More than ever, professional market research provides a sound foundation not only for planning purposes but as part of the lender’s due diligence process. While it may seem that by the time the lending decision is reached, the market research has been done, it is still an important element in the lender’s decision to finance a senior housing development. And as the developer pursues financing options, they are likely to include the market study in their presentation package. If it’s not there, needless to say, a lender experienced in seniors housing will ask for it. Aaron Rulnick, Managing Partner at HJ Sims says “An independent market study is a critical element of our due diligence process when we are considering providing financing for a senior living project. Whether the project is a start-up or expansion, we advise that the market study should be completed in the initial planning stages to guide other critical decisions in the development and financing process.”
In a recent article in Senior Living News, architect David Dillard talked about active adult community development being on the upswing. Why is this happening, and what are the implications for the senior living industry? One obvious reason is the size and timing of the baby boomer generation. As boomers (and many others) no longer need the 3,500+ square foot home in which they raised their families, they are looking for the next step in their living arrangements. For many, Active Adult Communities (AACs) are the answer. They offer smaller, but well- designed residential options with all the bells and whistles that a couple are looking for in their new home. These communities frequently include such amenities as clubhouses with fitness centers, swimming pools, gathering spaces for social activities, and even kitchens where group meals can be prepared. Once primarily structured on a for-sale basis, many new AACs are available for rent, a growing market choice for older adults once they sell their homes. The growth of rental housing for seniors was the subject in the April 1 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The article, entitled “More Older Adults are Relocating to Rentals Around Philly – Sometimes Close to Where They Owned a Home” cites the flexibility and freedom being enjoyed by the couple interviewed. There is no reason why traditional senior housing providers can’t enter this segment of the market. While AAC residents are not looking for the “continuum” which implies “need” rather than “want”, the physical disconnection but organizational connection may offer the best of both worlds.
I had the pleasure of attending a fantastic program at a CCRC a few weeks ago. You may recall the blog I wrote about my sister-in-law called “It’s the Best Things We’ve Ever Done”. She was referring to their move to one of the retirement communities in Pennsylvania. Well the program was called “Love is in the Air” and it included musical performances and comedy routines all presented by the residents. It should have been called “enthusiasm, talent and joy is in the air” because that’s what it felt like for the performers and audience alike. We still are burdened by the belief that it’s only “care” that’s in the air, but It’s so much more than that. My sister –in-law (about to turn 81) said “we don’t feel old around here”! And the show that we enjoyed proved that over and over again. Hats off to you, Barbara Parsons, and to all of your pals.
Strategic planning is an important and complex process designed to create an implementable game plan for enhancing your organization’s future success. It involves key personnel, an internal assessment, a financial review of operating results and financial position, a review of resident services and utilization. This all leads to visioning and setting goals and strategies. What about your competition? It is critical to understand who and what you are competing against, the competitors’ market positioning and the details of what they offer. Only then can your organization have a full understanding of your community’s current market position relative to your competitors’ product offering and pricing. Don’t let this important element be overlooked as you and your team delve deeply into the other critical steps in the strategic planning process. An outsider’s ability to gather and interpret this information for you will add immeasurable value.
Your staff spend time talking to a prospect by phone and then even more time giving them a tour and learning what they can about that them. And then it goes nowhere – it doesn’t turn into a sale. It feels like a waste of time. But it doesn’t have to be. A lost prospect survey conducted by telephone can yield information that has great value to your organization. Let some time go by and then reach out to see what you can learn. First, be respectful and send a letter or an email to that prospect to ask permission to have an independent consultant conduct a brief telephone interview with them. If they say yes, then include questions such as what they liked and what they didn’t like about your community ranging from design to services, staff interactions and pricing. Then ask whether they looked at other communities and how yours compared. And finally, find out whether they decided to move to any retirement community and if not, why not. This kind of information can help you consider what changes are possible that may enhance the appeal of your community. And it will sharpen the knowledge of your staff, as well.
There is no question that high tech devices are becoming prevalent in resident accommodations in all sorts of senior housing. It’s not unusual to find Alexa answering questions like “what’s the weather like today?” Or even facilitating communication with staff. And technology is a more efficient way to determine whether a resident has taken a fall in their room and needs help. In a recent Senior Housing News article, Alexis Ohanion, an American internet investor and entrepreneur, emphatically indicated that robots will not replace human caregivers as these staff members are less replaceable than many other types of workers. Caregivers are able to create an empathetic human connection. Steven Moran, in the March 20 issue of Senior Housing Forum points out that when senior housing team members are introduced to new technology, they may already “feel overburdened with what they have to do right now”. One of the greatest challenges our industry faces today is finding and retaining qualified staff such as aides and caregivers. Their ability to develop relationships with residents reinforces their perception of their value and the importance of their jobs. So high tech has its value but it will never replace high touch.
“I don’t want to live with a bunch of old people”. How often have we heard that? As we Baby Boomers begin to approach an age where we might be contemplating a move, we’ll probably hear it more and more as the notion of only living with other older adults is becoming less inviting. Intergenerational communities are becoming a hot topic as evidenced, for example, by the December/January issue of Seniors Housing Business in which the last article is called “Mixing it Up is the Future of Senior Living”. Among other things, the authors, Diane Dooley and Phillipe Saad, refer to mixed use communities as a great place for intergenerational housing. In fact, we are seeing an increasing number of apartment buildings where amenities include common living areas like a gym, party room and library and seniors who are downsizing and living with a variety of ages. Living in the city, addressed in my last blog, is by definition intergenerational. As we age and are able, we will continue to make a contribution to the community around us, whether as a volunteer or a part or full time employee. We’re not finished and inspirations for what might be next can definitely arise from living in a community that enjoys a mixed age population.
Why do I love the City? Let me count the ways. First of all, a city is walkable and while a trainer once told me “walking isn’t exercise, it’s a form of transportation”, I say it’s both. One of the easiest and healthiest ways to stay fit is to walk every day if you can. Even if that means on some days you just get up from your desk and walk around your office as frequently as possible, it’s a start. One of the great benefits of urban living is that you can get to so many things by foot – restaurants, the gym, the movies, theater, concerts, book stores – you name it and its right at your finger-tips, or should I say “toe-tips”. Exposure to a diverse population of all ages, colors and ethnic backgrounds provides the opportunity to get to know folks who are different from you which will broaden your horizons. And you don’t really need a car. There’s public transportation not to mention taxis, Uber and Lyft that can get you wherever you need to be, and I guarantee you will spend less than your annual car payments and car insurance. I know it isn’t for everyone, but you may be surprised and delighted to find out it’s for you.
This is an expression that has been used in many ways for many years. Fundamentally, it reflects the desire of a senior to remain in their home whether that is a house, a condo or an apartment. It represents a declaration of their independence and their ability to continue to take care of themselves without the formal help that would be available in a LifePlan or assisted living community, let alone a skilled nursing facility. Older consumers today are generally well educated about what their options are and they include not just retirement communities but some of the new non-age restricted rental products which include amazing amenities. As we Boomers age, I believe we may be even more stubborn about maintaining our independence and “aging in place”. I’ve heard another way of expressing this – “aging in community”. There is actually a website – agingincommunity.com and it reflects the Village movement with connections to the directory of Village Networks. Today there are over 200 open Villages and more than 150 in development in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Their plan is to add intergenerational cohousing neighborhoods, EcoVillages and intentional communities. So the concept of obtaining help through others in the community enabling people to remain where they are is gaining great traction, significantly broadening the options for seniors.
Happy New Year to all of our friends, clients and colleagues. 2018 was a great year for us and I hope it was for you as well. We consider ourselves to be very fortunate to have had the opportunity to collaborate with you, provide you with consulting services and to learn from you as well. Every client and colleague grows our experience and our heartfelt thanks to every one of you for making us even better. You all have contributed to our ability to build and sustain a great reputation in a field to which we at Brecht Associates are so committed. We are all fortunate here to be able to honestly say that we love what we do.
Our best wishes to you all for a healthy and prosperous 2019.