LORI ALFORD, chief operating officer of Avanti Senior Living, has Louisiana hospitality in her DNA. Growing up as an army brat, she witnessed her parents — both of whom were born and raised in the Baton Rouge area — share their love of food, friends and family as they relocated throughout the country. In a very similar way, Alford is extending that same spirit of hospitality to the residents of Avanti.
With two communities already established in Texas and another on the way, Avanti will open its doors in Covington early this summer. Alford said she is excited about the company’s first foray into her home state. “Covington is a good fit for us. The area has a cozy, family feel, but it is also very sophisticated and forward thinking. It is very much like Avanti. In fact, the name Avanti actually means forward in Italian.”
Taking the lead from her family and refining it with 20-plus years of experience in senior living, Alford and Avanti Chief Executive Officer Tim Hekker designed Avanti as an innovative senior living concept that changes the way people view and treat the elder generation.
“We took the same values of inclusivity and engagement that my parents taught me and applied it to senior living. Just as the key to hosting a great party is to engage with your guests, we knew the key to a successful senior community would be in our ability to engage with our residents, day in and day out. This is a fundamental difference in the way we operate,” Alford said.
“Today’s seniors are very different from the seniors of yesterday. Their generation is evolving. They are healthier and more self-aware. They have different needs and expectations,” she said. “Rather than dictate their lifestyles and expect them to adapt to outdated notions of senior care, Avanti is a community that centers around their lifestyles.”
From its architecture and interior design to its versatile programming and dining options, Avanti is more akin to a boutique hotel. Every aspect is designed to engage residents and encourage them to lead the most active life possible.
Avanti’s Mind.Body.StrengthTM program offers holistic educational programs and treatments. An art studio is available for residents’ use. An exercise room offers senior yoga, barre and weight classes. A full-service salon and spa provides massage therapy, aromatherapy, manicures, pedicures and styling services. In addition, Avanti’s signature restaurant, “Taste,” serves made-to-order delicacies in a restaurant style setting. There is even room service available!
What is even more impressive is that Mind.Body.StrengthTM is not an exclusive program for residents. Family members and guests are encouraged to participate. “Mom-daughter yoga classes, a ladies day of pampering at the salon, a family brunch in the dining room — these all underscore the fact that Avanti is their home. Our residents can host friends and family at their home,” Alford said. “The biggest compliment we receive is when family members tell us they wish they could live here.” For those residents who require physical assistance, medical care or memory care services, Avanti is leading the way with cutting-edge technology that maintains quality of life while preserving residents’ dignity. Avanti team members undergo intense hiring and training processes to ensure the highest quality of care. “No one wants to be reminded they need help,” Alford said. “Our caregivers truly personify our mission by going the extra mile to be discreet and respectful of our residents.”
When a gentleman suffering from early onset dementia in his early 60s entered memory care at one of the Texas locations, team members helped recreate his office to ease his transition and provide him with a sense of familiarity. Previously a very successful attorney, he was comforted seeing his degrees on the wall and performing the daily routine he had before suffering from dementia/memory loss.
Having your staff show initiative and out-of-the-box thinking is not unusual for an innovative company like Avanti. Yet, when input comes from your own children, it becomes a different story entirely. Alford’s children Bailee and Brayden have grown up visiting “the grandparents” as they followed their mother through her career. When Avanti was in development, Bailee, then eight years old, noted programming lacked in one critical area — engagement opportunities for young children.
Along with some of their friends, she and Brayden created the “A” Crew as a way for children to become more involved when visiting grandparents and great-grandparents. Their influence is evident in the featured board and video games on site, the snacks and menu items available at “Taste” and the special events that occur throughout the year. They even helped created the “A” Crew logo.
The “A” Crew program has expanded beyond periodic visits. Each summer, Avanti hosts the “A” Crew Camp, where kids spend one day each week with residents, reading to one another, playing games and performing arts and crafts. “We have certainly flipped the script with the ‘A’ Crew. Kids used to cry when they had to come visit. Now they cry when they have to leave,” Alford said.
“Being able to put our ideas into practice with Avanti is a dream come true. To have my family, my children, involved in shaping our culture is just icing on the cake.”
Avanti Senior Living of Covington is located off Highway 21 and Ochsner Boulevard. For tours or more information, please call 985-222-9747 or visit avanti-sl.com.