For Nick Vizzoca, nothing beats a summer evening spent at PNC Park eating a hot dog while watching the Pittsburgh Pirates. But a close second is seeing the residents of Terrace Place at Vincentian, a 91-unit independent living community, light up as they use the facility’s smart technology to video chat with their grandchildren.
“Seniors are a lot more capable of learning how to use new technology than people often give them credit for,” says Vizzoca, head of the Vincentian Collaborative System, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit serving more than 2,000 seniors annually through its three long-term care facilities, two independent living communities, two child development centers and a rehab company.
Vincentian recently incorporated smart technologies, including iPads, Alexa and fall detection sensors, into its independent living homes. While the learning curve is steeper than you’d find with a millennial, “once they get it, it’s great to see the looks on their faces,” Vizzoca says. “They’ve completely embraced it.”
This year, Vincentian also launched an intergenerational living program with several students attending nearby LaRoche University. The students live rent-free at Terrace Place and spend at least six hours per week with residents, helping with things like technology, organizing social events and performing light housework, says Vizzoca, who, at 47, became one of the youngest CEOs in the industry when he took on the role at Vincentian in 2016.
As a pediatric cancer survivor, he’s also an active volunteer with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
“Getting cancer at 12 years old really puts life into perspective,” Vizzoca says. “It’s what led me to knowing I wanted to work in healthcare and help take care of people.”After successfully entering remission, physicians told him he might not be able to have children, yet today he and his wife of more than 20 years have three kids, who range in age from early elementary school to a college freshman. Together, they enjoy hiking, watching sports and taking part in car shows.
The oldest son of Italian immigrants, Vizzoca says people are often surprised that he didn’t start speaking English until third grade.
“My mom was a stay-at-home mom so she didn’t have the opportunity to learn English and my dad was a bus driver, so he didn’t get much interaction beyond telling people the fare,” he says. “I thought it was normal to only speak Italian.” But he credits his parents and grandparents with instilling a solid work ethic within him.
“My grandfather always told me to keep my eyes and ears open and my mouth shut, because you learn more that way,” Vizzoca recalls.
He continues to follow that motto as CEO, incorporating an open-door policy and visiting Vincentian’s facilities often, to ensure he is accessible to the organization’s 600-plus employees. He’s also become an advocate for more affordable housing options for seniors, says Susan Lewandowski, administrator at Vincentian Marian Manor, one of the organization’s skilled nursing facilities.“Nick is a passionate leader who cares about providing joyful and compassionate care. It is clear that he is not just here to mind the store,” she says. “He strives to make things better and always has his eye on what is next.”—