless you with your aspiration and just a dedication that you have. So that is wonderful. So let's talk a bit about the latest innovations in senior living technology. How are your communities using the latest innovations to protect the residents and staff against COVID?Maria:
Okay. So you know that to deal with COVID every unit of our residence, is equipped with a robot that is connected to the Smart Living System and is able to control various devices inside the unit. And reducing physical surfaces, contact infection control during the COVID-19 for them, it is important. Now during the critical time like this, the robot also services in-house companion by performing tasks and interactions such as medical reminders and meal ordering, allowing our medical team to easily check in with them and monitor their health regularly. The robot can also initiate with your calls with the residents and family members, so that they can stay close in touch.Hanh:
Great. Great. Now, I understand Ventria Residence also has a technology that I haven't heard before is called Chilled Ceiling Technology. So can you explain what this is and how is it helping the residents stay safe?Maria:
Actually, we are the first residential project to adopt the Chilled Ceiling Technology in Hong Kong. The technology is based on Ceiling Based Radiant Cooling Panels, coupled with chilled water pipes. So in this system, the air supply is only used for ventilation and humidity control. And thereby the amount of air used can be substantially reduced, resulting in a substantial energy savings. So by minimizing the air movement across different units the Chilled Ceiling lowers the risk of airborne transmission and provides a silent energy efficient and safe alternative to air conditioning. So with this system, this unit at Ventria Residence can achieve approximately eight air exchanges per hour. We call it ACH, and that is a higher standard than the six ACH recommended by the World Health Organization and medical professionals. So actually it's isolation ward, in the hospital.Hanh:
Wow. Wow. Okay. So that will reduce and we'll remove any contaminants. So that's great. So, how are you using cloud-based technology to ensure quality health care and safe monitoring of residents?Maria:
Yeah. So, I just mentioned the robot. So the robot is also armed with a medical device, such as a high blood pressure monitor to take the vital signs of the residents. And the data is then uploaded to the cloud system for storage, enabling real time assessment and analysis by the medical team. What's more is it's capable for fall detection. The robot can patrol through the units regularly and promptly inform our medical team of emergency support if the sensor detects a fallen resident.Hanh:
Great. Great. So can you talk a bit about the importance of adapting technologies and products that the residents and the staff to be a closer cultural fit?Maria:
Oh, yeah. Smart Living System inside each unit integrates a range of remote control technology, including RCU's. That is the room control units, interactive voice command and facial recognition, and motion sensors. The system provides convenience to the residents, as well as safety by reducing the need of direct surface control, lowering the risk of disease transmission. In fact, lately, we have enabled the contactless button in the elevator. So they just can point to the, What do you call it? a switch without touching it? So, then they can bring them to the right floor. I should say the voice command. We use the Apple Home Pod into the system. The resident can control different devices using the voice command, and then they can say, "What is the time? And what's the weather now?" And others are phrases they can present like "Good morning." So all the light will turn on and it's movie time, then the light can dim it down. So then they can watch a movie, comfortably. The second is the Facial Recognition Dialogue and Assessment System. We will place the physical keys. Sometimes they always forget our keys, and unable to return to the room and eliminate the inconvenience. And then thirdly, the motion sensor is a very important part of this technology that they can activate a light to prevent the residents from falling in the dark. And then also the heart rate device can also be hidden when it's not used. And the microwave oven and sink and the older kitchen, we hide it. So then all sorts of gadgets we are using for the convenience of the residents. Besides, as I mentioned, the companion robot in Israel, we also have delivery robot for the linens and heavy stuff that can save the, risks, health risks of the workers. And then we have the conciere robot that they can meet our guest and client and relatives at the door. And also we have a full service robot that we can bring their food to their room. And then also the cleaning robots. So the whole property, we are trying to use the technology to offer a better service, but not to eliminate work power. So this is our intention.Hanh:
Wow. It's truly a smart home for the residents and. There's still a human touch because you still need caregivers. You need workers. And so that's great. So you're integrating the two and having technology use robots where it's appropriate.Maria:
Yeah. Yeah. We're trying.Hanh:
That's great. That's great. Now, how do you ensure all the residents are eager to adopt these new technologies?Maria:
In fact, we try to minimize, the residents to control all these things. Aside from (inaudible) unit, we would try to give them a wearable. At the moment we are not sure whether we give them a watch or ring or whatever. We are still working on that. But, if they used a wearable for access control, payment gateway, and all operate the touchless lift button, that is fine because we find that it's difficult to use the wearable that needs battery charging. So, we are looking for something that doesn't need any charging that will help, yes. This will also give them the ability to move around, yeah.Hanh:
Wonderful. Now, one thing that's really interesting to me in the senior living space is how different cultures regard their elders in how they approach elder care differently. For example, the Western cultures, like the U.S, aging is often seen as more negative than the Eastern culture. So have you noticed this disparity as well in your own career?Maria:
Actually not really, the Asian culture is still very much family tied and many still feel it's not appropriate to send their parents to the senior home. And then we have different welfare system, so deeply referred to a higher domestic helper that is not available in country too. But the carer of the parents at home.Hanh:
That's very true. So I think in America, a lot of folks see elders as almost that it's expendable. Like they've lived their whole lives already. And there's much ageism in this country. How do you think the average Kong citizen sees things differently regarding ageism?Maria:
Yeah. Hong Kong has the highest longevity rate in the world. In 2016, the life expectancy was 81.3 for men and 87.3 years for women. So, our government has started to care for the needy seniors over 30 years ago. And these senior homes are mostly operated by non-profit organizations or private senior homes through a subsidy policy. So all these settings are mainly for the majority of who qualify for subsidy, but Ventria Residence is offering something different that the baby boomers will have a home to graciously retire in style and happily age in place.Hanh:
So, I believe this impact at the two countries, different responses to COVID a lot. How do you think the Eastern cultures' way of respecting elders impacted Hong Kong COVID response?Maria:
Actually I cannot, say the Eastern culture or what, but I can represent Hong Kong that Hong Kong has a very a well set up department that is called our Social Welfare Department. And they have a very high standard in terms of licensing for elderly home. And they come in and check from time to time and they also want very, efficient to offer isolation camp for the elderly. Once they found they are infected with COVID-19, they will move the whole group to, an isolation, camp for treatment until they are stable. So they move them back to the senior home.Hanh:
Okay. Okay, great. Now, how do you ensure this notion of the importance of respecting your elders flows down to the organization, from you and all the way down to the frontline staff in your company?Maria:
So it's a very good question because this is a completely new model and I do come from the hospitality field and also the medical field. So I'm trying to mix the two together. So, the formation of our team are either from hospitality, half of them, or from the medical profession. But in addition, I should say that our administrator for Ventria Residence, and she is a very experienced social worker who has over 26 years of senior housing administration track record. And she works with passion and dedication. You can see she ownly served elderly for the last 26 years. And she's well liked by all the residents, before. So, our leadership team are also very sound professionals with ample experience and qualifications. And besides, we are a church. We have a Chaplin on duty with three social workers in house. So, to comfort, to listen, to assist and offer care at all times.Hanh:
That's wonderful. Now, what do you think is your biggest strength that enables you to have a unique, impactful effect on older adults? Maybe something that's not well known about you.Maria:
I belong to the baby booming group happily married over 40 years with no kids. I want to have care and medical support as I grow older. So, where can I get this help? So, that's why I'm trying to put all the service that I need into this operation. I took care of my parents and inlaws, four of them and understand their needs when they really get sick and weak, when they get old. So therefore I set up this Ventria Residence into Mott Matty Residents, to the senior, in a hotel plus hospital setting to offer a comfortable environment, plus comprehensive care plan models to suit each individual as they age.Hanh:
I can sense in your voice, your passion, your commitment, and just you're drive. And this is your calling. I can see that.Maria:
Yes, yes, yes. I'm lucky. And then I can do this project, just before retirement because I'm an Adventist. The site actually is my former high school and I was working with Adventist Hospital and got my scholarship to further my study, before I shifted into the hotel industry in 1980. Luckily I became the first female hotel general manager in Hong Kong since 1987. I want to dedicate my development, knowledge and skills as well as my hospitality managerial experience to make this icon project a success in Hong Kong in Asia.Hanh:
Beautiful. Beautiful. And it's a great way that you're giving back to the school as well.Maria:
Yes. Yes. So, a lot of people, a lot of alumni said, "Maria is tearing down their school and turning it into another project." I said, "It is time for us to do something, right? After education we should do some caring business.", yeah.Hanh:
Yeah. Yeah. It is a school, but now it has even a greater purpose to serve and to uphold heritage of hundreds of older adults. So, what blessing is that?Maria:
Yes. In fact we have a church next to our project it's a 75 years a church. We have a lot of conservation and re-build the church, and then we put back all the, memoir and also some, conservation items in it. So, people can have a very fond memory of the building.Hanh:
Yeah. That's so important because I think when folks, baby boomers, parents and grandparents, when they have to to move on to the next place. There's lot of memories There's a lot belongings that either.Maria:
They like the old times, old things and old days.Hanh:
Yes. And the fact that now it's a home with all these technology to ease their day-to-day living and to have a church nearby, to continue to grow in their spirit. What a blessing.Maria:
Yeah. In fact, the church has given us a big hall that can seat 180 people that we can go and do our exercise, our meetings, our concerts, and then all the activities that we can use during the weekdays while at blessing.Hanh:
Very nice. Like to go there someday.Maria:
Yes. Yeah. You're invited to come and then, and visualize yourself.Hanh:
Yeah. Yeah. That would be nice. Now, how, and when did you find that senior living was your calling?Maria:
I should say, it's 12 years ago. And then when the church decided to redevelop, we didn't know what to do with the building. So we are thinking of doing international school or orphanage aside from education, right? So we want to do also, what do you call that? public health education. But all of this it doesn't sustain because, it needs a lot of money to sustain the business. But the things nowadays you can hardly find often instead we find every family has very, small numbers of children. So, then that doesn't work. So, finally with said, "Maybe we should set a target to serve our seniors in the local region, because we don't have enough, but always don't have enough."Hanh:
That's very true. Now, do you think working closely with the parents and grandparents, has that changed you in any way?Maria:
I'm delighted. I always, take care of my parents and in-laws, and also the friends and church members, the elderly in my church. So, I enjoy being with them and givin them support and then learning from them. Everybody has different stories and backgrounds and history. Yeah.Hanh:
I think that...Maria:
I really enjoyed that.Hanh:
I think that's one of the experiences that you get to share with them is their lifelong stories and wisdom and storytelling that I don't think we hear enough nowadays. I think nowadays kids, adults, myself included, we kind of scroll flip, whether it's your phone or, just a bit much. And when you find a moment when you can just sit and enjoy and learn and listen from the older adult stories and wisdom, something about that, it's it's very calming.Maria:
Yeah. Mhmm. So, I think we should spend more times with our seniors, and listen to them and be company and accompany them. That is very important. So, I miss my parents. They're already gone. I wish they were here that they can enjoy what I'm doing. Yeah.Hanh:
Yeah, I do too. I tell you I'm in my mid fifties, my philosophy of life, now, is definitely different than when I was in my twenties and thirties. And I just wish like what I'm telling you right now, I've also shared with my children, who are in their twenties. You just wish that the wisdom you have now, you can just freeze it and just give it to your kids.Maria:
Yes. I wish I can do that. But I don't have kids like you.Hanh:
Yeah. I wish I would have spent more time. Aint that the truth. That would be so wonderful that I had that wisdom earlier. But I hope that people that are listening, I think when they have kids and I hope that they'll pick up on this insight. But I appreciate you passing on your wisdom.Maria:
Thank you. Thank you.Hanh:
Yeah. So now, why do you personally, why do you personally find it rewarding to serve the aging population?Maria:
Because we all know that, aging is a global issue. So, in not too far that every fourth person will have one senior. So, this is our trend and I trust, Quality Operation Model will be well liked by the professional or baby boomers or even the younger generation in future. So, aside from, serving the senior, we have also created jobs. In my property, I have 150 or more, jobs to offer for the community, and then they fit, they need to fit the families. And then it's also a very good training ground. And also this is our responsibility to solve the aging issue for the society and offer care. So, actually senior living is a rising, industry. Do you agree?Hanh:
Yeah. It's more and more in need. So, after all, I thank God for his guidance and blessing that I can accomplish, a very meaningful project in my life before my retirement.Hanh:
Yeah. Yeah. It's very Very true. I'll tell you the folks that you will soon to be serving. They're very blessed to have you. So, that's wonderful.Maria:
Thank you. Yeah. Thank you very much. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much, Hanh. And look forward to your visit, in future, all right?Hanh:
Absolutely. All right.Maria:
So, let's keep in touch. Yeah. So, then did I answer all your questions?Hanh:
You sure did.Maria:
Thank you very much. And thank you for your time. It's getting late for you now.Hanh:
That's okay. That's okay. So, I'm so glad that we met andMaria:
I follow you and we talking on social media. So, that's wonderful. Let's continue.Maria:
Yeah. Let's do that. Okay? I continue to listen to your, all your interview. It's very interesting. I learned from everybody.Hanh:
Really, every talk, yeah.Hanh:
Yeah, I learn a lot.Maria:
Give me some inspiration. Okay. All right. Yeah. Bye.