NFL Alumni Association partners with Validus to provide care for former players with dementia

By Jeff Nixon
Mar. 27, 2016

Sylvia Mackey speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony for the first of 33 centers to be built in cities where there are high concentrations of former NFL players.

The NFL Alumni Association has partnered with Validus, a builder and manager of senior citizen facilities, to provide special care to former players with dementia. You can read an article about this new collaboration by New York Times reporter Ken Belson at this link: Dementia Care, Tailored to N.F.L. Retirees

In the NFL Alumni Press Release on this partnership, the Executive Director Joe Pisarcek  said "The strategic alliance focuses on providing a better lifestyle for retired NFL players who need assisted living and memory care services. With an aging population and more and more Americans needing memory care services, including some former NFL players, we want to give our members an option that we can stand behind. We were impressed by Validus Senior Living and its Inspired Living brand of communities and know they will exceed our retired players’ needs.”

Although I personally believe this is a good development, there is some concern that retired players are being exploited by Validus.

In the NY Times article, Gay Culverhouse, former president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said “You can’t use players as bait to help Validus. Don’t put these guys on show. N.F.L. players who are demented are being exploited. They are marketing with no advantage to the players.”

The truth is, there are some advantages and perks for former players that use their facilities and it's not likely that anyone is being exploited. Joe Pisacik said “I can’t even tell my board of directors who’s in there.”  

If the players in the facility have no problem endorsing Vadius and everyone abides by HIPA laws, I just don’t see this as a problem.

In the article, Culverhouse said she would have no qualm if the alumni association recommended several assisted living facilities to its members. But she has opposed the Validus partnership because it endorsed one company over another.

The NFL endorses one company over another all the time. Whoever is willing to pay the highest price for a product or service, usually gets the NFL’s endorsement. That's free enterprise at its best and you can’t fault the NFL Alumni Association for wanting to try and help its members - and at the same time make a few bucks to help cover the costs of administering the Association. If some former players want to take advantage of the “white-glove” treatment and they're ok with being used to market the facility, then who am I to complain. From what I can see, the guys (and gals) that have endorsed Validus are quite happy and comfortable with the accommodations and that's why they're giving testimonials and don't mind being photographed.

Some might say that a guy with dementia or Alzheimer’s doesn’t have the ability to make the right choice, but I have to believe that they have loved ones that are helping them with their decisions and I don't think anyone is being coerced. Believe it or not, some guys like the attention they're finally getting. They are the casualties of the game, but not many fans want to be reminded of that.

Sylvia Mackey, the widow of former NFL player John Mackey, was instrumental in bringing attention to the fact that former players were developing dementia and other cognitive impairments.  Her efforts led to the establishment of the 88 Plan. Now we need to make sure former players know that it is available and can reimburse them for the cost of staying in a facility like Validus. Sylvia has endorsed the company and that’s good enough for me. She will also be the head of an Advisory Board for Validus Senior Living, so I think former players will be in good hands.

Now that Validus has broken the ice, we may see more facilities that are willing to ante-up and provide even more perks to the guys that gave their blood, sweat and tears to the NFL. Competition is good, and maybe the next time around (assuming they didn't do it this time) they can hold an open-bidding process and make several companies duke it out over who can provide the best care for former NFL players.