Simon Challies, Chief Executive of Ryman Healthcare (New Zealand's largest retirement village operator), has announced that he is stepping down from his position of Chief Executive due to Parkinson’s, a neurological disease he had been diagnosed with six years earlier.
“It (Parkinson’s disease) has given me a powerful insight into the challenges that many of our retirement village and rest home residents live with” he
said. It had changed the way he viewed operational matters such as managing multiple needs or accessing medical records, and simple things like using
a computer. Known fondly as “Simon from Ryman” he is described as a leader who never hesitated to "walk the floor of villages."
"I'm a great optimist and I think having Parkinson's has made me a better MD of a healthcare company than I otherwise might have been. It has certainly given me a degree of empathy and insight into the challenges our residents face, and it has taught me to make every day count." I'm sad to be leaving Ryman, but I'm looking forward to spending more time with my family and being able to contribute to the community in other ways."
Challies has been with the company since 1999. However, he said the demands of his job, particularly the travel, were becoming greater as Ryman grew, so he was handing over to Gordon MacLeod, the company's Chief Financial Officer.
Retirement Villages have changed to what they were 20 years ago, and as Challies puts it, you can “forget the boiled cabbage and stew for dinner with foul cooking smells permeating the corridors”. These days, many villages are comparable to five star resorts with facilities to match. Although he hopes it’s a few years away, Challies says he's not adverse to moving into one of “those nice retirement villages where there are big surround-sound home theatres, fully equipped gyms, heated lane swimming pools and scooter parks – not the fold-up ones the kids use but the motorised ones you sit on and whizz around the neighbourhood collecting speeding tickets."