Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier deputy news editor
At the beginning of September, Berry hired Laurie Steber as the executive director for The Spires. Steber moved to Rome on Oct. 22, and has since begun her position and become involved in the development of the continuing care retirement community. Steber entered the senior living industry nearly 15 years ago, when she took a position in the business office of a care facility. Once there, she quickly realized she wanted to serve the residents instead.
“I realized very quickly that the office wasn’t the fun part,” Steber said. “The residents were the fun part.”
According to Steber, that job ignited a passion for senior care that would eventually lead to her position at The Spires. When the executive director job opened, Steber immediately knew it would be a great opportunity. Her nephew attended Berry, so she was familiar with the Berry community. As she explained, she applied to similar jobs across the country, but the position at The Spires was her dream.
“The thought of the interaction between the students and the residents, and knowing where this was, was perfect,” Steber said. “When I read the description, my mind knew this was going to be it. It just really excited me.”
Steber described that most of her responsibilities are related to the future residents of The Spires. According to Steber, her main duty is serving the needs of those planning to move in after it opens.
“If something pops up, I figure it out,” Steber said. “I’m their friend. I’m their daughter. I’m their granddaughter. I’m the person that can fix something for them. I’m the person they can talk to. I’m their counselor. Ultimately, I’m there to keep them safe and happy.”
As far as development goes, Steber explained that most of the buildings’ exteriors are already partially or completely built, and some already have indoor facilities like plumbing. The construction of the site is currently on schedule and will be ready to open in June of 2020. Steber attributed this to the skill and organization of the construction company.
“The construction company is pretty amazing,” Steber said. “Usually job sites are a big mess, but they’re very organized. Being organized makes things a lot better. They’re a really good company and partner for the Spires.”
Steber believes that the Spires will be beneficial for both students and residents. As she described, the social health of elderly residents will be positively impacted by their proximity to younger people. Students, on the other hand, will be able to learn from older people with more life experience.
“The residents are very hopeful to get to give back to the Berry community,” Steber said. “They still have a lot to teach and a lot to give .This will keep them active and younger, because they’ll be with younger people who will have a great energy. I also think the students can learn to be at ease with a whole different age group. Not everyone’s lucky enough to have grandparents and be around them.”
Steber also noted the importanct role that young people play in the future of senior care. As she explained, young people often are uncomfortable with older people, however, the future will necessitate more young people entering the senior care profession. She hopes that The Spires will help to fix that problem.
“People get scared of older people,” Steber said. “I’m hopeful that more people in this age group can meet seniors and be at ease with them. There aren’t enough caregivers right now. We need to create the passion for seniors because we’re going to need everyone to take care of us.”
Steber understands that a major transition like this can make people uneasy, particularly in a situation like the opening of the Spires that can seem scary or new. With this in mind, she urges people to stop by her office, just as she does residents under her care.
“Whether it’s on Berry’s campus or at the Spires, my office is open,” Steber said. “I don’t like closed doors.”