Alan Curryer, 59, is the CEO of Rockwood Retirement Communities. The nonprofit group, operated by Spokane United Methodist Homes, manages senior living properties at its Rockwood at Hawthorne; at its much larger Rockwood on the South Hill facilities; and at its new affordable senior community, Appleway Court.
It’s in the middle of building the Summit, on its South Hill campus. This expansion, its largest, is scheduled to open in 2016.
In addition to apartments, the South Hill campus also has 165 cottage units for people looking for larger living spaces and a more independent lifestyle.
Q: How long have you been CEO at Rockwood Retirement Communities?
Curryer: For the past 13 years. Before that I was the chief financial officer (CFO) for Rockwood Retirement.
Q: Why did you go into accounting in college?
Curryer: I figured it was a good way to support myself, and my anticipated family. It came easy to me. I got a job in public accounting right out of college.
Q: Have you ever considered changing careers, or a a change from the senior living business?
Curryer: Actually, not so much. When I became CEO 13 years ago, it was a leap of faith for me. I was comfortable as the CFO. It was a leap for me to become (CEO) because I’m on the shy and introverted side. It was a career risk for me. But there hasn’t been a day since that I wanted a different job.
Q: So how have you overcome that shyness to become an effective CEO?
Curryer: Just experience and learning to be prepared. Being able to speak to the public is a matter of skill and practice and being prepared.
I still have butterflies when participating in public events or interviews. You overcome that by being prepared and passionate about what you’re talking about.
Q: What’s the history of Rockwood on the South Hill?
Curryer: Local United Methodist Churches banded together to build one of Spokane’s first retirement communities in the late 1950s. This building, Rockwood Manor, first opened on Nov. 1, 1960. It had about 250 residents the first year, mostly in studio apartments.
Q: What’s different now, in terms of apartments there on the South Hill?
Curryer: In early days the expectations (for living space) were different. Now we have about 120 apartments as residents wanted more living space.
Q: Is that trend continuing?
Curryer: It is. We see the same trends as in the housing industry in general. People want more room to spread out.
Q: What’s the overall plan for the next project, the Summit at Rockwood building?
Curryer: It will be 11 stories and have 65 “luxury” apartments (and will be connected at the ground level to the former Manor, now renamed the Ridge). The Summit apartments will range from 900 square feet to 2,210 square feet.
In addition to apartments, it will bring many new common spaces to the campus like a theater, event center and multiple dining venues.
Q: What’s the best part of your job?
Curryer: The interaction I have with our residents. And knowing we help them lead happier, healthier lives.
Q: And the downside?
Curryer: After you develop close relations with residents over time, it’s very hard to have them pass away. They become like family.
Q: How many workers do you employ here at Rockwood Retirement on the South Hill?
Curryer: We employ 240 on the South Hill and 85 at Rockwood at Hawthorne.
Q: What are the key qualities people should have to work at Rockwood?
Curryer: We look for employees who are caring and compassionate. They also should take pride in providing great customer service.
Q: How many residents are there on the South Hill and at the facility in North Spokane?
Curryer: We have about 400 residents on our South Hill campus, and will grow to 500 after the Summit comes on line. We have about 100 at Rockwood Hawthorne. We’ll soon have 62 at our Appleway Court property.
Q: What rules do you have for residents?
Curryer: There are a variety of rules designed to keep residents safe and keep the pace. We try to avoid having too many rules, though.
Q: What food is most consumed during the year? What beverage is served most?
Curryer: Chicken. Between Rockwood South Hill and Rockwood at Hawthorne, over 18,000 lbs, or 9 tons, is consumed annually.
Coffee is the No. 1 drink. We estimate between the two campuses, approximately 24,000 gallons is consumed annually
Q: How many people have been asked to leave due to possession of marijuana or opiates?
Q: Will smoking pot soon be allowed inside the buildings?
Curryer: All our apartment buildings have been designed as non-smoking for quite some time. Residents living in cottages are bound by the same laws as anyone else living in their own home outside our community. We will not be monitoring what our residents smoke.
Q: In an outside smoking area, like the one you have near the Manor, will marijuana be legal if smoked outside?
Curryer: There is a designated smoking area outside of the Manor. Currently, only traditional cigarettes or tobacco are allowed there. I’m not inclined to speculate about what the future may hold.
Q: Is having sex with another resident allowed?
Curryer: It is most certainly allowed. Sex usually contributes in a positive way towards a person’s wellness and we certainly want our residents to be as healthy as possible.
Q: What rule changes have come from resident concern?
Curryer: Roughly two years ago we only served alcohol for parties and special events. A vocal group of residents expressed their dissatisfaction with our policy and pointed out that, in their opinion, to continue to be competitive we should obtain a liquor license and provide alcoholic beverages as part of a regular dining program (for an extra charge, of course).
We listened, got our license and began selling beer and wine to our residents whenever they want so long as it is consumed in our dining/bistro area.
We also now serve hard liquor in the bistro. So, all is going well.
Q: What are your own plans when you retire?
Curryer: I’ll go off and work on our plot of land by Valleyford. I’ll spend time sprucing up the landscaping, enjoying the pool, kicking back a bit. I’ll continue on some community boards, such as Goodwill Industries, and Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels.
Eventually we’ll move into Rockwood. I like it here. It’s a lifestyle I would choose, with lots of independence and supportive services.