The Sunrise Story

Sunrise Founders Paul and Terry Klaassen have shared a passion and vision to champion quality of life for all seniors since 1981.* That’s when their unique, resident-centered philosophy of care was first put into practice in the first Sunrise community. It is now shared by the Sunrise family of more than 300 senior living communities in three countries around the world.

First-hand Experience

Quebec senior housing founders Paul and Terry KlaassenAt the age of 15, Terry Klaassen and her father struggled to care for Terry's terminally ill mother at home rather than put her in an institution with cold corridors, hard linoleum floors and harsh fluorescent lighting. She came to understand the essential role families play in long-term care decisions and the importance of incorporating dignity, trust and independance into caregiving. After her mother's death, Terry and her husband, Paul Klaassen, volunteered at several health and senior care facilities and gained valuable first-hand experience on the needs of aging individuals. Again and again, they saw relatively healthy older men and women who were forced to give up the comfort, privacy and independance of their homes. They also witnessed how these men and women had their dignity and choice taken away from them, simply because they needed a little extra assistance. There were no options for them other than the institutional environment of traditional long-term care facilities.

An Idea From Holland

Originally, Paul's family was from the Netherlands. As a child, he visited his grandparents in assisted care houses, called "verzorgingstehuizen." There, seniors lived in a warm environment. They enjoyed the independance and dignity of doing all the things they had done on their own–shopping, cooking and laundry–but they also had the security of assistance when they needed it. Paul and Terry decided to introduce this concept to the United States, and began planning for a comforting and much more resident-centered senior living community.

The young couple sold their house, then moved into and renovated a boarded-up nursing home in the United States. In the first year of business, Paul and Terry cared for the residents themselves. Together, they turned a vision into a reality. Word spread of this new senior care alternative–an alternative that perfectly balanced individual privacy with community spirit, and independance with assistance.

Tapping a Vast Need

Senior CommunityIn response to increasing demand, the Klaassens opened two more Sunrise communities in the mid-1980s. They retrofitted old buildings to meet their new philosophy of care. The result was a secure, comfortable and familiar environment for their residents. It wasn't long before Paul and Terry were imagining an even better community–one built from the ground up. Starting with the understanding that a high quality of life is only possible in environments that people find warm, nurturing, comfortable and welcoming, they looked for ideas in places like restaurants and fine inns, small European hotels and single-family homes. It was through this process that they also developed a list of Sunrise Signatures, subtle homelike elements that are a part of every community, further setting Sunrise apart. These community models were a drastic departure from the typical nursing facility, where virtually every element–from the fluorescent lighting to the long, institutional corridors–resembled a hospital more than a home. In 1987, Sunrise opened the first of their Victorian-style mansions, now a recognized symbol of Sunrise's high-quality assisted living.

Sunrise first opened a community in Quebec in 2008.

*Sunrise Senior Living, Inc. was founded in 1981. The Canadian subsidiary, Sunrise North Senior Living, Ltd. operates the Canadian Sunrise communities.