By Design 2023: Keynote Speaker Dr. Mary Kelly

April 14, 2023

“When confronted by crises, challenges, and change – like the pandemic – our response too often is to turn myopic”, said Dr. Mary Kelly, keynote speaker at the 38th Annual SFCS By Design conference.

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, retired Navy commander and now a leadership expert, Kelly argued that this is the exact moment when leaders are made.

“Our job as leaders is to make sure we look externally,” she said. “When you’re consumed by your own personal emergency, it’s very difficult to look externally and see what the future may look like. If we can - then everything is an opportunity.”

“In the world of senior living care,” Kelly said, “crises, challenges and change abound.”

1.  Aging population: The baby boomer generation is aging, which will lead to an increase in the number of elderly people who require services.

2.  Chronic conditions: With advances in medical technology, people are living longer with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory issues. These individuals will require ongoing medical support.

3.  Cost-effectiveness: As healthcare costs continue to rise, more individuals and insurance companies may opt for other services.

4.  Increased demand for personalization: People are seeking more personalized and convenient healthcare options.

5.  Technological advances: Advances in medical technology, such as telemedicine and remote monitoring, are making it easier for healthcare professionals to provide care in home-like settings.

6.  Reduction in hospital readmissions: Alternate facilities can help reduce the number of hospital readmissions by providing ongoing support and monitoring to patients.

7.  Changes in healthcare laws, such as the Affordable Care Act, are incentivizing the shift towards alternative options as a means of reducing healthcare costs.

“Throughout all of this, we as leaders have to see what could happen, and we have to have a plan,” said Kelly, hearkening listeners to By Design’s conference theme, “Untapped Potential: Exploring New Horizons.”

When the topic focused on changes wrought from Covid-19, Kelly asked conference attendees: “Why in the world would we want to waste a good crisis? If everything is on the table for change, how do we reimagine everything?”

She ticked off a familiar list of healthcare and senior living challenges:

She encouraged leaders to rethink hiring and human resources strategies to ensure that employees enjoy:

“If you can make people feel genuinely appreciated,” she concluded, “you stand out.”

Held February 21-22, the 38th annual By Design conference hosted by SFCS attracted more than 200 Life Plan Community professionals from 22 states including Oregon, California, New York, and Florida. They came to Roanoke, Virginia, headquarters for SFCS, for the conference mission: “Untapped Potential: Exploring New Horizons.” 

By Design will be back at the Hotel Roanoke, February 6 - 8, 2024. Please visit for more information.

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