Florida Senior Living Association – Tallahassee, Florida

August 1, 2023
Florida Senior Living Association - Tallahassee, Florida

Florida Senior Living Association

FSLA helps members, staffers and State of Florida


Aging gracefully with the Florida Senior Living Association


Associate Editor

TALLAHASSEE, FLA.––They say old age ain’t for sissies.

Old age always presents challenges for everyone, and we’d all like to grow old gracefully. Nowadays, America’s senior citizens have more options than ever before from countless groups helping them along life’s journey.

For those seniors lucky enough to live in the Sunshine State, one such organization is the Florida Senior Living Association (or FSLA). The FSLA, which turns 10 this year, represents assisted-living, memory care and independent-living communities that provide the best choices, options and quality care to thousands of seniors daily. It provides access to reliable, professional experts and staffers who successfully advocate on behalf of members and provide regulatory assistance.

Gail Matillo is the FSLA’s president/CEO, and Jason Hand is its vice president of public policy and legal affairs. We recently spoke with them about all the FSLA does.

Matillo said the group was created to improve industry-related laws and rules in the state of Florida. For a time, other states were surpassing Florida in this area. But the FSLA turned that around.

“With Florida being a senior-friendly state, we wanted to make sure that we made this state attractive to retirees,” Matillo said, adding that since 2013, “We’ve grown from representing 180 communities to over 475 communities, so we’re super-excited about our growth. And we think, here in Florida especially, assisted living is a popular option and will continue to grow as the aging population increases.”

“We want to strengthen our communities,” Hand said. “We want to enrich our residents’ experience, empower staff success and enhance our national marketplace competitiveness. Everything we do, I try to filter through that lens.”

He added that broad-based flexibility for FSLA members is a key to its success.

Florida Senior Living Association - Tallahassee, Florida

Educational opportunities

FSLA professional education opportunities are excellent.

The group strives to provide relevant courses for staffers in senior-living communities. Its professional development program helps providers maintain compliance with licensing regulations. It provides opportunities for learning about new research and developments in caring for an aging population.

FSLA programs offer the State-required core training, as well as 12-hour refreshers and quizzes for executive directors, in addition to many continuing-education courses. Plus, the FSLA annually offers: a senior living conference, legislative advocacy and maintenance workshops and a senior living retreat with other states. In addition, there are monthly regional meetings and specialized training in pertinent topics. And there’s Leadership FSLA, a year-long comprehensive leadership course for those wanting to advance in their senior-living careers.

By taking part in FSLA professional development programs, participants can earn continuing-education credits for an assisted-living facility administrator’s certification, network with other senior living professionals and take part in developing leadership skills to further their careers. The FSLA is an approved provider through continuing-education brokers for nurses, nursing home administrators, public guardians and physical therapists.

“It’s a broad and fascinating industry,” Hand remarked.

“Senior living is such a big profession,” Matillo agreed, “and it touches so many different facets, including the capital partners, corporations, owners, management companies, communities, staffers and the residents we serve, not to mention the ancillary services provided by thousands of other companies.”

She informed that in Florida, to become an administrator for an assisted-living community, an applicant must participate in a 26-hour course and pass a State exam. The FSLA offers that course and a 12-hour refresher course with trainer Monica Wilson.

“She’s probably the best trainer in the state,” Matillo observed. “We keep our educational content at a high level and offer a huge selection of topics for everyone.”

And she cited the annual FSLA-hosted conference.

“We pride ourselves on that,” she said, adding that the conference offers the latest information on industry-related technology, leadership, operations, clinical matters, sales and marketing and so much more.

Monthly meetings, held in each of the FSLA communities, are also important when it comes to addressing hot topics, as Matillo informed. As examples, she cited information on how to cope with burn-out and stress; how to apply for State career source funding opportunities; the latest regulations; and so much more.

“In our profession, we see quite a bit of turnover, so we are constantly offering educational programs that provide both personal topics and the latest updates, both on a local and state level,” she said. “Assisted-living providers have multiple State agency regulators, from the agency for health care administration and department of health to the fire marshal and local agencies.”

Matillo added that the FSLA participated in a membership retreat with its counterpart associations in Georgia and Louisiana. It was a time to bring State leaders and industry partners together to learn about what’s going on in each of the states.

Florida Senior Living Association - Tallahassee, Florida

And grant funding is also helping make training possible. The FSLA recently received three such grants, as Matillo revealed, and on-the-job training for CNA’s (or certified nursing assistants) is just one area that will reap the benefits of this important funding.

“The course is free,” she said. “This test is free. The materials are free.”

Creating career paths for employees is also an important goal, as Matillo observed.

“We need to train our own to ensure that we have the work force,” she observed. “We want to hire employees who want to advance in their careers. There’s so much opportunity in our business.

“CNA’s can move up to LPN’s,” following a year’s training, she added, “and that’s really a great career for folks who want to stay in our business and make a good salary.”

Maintaining and increasing those levels of trained staffers are very important things, as Matillo emphasized.

“There are definitely shortages, not only in our profession but also in every business nowadays,” she observed, citing two recent FSLA openings the group tried to fill for two months. “It’s just really hard to find the right fit, especially when you’re dealing with seniors. There has to be some passion involved in what you’re doing. You have to have that caring attitude and a loving heart to work in our business. That’s not everybody, so it does take a special person to work with us.”

An ongoing employee shortage, rising costs and the ever-increasing costs of liability insurance have all affected the senior-care industry in Florida within the past several years, as Hand noted.

“We have been hit with kind of a perfect storm,” he said. “It’s been tough for everyone.”

Hand cited a 2020 survey, which described a real retention problem. It stated that 87 percent of new staffers in Florida-based assisted-living facilities would quit within nine months.

“Not only was it hard to hire new people,” he said, “but also, it was hard to keep them.”

But hard work and perseverance win out in such crises every time, and Matillo stressed the importance of FSLA help to its members, their staffers and the communities they serve.

“We don’t like to brag about what we do,” she said, “but there’s not a day that goes by that we don’t do something to help our communities here in this state.”

She added that the FSLA remains ever vigilant in its mission.

“We are the watchdogs for our industry,” she said, adding that FSLA teams always strive to solve problems as soon as possible. “Our members are the best of the best. We really pride ourselves on the work they do and the work we help them do.

“We believe we’re valuable,” Matillo continued, also citing staffing increases to facilitate success. “We’ve done tremendous work for the past 10 years. We’ve passed six significant pieces of legislation in eight years’ time, which is just amazing.”


A big impact

With the baby-boomers––perhaps America’s biggest generation, at least in terms of sheer numbers––now deep into their 70’s and continuing to age, they’re requiring more and more age-related services.

And that big need means big business. As Hand pointed out, according to a recent survey, the annual economic impact of senior living in the state of Florida alone is a whopping $14.5 billion––more than the hospitality industry.

“You’re talking about 57,000 jobs directly supported,” he said, citing more stats for the Sunshine State, “and another 53,000 indirectly. It’s a government revenue of almost $650 million.”

Then there are other industries on which senior-living services have a direct influence. Hand noted these include construction, management consulting, real estate and restaurants. The Florida-based long-term care industry has an economic footprint that is truly gigantic.

And helping everyone––including staffers, residents and the State of Florida––is what the FSLA is all about, as Hand observed.

“One of the joys of being in an association is that often––very frequently––we might be the only avenue for our members to ask questions directly to the State,” he said, adding that the State in turn can reach out to many people. “We really enjoy being able to be there for our members, for our residents and for the State as well.”

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Florida Senior Living Association


Florida Senior Living Association (or FSLA)

Where: Tallahassee, Florida

Website: www.floridaseniorliving.org

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