Getting To Know Gilbert Carrasco, The Variel’s New Executive Director

February 14, 2024

Gilbert Carrasco is someone who follows his instincts. When he first visited The Variel last November to begin the executive director interview process, he immediately connected with our luxury senior living community. The staff, the residents, the design, the culture, the location — all of it just felt right.

“That’s how I gauge things. I’ve been to other communities where I’ve walked in and didn’t feel it, so I declined those offers,” he says. “When I came here, it immediately felt like a good fit, and I knew this remarkable community was something I wanted to be a part of.”

Gilbert officially joined The Variel as executive director in December 2023, bringing 20-plus years of experience in senior living, healthcare, memory care and environmental design. Before coming on board, he guided continuing care retirement communities in California and Texas through a pandemic, debt refinancing, multiphase master planning and strategic redevelopment.

Now Gilbert’s excited about leading The Variel as we transition from being a new startup — we welcomed the first residents in July 2022 — to elevating our distinctive and sophisticated living experience for active, independent older adults.

We covered a lot of ground when interviewing Gilbert for this month’s blog: His path from Walmart® manager to senior living executive; his passion for mentoring and creating purposeful spaces; why he likens The Variel to a luxury cruise ship; and if he prefers tacos with a hard shell or soft shell (spoiler alert: he likes both).

Embracing Community Life

To fully immerse himself in The Variel lifestyle, Gilbert moved into one of our vacant rental residences for a few months. “During the day, I’m learning about all the departments and how the community operates, but I also want to see, hear and experience what the residents do within the community and after business hours,” he says.

Living on-site has given him a genuine feel for the community — shared spaces, resident use of services and amenities, how apartment appliances and other systems function, safety measures, and the most effective communication methods. He’s also gotten to know our “down-to-earth residents” and hear about their fascinating lives and career accomplishments. (Resident highlight: A spirited debate over crunchy versus soft tacos following a midnight run to Del Taco.)

Elevating the Senior Living Experience

Gilbert says The Variel almost runs like a luxury cruise ship or a homeowner association. While the building is home to several hundred active older adults, living within a community environment means there are guidelines and principles to follow.

“This is a collaborative environment, and I’m relying on our active Resident Council to help me improve systems and processes, and reconfigure or repurpose spaces,” Gilbert says. “The residents understand there’s no way I can meet the individual desires of 400 people, but what I can do is work hard to make those 400 people happy most of the time and create positive experiences for them.”

Just a few months into his role, Gilbert already understands why The Variel boasts an 85% occupancy rate after only being open for a short time. And why so many residents encourage their friends to move here. And why Architectural Digest dubbed us a luxury senior residence “designed to stun.”

“The Variel is definitely not your mama’s nursing home,” he says. “Starting from the valet service and front desk hospitality, it looks and feels like you’re in a high-end hotel, not senior living housing. All the spaces have an upscale, contemporary design that promotes vibrancy and elegance.”

A Passion for Creating Better Experiences for Seniors

Gilbert’s advanced degrees in environmental design give him a unique perspective in his new role — knowing the most effective use of spaces, identifying operational inefficiencies, improving processes and creating senior living environments that are diverse, equal and inclusive. He recently completed his Ph.D. research on circadian rhythm and using artificial light in design to enhance residents’ living environment.

This expertise comes into play as he focuses on enhancing safety, security and communication protocols for independent living, assisted living and memory care. To maintain The Variel’s commitment to providing the highest level of care, he’ll explore monitoring and fall prevention technology to create better experiences for residents with memory challenges.

Gilbert has a personal connection to individuals with memory loss, as his grandfather led an active life with dementia. He plans to continue volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association® and nonprofits that support LGBTQ populations.

Nurturing Growth Through Mentorship

Working at Walmart while in college taught Gilbert the importance of building an environment where employees feel valued and want to stay, regardless of their pay. “People are motivated by either a mission or a person, and I’ve been fortunate to have mentors who inspired me to create such environments in my career,” he says.

“I’ve always operated with the philosophy that if I take care of the people who are taking care of the people, it will all be taken care of, and we’ll have a solid foundation for success.”

A strong advocate for mentoring and guiding others, Gilbert takes pride in witnessing their growth and accomplishments. He’s motivated by the emerging generation working in the senior living industry because they’re purpose-driven and passionate about their work.

“A Soul for Senior Living”

Gilbert’s own path to senior living began after college when he was a sales rep for a medical implant company in Texas. The role connected him with older adults undergoing hip or knee replacement surgery. “I built relationships with them and learned about their lives, sparking my love for seniors,” he says.

Witnessing elder abuse, coupled with reading an article from The New York Times about the mistreatment of elderly gay people in assisted living facilities, inspired Gilbert to shift his career to nursing and healthcare administration, and dedicate himself to serving older adults.

Gilbert says he loves being part of a team with a “soul for senior living.” Many staff members came to The Variel because of their strong connections with their grandparents or great-grandparents. Others didn’t have a chance to get to know their grandparents and enjoy spending time with and getting to know The Variel’s residents.

“When you get to a certain point in your life, you deserve to be able to live your best,” Gilbert says. “There’s no greater mission or opportunity than senior living and caring for our elders, and I can’t think of a better place to do that than The Variel.”

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