Profile: Katie Smith Sloan

Katie Sloan, LeadingAge
Katie Sloan, LeadingAge

Editor's Note: This profile will appear in the McKnight's Long-Term Care News November print edition, but was published today as exclusive digital-first offering for readers. 

In September, Katie Smith Sloan returned from Perth, Australia, where she and other international providers came together for the biannual meeting of the International Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing. But the IAHSA executive director and LeadingAge chief operating officer's spirit of adventure goes back much farther: 

When she and her husband got married, they hit the road. 

“We decided to quit our jobs and go travel for however long our money would last. This was the '80s. We went throughout Europe for almost six months and came back, and started all over again. There was nothing fancy about our trip, but that was part of what made it so special,” she says.

Another memorable trip was in 1977, when the new college graduate and her widowed grandfather spent a week in London. The relationship was born out of monthly trips from New York City to visit her grandparents in the country, which also helped her develop an appreciation for “small-town America.”

“I had one of the most special weeks of my life with him,” she says of the London trip. “He loved Charles Dickens and Shakespeare, and London. It was his passion.” 

Sloan, one of three children, arrived in Washington, D.C., first as a teenager, when her father became headmaster of Sidwell Friends School. Then, after Middlebury College, Sloan worked for Sen. Tom Eagleton (D-MO), who was chairman of the Special Committee on Aging. 

“I was drawn to working in public policy. When I found the nexus between aging and public policy, I found my career path,” she says. 

After the Sloans arrived home from Europe, she began working as a consultant at AARP on housing issues. The next 15 years brought various other jobs, from programmatic initiatives to consumer affairs groups. Sloan and her husband, Rick, have two daughters and a son, who are now 21, 25 and 29, respectively. She also completed a master's degree.

An AARP colleague, Ellie Hollander, now president and CEO of Meals on Wheels America, says Sloan is a “superb listener.”

“She encourages people to speak the truth,” Hollander says. “So many people have strong opinions in our field. She is good at getting people to speak and then getting a group to move forward.”

Having worked at LeadingAge as a young professional, Sloan said she was thrilled to return in 2002. She served as the senior vice president for membership for six months before becoming the COO.

“There are several things that makes LeadingAge special. I think that above all, the mission of LeadingAge is the purpose to look broadly at the experience of aging,” she says.

Sloan says she burns off steam through being outdoors. She is an avid hiker and likes to kayak, especially near the family cabin in northern Maine. 

Now 60, she acknowledges “big changes” are coming to LeadingAge with the nearing retirement of President and CEO Larry Minnix. The opportunity to work with “amazing people has been a gift,” she says. For his part, Minnix says Sloan “has made me better at everything I do.” 

“Someone like me, with a ready-fire-aim personality, she makes me more thoughtful. I'm going to miss working with her. In some ways, she's been a mentor to me.”

1973

Graduates from Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.

1977

Completes bachelor's degree at Middlebury College in Vermont

1989

Publishes article on home equity conversion in The Southwestern: The Journal of Aging for the Southwest

1991

Becomes manager, consumer affairs at AARP

2000

Named AARP's Director of Life Resources

2002

Becomes chief operating officer at LeadingAge

2012

Named executive director of the International Homes and Services for the Ageing

2014

Becomes director of Sidwell Friends Council of Education