The History of the CALA Conference & Trade Show

From the beginning, CALA’s mission was to provide education to Assisted Living team members, supporting the high quality of services and care in California’s communities. The growth in conference attendance—from 64 attendees at the first Northern California event in 1995 to more than 750 attendees this fall in Rancho Mirage—is just one testament to the importance of that mission…and to the quality of education the CALA Conference & Trade Show provides.

I'll See you atThere have been many changes over the years, both in event format and in subject matter. For instance, there were a handful of years early on when CALA put on three conferences: two regional conferences in Northern and Southern California and one statewide conference. Beginning around 2000 the current format of two conferences per year was solidified.

In 1995, the Northern and Southern California conferences were only one day long. That quickly increased in 1996 to two days and again in 2001 to three days of sessions as a way of fulfilling members’ need for education. Similarly, as members’ desire to connect with the suppliers of products and services increased, so too did the size of the trade show—from only 20 booths at the statewide conference in 1996 to 75 booths at this year’s Fall Conference & Trade Show.

The profession has adapted over the years in response to the changing needs of residents, and the content of conference sessions has followed suit. In the 1990s, there was a focus on development and finance, as well as the hiring and training of staff. Also, the statewide conference during these years included one day of tours to area Assisted Living communities. This was understandable as there was so much growth in the state. The need for market knowledge and access to quality talent was crucial, and attendees were interested to see the latest in new design and innovation.

Moving into the late 90s and early 2000s, session subject matter expanded into the varied aspects of resident satisfaction, such as activities, therapies, dining, and design. There was also an increased focus on developing the talents of current employees in addition to attracting new talent. By the late 2000s, sessions offered insights from other professions, such as hospitality, pharmacy, and technology. And in the last few years as attendance has diversified, specialized sessions for grassroots advocacy, one-on-one media training, and vendors have been introduced.

From the beginning, however, there was a focus on legal and regulatory compliance; the 1996 Northwest Conference saw the launch of the first “Ask the Attorneys” session along with the first presentation by representatives from Community Care Licensing. Since then, each conference has provided crucial legal and regulatory information to its attendees. These sessions are always well attended and well received, reflecting CALA members’ commitment to quality and compliance.

Another constant has been the quality of education provided at these conferences. The very first evaluations received included these comments:

  • “Great speakers—well planned and implemented.”
  • “Excellent-plus. Best I’ve witness/attended in years.”
  • “As usual, CALFA* gets out the information we need!”
  • “My first-time experience has given me a good feeling about CALFA.”

And here is what we’ve heard from attendees throughout the years:

  • “Varied topics presented were interesting, thought-provoking, and useful.” (Spring 2000)
  • “Seminars were timely, dealing with issues that communities are facing today.” (Spring 2005)
  • “This was such a worthwhile use of time. As a first-time attendee, I was open to the experience—and not disappointed!” (Fall 2005)
  • “The choice of programs gave me opportunities to learn valuable information from knowledgeable people.” (Spring 2007)
  • “Thank you for another wonderful event. They just seem to get better and better.” (Spring 2010)
  • “I can truly say I took away something from almost every session that can be used in our communities.” (Fall 2013)
  • “Tremendous conference. Best ever. Great return on the time invested in each class.” (Fall 2014)

What will be said about the next Conference & Trade Show? What new topics or presenters will be offered? How will the event continue to adapt to the needs of its attendees? Make sure you’re there to find out! CALA’s Call for Proposals for 2016 conference sessions is now open…submit a proposal and be a part of history!

Submission Deadline: January 6, 2016

*CALA was known as the California Assisted Living Facilities Association (CALFA) until 2002.


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