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Harrison G. Saunders grew up in a small town and got his first job at a peanut store, where he learned about the importance of customer service and community. Those principles continue to guide him today in his role as president and CEO of Harrison Senior Living.

Harrison Senior Living offers post-acute care and long-term housing for seniors. Its mission is to create and serve communities through effective healthcare and hospitality, serving communities in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware for the past 50 years. The company has evolved to offer skilled nursing, rehabilitation therapies, memory care, assisted living, independent living and a variety of other services. “Rooted in family values and small-town origins, Harrison Senior Living is one of [a] few healthcare providers still prioritizing individuals and their communities,” the company said.

James and Katherine Harrison founded Harrison Senior Living in 1967 with the purchase of 17.5 acres of farmland in Christiana, Pennsylvania. Since opening that first facility in 1972, the Harrison family has opened four other locations focused on postacute care and senior living. Today, Harrison Senior Living is in its third generation of family leadership with Harrison Saunders, the founders’ grandson, at the helm.

Saunders came into the company while building his own landscape architectural practice. He was contracted to do urban planning for a retirement community and was also working on enhancing and building out the Harrison Senior Living locations and improving outdoor spaces. In that process, he was drawn to the inner workings of each location and its people. He transitioned into the family business and realized it was more rewarding to be among staff and residents than working from a drafting table.

Saunders became CEO on his 33rd birthday in October 2015. Since then, he has turned three of the five Harrison Senior Living communities around financially, taking them from consistent losses to consistent gains. The business has increased revenue by 20% under Saunders’ leadership, with marketing playing a key role, he said.

“I have been fortunate to have many role models and mentors so far in my leadership journey,” Saunder said. “They have exhibited the importance of a strong work ethic and a heavy focus on good values that can be applied in both business and servant leadership.”

In 2022, the 50th year of the company’s operation, Harrison Senior Living is working to expand services to medical and nonmedical home healthcare in all three of its markets. The company envisions opening restaurants and hotels in small, community-centered towns and evolving into a hospitality business. The company will also add membership programs at its senior facilities, allowing daylong retreats for those who want to test out a senior living lifestyle.

“Our industry is in great need of change,” Saunders said. “We have historically isolated seniors in closedoff buildings and gated communities. The healthcare provided today is delivered by disjointed providers. Senior living providers should be able to customize their services to meet the demands of the consumer. New senior living developments should aim to keep their tenants closely connected to the communities they serve.”


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