Roberta Jacobsen, President , FrontPorch

CAST | September 13, 2018

LeadingAge CAST had an opportunity to interview Roberta Jacobsen, President at Front Porch. Roberta Jacobsen is President of Front Porch, a not-for-profit support system that serves more than 4,300 individuals and families through full-service retirement, active adult and affordable housing communities. Ms. Jacobsen has more than 30 years of experience as a leader in long-term care and retirement living.

Roberta, thanks for taking time to talk to us today. How about we start by you sharing with us a little bit of about yourself, your career so far, all the way to joining Front Porch and being the president?

Roberta Jacobsen: I started with Front Porch over 30 years ago, with one of the predecessor organizations. And at that time, I was an executive director, and about 20 years ago, when the corporations merged, I became director of operations, and about 15 years ago became president. I also have the pleasure and the great opportunity to serve as a director on our national LeadingAge board of directors. We’ve had several meetings here, and have been very busy, but it looks like a successful conference.

What is the most exciting thing your team at Front Porch is working on today?

Roberta Jacobsen: Right now, I think we have several exciting projects on the board. First and foremost is the redevelopment of some of our communities, which were older, and needed an infusion of capital improvements. So, we are expanding memory care in three of our communities and completely redeveloping one of our 65-year-old community in San Diego, so from a capital improvement standpoint that’s exciting.

The other exciting endeavor is really our culture of Humanly Possible! And Humanly Possible is a commitment that we have to our staff, and our residents, and our broader communities, to really be innovative, to explore, to imagine, to experiment, and in turn improve the lives of those that we serve.

There is a lot that’s happening in the healthcare space, with changing administration there is a certain amount of uncertainty that has crept in, into the industry. There are a lot of executives out there that need to make decisions in the times of uncertainty that we are in, what’s your advice and how do you as the President of Front Porch, when you make decisions, consider the changes that are in the industry?

Roberta Jacobsen: I couldn’t agree more, the changes that we’re experiencing in healthcare are profound, and they will be long-lasting. Healthcare reform in whatever form it ultimately takes has significant implications for our business, and I would recommend that all leaders, as we are doing at Front Porch, seriously pursue long-range strategic planning around healthcare. What the business implications are of the changes we’re experiencing, as well as the implications for our residents and those we serve.

What do you see as the role of technology at Front Porch, and how have you been able to leverage technology for change?

Roberta Jacobsen: We’re fortunate we have a very strong center for technology, and innovation, and wellness. And in that regard, we have really focused some of the technological advancements that we are implementing at Front Porch to meet our resident’s needs. We’ve implemented programs such as, It’s Never 2 Late(IN2L), we’re working closely with Amazon and have Echo and Dots in over a hundred of our resident’s units.

So, I think our focus right now particularly relates to technologies, what technologies we can adapt and improve the lives of those we serve and our residents.

How has LeadingAge CAST helped Front Porch in your IT strategy, in your vision for technology used in the organization?

Roberta Jacobsen: Well, specifically CAST has really supported Front Porch in our pursuit of some grants and partnerships. We have had the opportunity to collaborate with outstanding, major technology companies, as well as universities and CAST has provided an opportunity for us to have access to those major universities and major technology companies that are really focused on the senior living space.

When you look at IT talent, there is a lot of talent that is required to implement, the kind of things that you want to implement. And there is a new generation of IT professionals, and healthcare professionals that are entering this industry, and they are all looking up to leaders like you and saying “how can we become as successful as you are.” So, what’s your advice to them?

Roberta Jacobsen: First and foremost, if you walk around this Convention Center today, you will see hundreds of technology-related companies and industries that are presenting and exhibiting here. I will tell you 10 years ago that was not the case, so right off the bat to have that level of technology interfacing with LeadingAge is a great opportunity for those who want to grow in this industry, and learn about this industry.

So, being present, exhibiting, listening, learning, and constantly testing their technologies in the real world will give them the opportunity to advance quickly.

Thank you so much for that advice and the insights that you’ve shared with us, Roberta; we really appreciate your time, and I enjoyed this conversation.