Mixed Age Communities

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A growing trend as the population ages, are residential buildings that are home to people of all ages, including those who might be referred to as “elderly” (although I believe there is resistance among those of us over the age of 65 to think of ourselves as elderly). But for now, some residential buildings in both the cities and suburbs are becoming what have been known as NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities). They typically attract “empty nesters” whose children have moved out, so that they no longer need or want the amount of space and type of home in which the family was raised. Many of these building offer amenities such as well-equipped fitness centers, spas, swimming pools, yoga rooms, shuffleboard and billiards to name some of those most frequently found. The benefits are not only physical. For the older residents, the presence of younger adults creates a vibrancy. For those who are younger, fears related to aging may be allayed by exposure to older adults who are living active, meaningful lives. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Additional Services

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As an industry we continue to rediscover how to conduct business during the ongoing pandemic. We offer a variety of services that may meet the current needs of your community including-

  • Competitor Updates – conduct telephone conversations and website reviews with existing competitors and prepare an updated profile of each with an emphasis on what has changed (such as fees, expansion, repositioning)- we could also identify/survey any new competitors that have opened since our original report
  • Demographic Updates – provide an updated demographic profile of your target market based on current and projected data – and compare it to our previous analysis of demographics
  • Market Area Definition – obtain current information on resident origin and compare this to how we defined their MA previously to see if there have been any significant shifts.  If we also do the Comp Updates that might shed some light on why the MA has shifted (assuming it has)

Focussing on the Middle Market

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The “middle market” is receiving a great deal of attention as well it should. How one defines the middle market is the first question that should be examined. Both a bottom and a ceiling will help establish the parameters. The bottom, would be based on the maximum income for subsidized housing, which may vary by state. And the top will vary from market to market. For example, if the competitive product is priced so that it is primarily affordable to those with incomes of $60,000 or more, then $60,000 should serve as the maximum income for the middle market. The critical question is how to create senior housing products that serve this market segment. Several ideas come to mind. First, the site selection and the type of construction create a framework. Then what goes inside the building in terms of common areas and amenities and unit mix and sizes play a significant role in establishing pricing parameters. In a recent Active Adult Virtual Summit, the middle market was addressed. One interesting point was that it may be easier to serve the middle market if an underperforming property can be purchased. Another recommendation was to integrate a middle market project in a mixed- use development. This provides that opportunity for residents to purchase services like meals, as desired.

COACHING

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At the Spiezle architectural firm’s recent Aging Forward Executive Roundtable conference, Steve Lindsey, CEO of Garden Spot Village, gave an inspiring presentation on being supportive of the staff’s best efforts. He referred to the concept he delineated as Coaching and he structured it in a way that was reflective of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The bottom of the triangle was Task focused and included basic competence and security and performance and related both of those to the supervisory roles. But the majority of the triangle was all about coaching and was focused on development of the team members. Starting with Relationships, it moved up through Contribution, Grown & Development, Best Self and Legacy which was at the top of the triangle. This structure, which is employed by Garden Spot, is designed to support each employee’s efforts and abilities to make a difference in in each other’s lives and performance as well as the lives of all of the residents. It is a paradigm-shifting structure that establishes a format that enhances the ability to “discover the BEST Version of YOURSELF and fulfill a LIFE OF PURPOSE. Just imagine what implementing this approach would contribute to the lives of employees and residents of senior housing communities.

Why Socialization is Important

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One of the downsides for the aging population is the loss of a spouse, other relatives and friends. This has accelerated as a result of Covid 19. Loneliness is known to be a threat to your health. According to an article published by the CDC “social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death and… may rival those of smoking, obesity and physical inactivity”. Loneliness results in several other increased risks including heart attacks, strokes and depression. Of course, in this year of Covid, socialization has been severely restricted. It appears that with the help of the vaccines, we are beginning to emerge from the “lockdown” mentality and behaviors.
The benefits of socialization include reconnecting with friends and family members. Carefully engaging in small group activities and returning to things such as enjoying a meal at a restaurant with friends improve the quality of life for all of us. So, let’s be careful and joyous as we recreate what was known as a normal life.

Vaccine Hesitancy

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Getting vaccinated against Covid 19 has deservedly taken up a lot of space in the media and cases are dropping as a result.  Nonetheless, there continues to be hesitancy among some of the population.  This seems to be based on concern arising from the spread of misinformation, particularly on social media.  A strong argument can be made that getting vaccinated is not only good for you and for your loved ones, but good for the community in general.  We’re not suggesting that getting vaccinated should lead to massive gatherings of crowds at the beach or inside small, tightly packed venues.  We do believe that getting vaccinated has already proven to be an effective way of resuming something like a normal life.  Just look at the family gatherings that were portrayed on the TV coverage of Mother’s Day.  Families who hadn’t seen one another, hadn’t shared a warm hug, were finally reunited.  The emotional benefits couldn’t have been more obvious.  So, get vaccinated!  It’s free and its good for everyone.

The Psychology of Language Regarding Older Adults

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A significant message that must be conveyed is that seniors or older adults are not “the other” – they are us. And if we endure, we will be them. How this segment of the population is portrayed is directly influenced by the words that we use to describe them. Let’s explore how language can create a positive image of those who may have more to contribute to society because of the depth of their experience throughout their lives. Here’s one good example: replace the word “still” with “continuing”. “Still” suggests a type of surprise that seniors remain involved in their lives in a productive way. Continuing clearly communicates the fact that many older adults have not stopped being involved in giving back to the communities that are important to them. These communities might include the local area in which they live, their places of worship and service organizations. Other positive words are “mature” and “experienced”. They attest to the values that older adults bring to decision-making whether it relates to their friends and families or other organizations and activities with which they are involved. So, let’s think about older adults with positive and productive words and phrases. They’ve earned it.

When Should You Update Your Market Study?

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Market studies are conducted for various reasons and at various points. The reasons include making a data-based decision about whether or not to proceed with a development, informing potential partners about the value of an opportunity, and ultimately securing financing for a development. At the early stage of the process, a good market study will provide feedback on where you can expect to draw the majority of your residents, the proposed features of the development including overall size, the composition regarding levels of care, unit mix and proposed pricing. Assuming the project is still in the planning stage, it should also offer suggested modification, if appropriate. However, in addition to the reasons presented above, there is great value in updating a market study even after a community has opened. It will insure that you are well informed about existing competitors and planned competition. The latter will prevent you from being blind-sided by a new community that may be after some of your market share. It will also give you a sound basis for making modifications to your existing community, such as what you include in your base fees vs. services that can be offered for additional fees, and whether you have underperforming units that don’t compare favorably to your competition. The latter will help you to determine, architecturally, if modifications can be made. Fundamentally, its always a good idea to be well informed about the market in which you operate. Word Cloud on blue background.

What’s So Great About Normal?

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Aside from the fact that “the new normal” is now such an overused phrase, what else can we say about it.? Normal is defined as “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected”. Is that really what we want to aspire to in all aspects of the senior living field? It seems to me that it is a minimum standard and that we should all strive to exceed the minimum. From a provider’s perspective, the minimum will not help you stand out among your competition. It’s a baseline which operators should seek to exceed in as many ways as possible. Average food quality won’t cause residents to want to use the dining rooms. Average amenities are the least one might expect. Using tried and true (formerly) approaches to attracting the interest of prospects may not get them in your door – physically or virtually. As market feasibility consultants, we must always evaluate how we are assessing the market for our clients. Are we doing everything we can to properly define the market area for a new development? Are we using all available resources to identify both existing and new or planned competitors? Are we making reasonable assumptions to size the target market and factor in the impact of competition? After more than 30 years as a leading firm in conducting market studies, I can safely say that seeking to go beyond “normal” has often led me to re-evaluate my approach to my work and achieve breakthroughs that increased the reliability of the results.

Defining “Community” In the Age Of Covid

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It’s now been over 9 months since Covid 19 changed everyone’s life. Lock-down is a phrase that is associated with the different world that has become the “new normal”. We know that loneliness is more than just a mental state of mind. It can contribute to declining health, particularly for the elderly. So how do we now define “community”? It encompasses many changes. The dictionary defines virtual as “existing or resulting in essence or effect though not in actual fact, form or name”. As I wrote in a previous blog, the word “virtual” has taken on broadened meaning and it is contributing to the way in which we communicate and socialize with friends, family and colleagues. “Zoom” is no longer just a description of speeding. It’s a platform that has become a critical tool in getting together with others both personally and professionally. We visit with our family members, share stories and catch up on how we are doing. We “meet” with our staff and our clients whenever possible in order to personalize our communication. In other words, we adapt so that we don’t have to exist in isolation.