People aren't moving to Friendship Village for the same reason the executive director is living there: houses simply aren't selling in the current recession.

People aren't moving to Friendship Village for the same reason the executive director is living there: houses simply aren't selling in the current recession.

For Daniel Shields, the past few months have been a kind of total immersion experience in his newest posting for Iowa-based Life Care Services LLC. He not only runs the place but also resides in it.

"It's been a real blessing," Shields said. "I've had fun. I enjoy the interaction, engaging with the residents. Friendship Village, the first name is what it's all about here.

"The residents just love living here."

And Shields would love to have more of them doing so, but in the present economic climate, many people ready for a retirement community - or even in need of assisted living - find themselves unable to unload their last major asset, their home, in order to be able to afford it.

Shields can certainly sympathize. In the six months since he's been at Friendship Village he has been unable to sell his home in the Savannah, Ga., area in order to be able to buy a place in central Ohio.

While plans for a major expansion of the retirement community off Forest Park Boulevard are in place, including a new health care center and more independent living units, Shields said groundbreaking will have to wait until occupancy of what already exists picks up. He estimated that the 400 or so current residents represent roughly 75 percent of capacity.

"We're just dealing with a tough environment, with people not being able to sell their homes," Shields said.

Friendship Village is a nonprofit community that was established in 1978 and is managed by Life Care Services, which plans, develops and manages around 80 senior living communities throughout much of the United States, including two others in Ohio. Friendship Village has 231 independent apartments, 49 assisted-living apartments, a 14-suite secured memory care household and a 90-bed skill nursing facility on the 26-acre campus.

For the relatively new executive director, coming to Columbus involved a return to his home state. Dan Shields was born in Kettering and grew up in Centerville, just south of Dayton. He left Ohio in the mid-1980s to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tenn. He studied business administration initially, but wound up also delving into long-term health care administration after taking a few extra courses in the field.

"I kind of picked it up at the last minute," Shields said.

His career path was sealed, Shields said, when he did his first internship at a long-term care facility.

"I enjoyed the business aspects of long-term care, and once I did my internship I realized how rewarding it was to give back, how gratifying that was," Shields said.

After college, he entered an administrator training program with the company that ran Tennessee's largest privately owned nursing home. Shields was with that organization for eight years, moving around the country to handle special projects.

From there, Shields said, he moved into the nonprofit sector with continuing care retirement communities, and spent five years in Bowling Green, Ky., overseeing an expansion that doubled the size of an independent living facility.

"It was a great experience," Shields said.

Most recently, Shields spent three years administering a new facility on Skidaway Island outside of Savannah.

The opportunity to come back to his home state is what drew Shields to Friendship Village. He admitted he didn't know much about the facility, other than that it was well-established, unlike the situation in many of his previous postings.

"I typically go in and have to do change," Shields said.

At Friendship Village, the executive director said that he feels the need to build on existing positive resources and only then begin to look for areas that could use improvement.

"It's always different," Shields said of his workdays. "There isn't a typical day, and that's probably one of the many things that have made it attractive to me."