Boomers Marketing Archives – Varsity Branding

Category: Boomers Marketing

Reprinted with permission from interestingfacts.com.

 It’s a fact of life — people grow old. While modern society tends to obsess about the negatives of aging, studies suggest that we often experience more happiness and contentment in our later years. These 12 facts investigate the phenomenon of growing old, debunk some persistent myths about aging, and explore the brighter side of those golden years.

  1. Say Goodbye To Migraines

As our bodies age, they naturally become more susceptible to a variety of illnesses and maladies — but migraines are the rare exception. Migraines often first develop in adolescence, and while both sexes are affected, women are three times more likely to develop migraines compared to men (often due to a fluctuation in estrogen levels). However, the frequency of migraines eventually peaks at the age of 40 and actually gets better as we enter our golden years. Stress and hormones are the most common triggers for migraines, and these two factors usually affect older people with less severity. That said, pain, smoking and alcohol can still contribute to migraines in seniors, and although migraines generally subside with age, they are still the second-most-common headache disorder in older people (after tension headaches). One in 10 older adults still experience them about once a year.

  1. Hair Doesn’t Actually “Turn” Gray

One of the hallmarks of aging is that our lifelong hair color begins to turn gray, or in some cases, white. Although an entire industry is built around hiding this fact, human hair isn’t actually turning gray so much as it’s no longer supplying the pigments necessary to produce color. This occurs when hydrogen peroxide builds up after wear-and-tear on the hair follicles. That blocks the normal synthesis of melanin, which is responsible for all shades of hair color.

  1. Older Adults Are Happier Than People In Their 20s on Average

As people age, we also gain a certain calm. A study published in 2016 in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry analyzed a random sample of 1,546 people ages 21 to 100 in San Diego. Although younger people in the survey responded positively in terms of physical health compared to older folks (as anticipated), older adults far outperformed younger generations in terms of mental well-being. Panic disorders are also reported as less common among older cohorts compared to younger people, and developing a panic disorder later in life is a rarity.

  1. They Also Sweat Less, Too

As we age, our skin loses collagen, gets thinner, and presses our sweat glands close to the surface of our skin. This process is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, because these glands are squeezed, it’s harder for sweat to come out of our pores, meaning older people sweat less overall. This may be a check mark in the “pro” column for personal hygiene, but it does come with a few negative side effects. With a reduced ability to sweat, older adults can have trouble regulating temperature during strenuous exercise or excessive heat. Sweat also plays an important role in healing, as it helps stimulate wound closure in skin cells. Thankfully, a lifetime of physical fitness helps slow down this process so you can sweat long into your golden years.

  1. Older People Vote More Than Any Other Age Group

Older people may not feel as strong as they did in their youth, but in terms of political power, they’re as strong as ever. In 2018, 64% of people 65 and over voted in the U.S. midterm election — the highest turnout of any age group — and the 65-to-74-year-old cohort also had the highest turnout in the 2020 election. There are a couple of reasons why the older vote is particularly robust. The biggest may be that older Americans, as well as seniors in other democracies, have government programs and initiatives they rely on, such as Medicare, prescription drug pricing, and Social Security, and because these policies so directly affect them, elections tend to turn out seniors in higher numbers. (There are other factors at play, too — older folks may simply have more time on their hands.) Senior citizens also grease the wheels of democracy, as they’re the most likely age group to volunteer as poll workers on Election Day.

  1. Noses and Ears Don’t Keep Growing, But They Do Droop

While a common myth purports that our ears and nose continue to grow as we age (while the rest of us generally shrinks), that’s not entirely true. Like most other parts of our body, our ears and nose stop growing once we’re in adulthood, but the constant tug of gravity over the decades causes these cartilage-filled features to droop over time. This constant pull actually causes the collagen and elastic fibers in our ears and nose to elongate, and this lengthening, combined with surrounding facial structures losing overall volume, often produces the illusion of growing ears and noses as we age. This elongation is a slow and steady process; studies have shown that ears can lengthen some 0.22 millimeters a year. Interestingly, the process is so precise that you can discern a person’s age just by measuring their ears.

  1. Old Age Isn’t a Modern Phenomenon

A common misconception about old age is that it’s a relatively modern phenomenon, as our predecessors lived brutish lives cut short by disease and war. While modern medicine has certainly expanded life expectancy, many people in the past lived as long as people live today. For example, some ancient Roman offices sought by politically ambitious men couldn’t even be held until someone was 30 — not exactly a great idea if people didn’t live many years beyond that. Scientists have analyzed the pelvis joints (a reliable indicator of age) in skeletons from ancient civilizations and found that many people lived long lives. One study analyzing skeletons from Cholula, Mexico, between 900 and 1531 CE found that a majority of specimens lived beyond the age of 50. Low life expectancy in ancient times is impacted more by a high infant mortality rate than by people living unusually short lives. Luckily, modern science has helped more humans survive our vulnerable childhood years, and life expectancy averages have risen as a result.

  1. Older People Requiring Less Sleep is a Myth

Another myth about getting old is that as we age, humans need less and less sleep, somehow magically subsisting on six hours or less when we enter our senior years. The truth is that the amount of sleep a person needs is only altered during childhood and adolescence, as our bodies need more energy to do the tough work of growing. Once we’re in our 20s, humans require the same amount of sleep per night for the rest of their lives (though the exact amount differs from person to person). In fact, the elderly are more likely to be sleep-deprived because they receive lower-quality sleep caused by sickness, pain, medications, or a trip or two to the bathroom. This can be why napping during the day becomes more common as we grow older.

  1. Some of Our Bones Never Stop Growing

The common perception of human biology is that our bones put on some serious inches in our youth, and then by the time we’re 20 or so, nature pumps the brakes and our skeleton stays static forever. While that’s true of a majority of our bones, some don’t follow this simplistic blueprint. A 2008 study for Duke University determined that the bones in the skull continue to grow, with the forehead moving forward and cheek bones moving backward. Unfortunately, this imperceptible bit of a facial movement exacerbates wrinkles, because as the skull shifts forward, the overlying skin sags.

The pelvis also keeps growing throughout your life. Scientists analyzing the pelvic width of 20-year-olds compared to 79-year-olds found a 1-inch difference in width, which adds an additional 3 inches to your waistband. That means our widening in the middle as we age isn’t just about a slower metabolism.

  1. Pupils Get Smaller As We Age

While our hips get bigger, our pupils get smaller. The human pupil is controlled by the circumferential sphincter and iris dilator muscles, and as we add on the years, those muscles weaken. Because of this loss of muscle function, pupils get smaller as we age, and are also less responsive to light. Smaller pupils make it harder to see at night, so people in their 60s need three times as much light to read comfortably as people in their 20s. Reading a menu in a dimly lit restaurant? Forget about it. Other eye changes include an increased likeliness of presbyopia, or farsightedness (which can often be resolved with reading glasses), and cataracts, or a clouding of the eye’s lens. In fact, half of people over the age of 80 will have experienced a cataract of some kind.

  1. Older People Have a Stronger “Immune Memory”

Although the body experiences some slowing down as we age, growing old isn’t all bad news. Researchers from the University of Queensland found that older people had stronger immunities than people in their 20s, as the body keeps a repository of illnesses that can stretch back decades. This extra line of defense begins to drop off in our 70s and 80s, but until then, our bodies generally just get better and better at fighting off disease due to biological experience. Additionally, as we age we experience fewer migraines, the severity of allergies declines, and we produce less sweat. Older people also exhibit higher levels of “crystalized intelligence” (or what some might call “wisdom”) than any other age group.

  1. The Atoms That Make Up All of Us Are Already Billions of Years Old

It’s true that age is just a number, and in the cosmic view of the universe, human age is pretty insignificant. The atoms that make up the human body are already billions of years old. For example, hydrogen — one of the key components of our bodies — formed in the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. Likewise, carbon, the primary component of all known life, formed in the fiery cauldron of stars at least 7 billion years ago. So when someone says we’re all made of “star stuff,” they’re very much telling the truth (we’re also made from various supernovae). And while we grow old on Earth, this is only the latest chapter of a story that stretches back to the beginning of everything — and it’s a story that’ll continue until the universe ends.

 

With the right channels and the right content, social media can be an invaluable tool for any organization, especially when combined with a targeted and strategic paid social media plan. But creating and implementing that plan isn’t always easy. For many groups, including senior living communities, social media is a challenge that marketing teams struggle to take full and proper advantage of.

That struggle can undermine your marketing efforts and leave your community without one of the most important and powerful marketing vehicles in your toolbox. The key to success is outlining a channel strategy that accomplishes your goals, using each channel appropriately to reach your target audiences, and then putting a team in place to bring those strategies to life.

Have a dedicated social media manager

The first step in any social media program? Assigning a team member to create and implement your community’s social media plan. A dedicated social media manager will not only oversee your community’s social media strategy — and adjust that strategy as needed — but will also be tasked with the day-to-day duties of content creation for each channel, the posting of content, and engagement with fans and followers on each channel (an important task typically known as “community management”).

Know your competitors

A formal or informal audit of competitor communities will yield invaluable insights that can be used in your own social media plan. What channels are your competitors on? How often are they posting? What are they posting about? The answers to those questions can be used to fine-tune your social media strategy. That audit should be conducted during the initial planning stages, but feel free to keep tabs on your competitors on a regular basis.

Choose the right channels for your community

Each channel has its own advantages. Women are more likely to use Instagram and Pinterest, while Facebook has an older user base than Instagram. LinkedIn has a higher income base. Each one has unique advantages when it comes to reaching different audiences, and knowing your audience will help you decide which channels to use to reach that audience.

Don’t spread yourself too thin

If you have a limited amount of time to spend on social media, spend it on the channels that are most effective at reaching your target audience. It’s always best to choose one or two channels and create great content for those channels, instead of spreading yourself thin by doing mediocre content for four or five channels.

 

From an upswing in sales activities to new concepts in senior living and positive attention from the press, there were lots of successes for our participants this February. However, some attendees struggled with challenges like sales slumps and poor Google reviews — and their fellow participants jumped in with some welcome advice.

Prospects Falling in Love With Communities
The month of love was very busy for Roundtable attendees. There was a major upswing in activity after the holiday slowdown with lots of tours, applications and move-ins. Many communities are at or close to full occupancy. But higher occupancy levels create their own unique problems.

“We’ve had so much success that I don’t have move-in-ready inventory, which is a challenge in itself.” (Missouri)

One creative working solution that an Illinois participant found was marketing guest suites for a trial stay of one to two weeks, in order to “allow those people [who are interested] to try it out for a week or two, and get a feel for living here.” (Illinois)

Unique New Approaches to the Senior Living Concept
Many of the Roundtable attendees had exciting and fresh takes on what senior living can mean, with upcoming projects and expansions underway.

Zen Community
One participant is involved in a “Zen” contemplative care community opening in California later this summer.

“The community will be a contemplative care community with a much different approach to assisted living and memory support than we’ve done in the past. There will be Zen teachers who live in the community, a tea room, and a fully vegetarian offering based on the Greens restaurant in San Francisco. It’s been 10 years in the making.” (Delaware/California)

An On-Site Dog Grooming Spa
One participant added an on-site dog grooming spa. “In one of our apartment buildings, we took over a floor and added a dog grooming spa where we will have a groomer assist residents on campus.” (Arkansas)

Hybrid Home Expansion
Another participant is involved in a “hybrid home” expansion project. “A hybrid home is really the best of an apartment and the best of a cottage or villa. It will be three stories high with an open floor plan. We often hear prospects say they wish they had parking or a garage, and this model has an underground parking structure where every resident can have one car, kept underground and out of the elements.” (Pennsylvania)

Memory Care Village
One participant from New Jersey has plans for developing a memory care village based on the Hogeweyk concept from the Netherlands. “It is a self-enclosed village concept with its own supermarket, cafe, etc., and everything right there on campus. We’re hung up on the zoning process right now and we expect the local town to contest it. The position of the model, that the residents get to live a natural life, is the hook that draws people in. It’s not just dementia care, but dementia living.” (New Jersey)

Media Coverage of On-Campus Fun
A number of participants were able to invite the media to their community, where they got some coverage for fun activities put on to chase away residents’ winter blues.

“We had our indoor snowball fight yesterday! We ended up on the front page of today’s local paper, the local televised news, and even on CBS and ABC news. (Illinois)

ADVICE FROM THE ROUNDTABLE

Navigating Difficult Conversations With Residents
Dealing with an unhappy resident can put staff in treacherous waters, and even more so when the resident is inciting a tirade against the whole community. One participant shared an experience dealing with one such displeased resident, and the Roundtable weighed in with advice.

The Situation:
“We had very little blowback [about rate increases]. The only negative feedback was from just one individual, who seems to have started a campaign with their family and friends to give us 1-star reviews on Google. A lot of it is just not accurate at all. So that’s been a little challenging.” (Arkansas)

The Advice:
“We’ve found that it’s best if the response is quick, and acknowledges what they’ve said — and if you extend the courtesy to please contact as soon as possible and show that you want to learn more about this situation. At that point, you’re really trying to influence the future visitors and viewers as opposed to what they’re actually doing to the Google ratings.” (Pennsylvania)

“Sometimes in those situations, just posting the response and being timely is important. Also, try to drive the conversation offline because what you’re trying to flag for those reading the 1-star reviews is that you care, and that there might be another side to the story.” (Bill Mulligan, Varsity)

Sales Cycle Slumps
One Pennsylvania participant enlisted the Roundtable participants for help with an issue with one of their sales counselors who is in a “slump,” asking, “What do you all do when you have a slow sales cycle and you want to get it kick-started?”

“Maybe you could have a heart-to-heart with them. Ask them if they’re feeling intimidated by an area, or what their knowledge level is, just work with that person.” (Washington state)

“Speaking from personal experience, a number of years ago when I was on the sales side, I went through a slump period. I tried talking to other people and seeing what they were doing, and analyzed my own weak areas. I discovered something about myself, that I spent too much time launching into our community offerings when talking with the prospect rather than getting to know their story first. When I turned that around and focused on the person and said, ‘Tell me more about you,’ it made a really big difference.” (Arkansas)

Learn from your peers at our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtables. Join us on Thursdays at noon ET, 11 a.m. CT and 9 a.m. PT. For login information, email .

 

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Those are the words of John Wanamaker (1838–1922), a very successful United States merchant, religious leader and political figure, considered by some to be a pioneer in marketing.

Anyone who is a marketer for senior living communities can relate to that statement. But there is a way to know where your marketing dollars are really going, and it’s by harnessing your data using predictive analytics.

That concept was the focus of a 2021 LeadingAge Conference session, “Predictive Analytics: Connecting Past Performance to Future Success,” a joint presentation by Varsity, its sister agency WildFig Data and Ingleside Senior Living.

“Retirement communities in general are data rich and insight poor,” says John Bassounas, Partner at Varsity. “Sometimes when it comes to analytics and data, people get overwhelmed. Really, at the end of the day our job is to simplify that process and deliver insights that can help communities make better decisions.”

During these challenging times, harnessing your data is especially important. “As an outgrowth of COVID-19,” John says, “everyone is trying to figure out the role of digital — how organizations can establish a competitive advantage. Data is the way to do that.”

A Progressive Partner

Varsity and WildFig have been fortunate to partner with Ingleside, a forward-thinking, multi-site, nonprofit senior living organization located in the Washington, D.C., area. “Data analysis was a leadership initiative at Ingleside,” says John. “It started at the top, and leadership identified data analytics as a key priority for their organization. In doing so, they partnered with us, and we became an extension of their team.”

“This is a visionary client,” agrees Derek Dunham, Vice President Client Services at Varsity. “They have established team members focused on the digital experience in analytics — they see the value in it. They have been an early adopter of data mining and analytics.”

Here are some key takeaways from the LeadingAge presentation based on our work with Ingleside:

1.  Consider all of the digital elements as an ecosystem, not siloed tactics.

“One of the goals here is to make sure that we’re not just looking at isolated tactics. We need to assess the impact of the entire digital ecosystem of paid, owned and earned media,” says Derek.

“From a marketing perspective, understanding the relationship between the various tactics and strategies to the overall program is incredibly valuable, because we want to optimize the plan for the best results.”

“For Ingleside, an important part of the ecosystem is a fresh website that is newly programmed using all the modern tools. Technology is always changing. With a new website, we don’t have to dumb down any of the analytics because the site can plug into analytics and pull data easily.

2. Embrace the process — Each organization is at a different stage with their analytics and modernization journey.

“It’s important for any organization to have the mindset that this is a process,” says Derek. “It’s not going to be a one-off project; it’s a culture. It’s an ongoing initiative that needs to be fed over time. I would say, assess what you have and get going. Taking the first step is important as this process is never ‘done’ — there are always opportunities to refine, test and learn.”

“Some organizations might think, ‘We don’t have all the data we need.’ Others may think, ‘We have too much data.’ Don’t let a lack of data stand in the way of proceeding with initiatives,” John says. “The first thing you need to ask is, ‘What is the question that you want to answer, and how can data make that happen?’”

3. Start with the big questions — Others will emerge.

“Starting with the big questions means, don’t get mired down in the details,” Derek says. “First think about what are the big questions you want to have answered. A question might seem too big initially, but you’ll be able to break it down into smaller questions and put together a manageable process.”

As an example, here are some of the questions that Ingleside wanted to answer:

  • How do we reach and maintain 95% occupancy?
  • How can we use data to make informed decisions?
  • How can we predict future outcomes?
  • Should the website be redesigned and merged under one URL?

4. Think not just about outcomes, but about implementation, and how to create a dynamic feedback loop.

“It’s an iterative process, and you’re constantly going to be refining it,” says Derek. “You want to look at the outcomes at a point in time. With this process, you are able to have confidence that you can pull your data at any point in time and get answers.”

Once the loop is established, John says, “We can either look backward at what has happened, or we can look forward to help inform what we’d like to have happen or predict outcomes.”

5. Customize the sales experience through predictive modeling.

“The overall goal of data analytics is to be able to understand the data to provide prospects with a customized experience — making the entire process from a marketing and sales perspective more efficient,” Derek says.

“For organizations like Ingleside, we’re doing that through a predictive modeling tool that does two things — predicts what lead volume will be, and assigns a lead score to every prospect in their database. We’ll be able to map each prospect’s customer journey and know the likelihood of their becoming a depositor at each interaction with the salesperson,” says John. “This map can be generated for every prospect, providing an easily digestible way to monitor the sales process.”

Why is that so important? “We all know that it takes anywhere from 20 to 30 touches for somebody to move in,” says Derek. “The more we can make those touches relevant and purposeful and efficient, the better. Through that process, we also make the salesperson’s time efficient, because they’re dealing with the people who are most predisposed to buying. We’re offering the salesperson better information so they are better able to connect with the right prospects.”

If you’d like the Varsity team to take you through the presentation in more detail, please contact John Bassounas at or Derek Dunham at .

 

During Thursday’s roundtable, retirement communities around the country shared sales and marketing strategies that are working during COVID-19. From virtual events to smart home communications, tech is being tapped frequently to reach and attract residents.

Join the next sales and marketing roundtable on July 23!

Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, July 23, at noon ET. We will have a speaker from Morrison Living sharing tips to create safer environments.

For log-in information, please contact .

As more cities opened up, communities met virtually for roundtable #13 to discuss this week’s triumphs and tribulations.

Check out the recap of our discussion below. Please also join us for our next sales & marketing roundtable, coming up this week.

 

Join the next roundtable on June 25!

You are welcome to join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, June 25, at 12 p.m. ET.

You don’t have to be a client to join — all are welcome. For call-in information, email .

Today, Stacy Hollinger Main, a partner and interior designer at RLPS Architects, is sharing her philosophy and advice on senior living design. RLPS is an award-winning firm located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that specializes in architecture and interior design for a variety of industries, including senior living, assisted living and dementia/memory care. Stacy has 28 years of design experience and has spent 21 of those years designing senior living communities at RLPS.

What is your philosophy on senior living design?

First of all, it’s important to understand that it’s not “senior living” design — it’s about good design, period. We take the approach of looking at design from a holistic point of view with a nod to hospitality design, but scaled appropriately for people who are living there.

To appeal to Baby Boomers, designs must be contemporary and reflect the distinctive experiences and lifestyle offered to those moving into a particular community. It’s tailored to people who have the desire to live in housing that’s beautiful and well maintained with a lot of amenities — but designed appropriately for the people who are using it.

Take carpet, for instance. It may look rich, but there are a lot of factors that we take into consideration behind the scenes. The carpet has to be able to handle rolling traffic, such as wheelchairs, scooters and walkers. And it’s not just about the items that assist the residents to keep them ambulatory; it’s also about the staff — whatever they’re pushing and navigating, such as med carts. It’s often a matter of weighing the options with our clients for each particular application. Carpet is typically more homelike and helps with acoustics, but it’s easier to propel rolling traffic over hard surfaces.

What advice would you give senior living communities?

Communities need to stay current and fresh because the competition is high, and trends change constantly. Just as you want to update your own wardrobe, you want to make sure that your floors and walls are all up-to-date.

Our goal is to create timeless communities that speak to the brand and reinforce it across all levels of care. However, it’s easy for communities to get out of date. You don’t want people to be fearful to go to a higher level of care, such as assisted living or memory care, because the spaces look outdated and not as nice as independent living.

That’s why it’s important to include interior design in your master planning. Your community needs to put a refresh of its design into the capital budget. You need to evaluate every aspect of your decor at least every 8–10 years, although you can change things like paint and accessories more often for a refreshed look.

 What are your favorite projects?

In the end, once we’ve had that ribbon-cutting ceremony, and we hear people walking through the rooms, experiencing the design for the first time and talking about it, feeling happy — those are our favorite projects. It’s really about the way the design has improved their lives. And it’s not just about the people who are living there; it’s about staff, too. If we’ve been able to help a staff member do his or her job better and promote health or wellness because of the materials we’ve used, it’s impacting people’s lives for the better.

We do projects across the U.S. They’re all challenging and all unique. We don’t do cookie-cutter projects. We are creating a unique atmosphere for the community while striving to create trust, open communication and a positive end result for our client. Those are the best projects — when a client is asking us to come back to do the next one.

What do you like most about your job?

When you look at a room, when you look at space, it’s more than six sides of a box; it’s the potential for creativity. When we start to fill the box with the interior elements, we look at the floor, walls and ceiling. We think about acoustics and window treatments and lighting and accessories. In the end, it’s all about the people who are using the space. What I like most about my job is seeing people who are enjoying the space as they work and live here.

The goal for design is all about creating an environment to inspire people and transform lives. Our goal at RLPS is to do that in all aspects of our design, not just in senior living.

 

 

Many of our clients were asking how other communities were handling the coronavirus crisis, so we gathered virtually at a roundtable to share our challenges and solutions. The response was enthusiastic, so we held roundtable #2 last week. For those who weren’t able to attend, we’re including some nuggets from that conversation below.

We’re gathering for another roundtable this week, and all are invited to attend.

Join the next roundtable on April 9!

We thank everyone for participating, and we invite you to join the next session, Thursday, April 9, at noon ET: Marketing and Sales discussion

You don’t have to be a client to join the conversation — all are welcome. For call-in information, email .

Since the coronavirus hit, we have been in contact with clients all over the country who are facing the same challenges. Many of them have asked how other communities are handling this unprecedented event. To help communities come together and share their knowledge, we coordinated a roundtable discussion. Last week, 26 clients from 11 different states met over the phone to discuss their marketing challenges and solutions during the coronavirus crisis. We will hold two more sessions next week. All are invited to attend. (You don’t have to be a client to join.)

Here is a sampling of the insights that were shared:

Join the Next Roundtables on April 6 and 9!

We thank everyone for participating, and we invite you to join the next sessions. 

Monday, April 6: Resident life and resident engagement discussion
Thursday, April 9: Marketing and sales discussion

Both events to be held at noon EDT.

You don’t have to be a client to join the conversation — all are welcome. For call-in information, email  .

Today I’m talking with Maura Z. Richards, Vice President of Business Development at Wohlsen Construction, a top-ranked construction company specializing in senior living. Prior to her current position, Maura spent more than 15 years working in senior living as a provider and consultant, giving her unique insights into finding solutions that are economically and operationally viable to increase occupancy.

Hello, Maura! Thank you for talking to me today! What do you view as the biggest challenge facing older adults in the middle market?

The affordability of senior living communities. We have not completely solved the middle market product challenges to serve the number of seniors that will need to move to — specifically  — an assisted living or memory care community. Seniors will stay home as long as possible — which more times than not means too late — due to the fact that they do not have enough money to afford a senior living community.

What are some common misconceptions about the middle market?

People get confused when you talk about the middle market. They think middle market housing is affordable, but it’s really not. It’s essentially less costly than a traditional senior community, but it’s still expensive. The middle market community is much smaller in size and has more of a model of two bedrooms sharing a kitchen and bath. This type of living arrangement is not one that a prospect seeks until there is a need.  Having been in senior living for many years, I can share that this is not what you want to hear when a prospect comes through the door. You want prospects to move to a community when they are independent  and not making a need-based decision so that they are content with the move and will take full advantage of the lifestyle a senior living community offers.

What are the biggest barriers to building for the middle market?

Building costs and land cost — with both being high, the financial model is hard to pencil out to be affordable for the middle market. Developers look for sites that are outside urban areas to keep land costs down. However, to make the community pencil out, there typically is less amenity space and an apartment layout in which two individual prospects share a kitchen and bathroom.

What is the biggest competition for middle market housing?

People’s own homes and technology. If people can stay in their home and install smart home technology for less than it costs to move to a senior living community, then they will always choose their own home. They will then wait until there is a need to move to a community. The struggle from a proforma perspective is that the higher the acuity level of the residents, the more staffing the community needs.  With that comes higher entrance fees and monthly fees.

Since studies have found that, by 2029, 54 percent of older adults will not be able to afford private pay senior living, how will the industry as a whole need to change? 

The industry will need to look to partner with other organizations to create a mixed-use development that taps several housing options to share in the cost of the amenity space to bring down the cost of senior living.

What types of organizations would be good partners for senior living?

Maybe there is an option for senior living to partner with intergenerational housing options to form a mixed-use development. For example, many universities need additional student housing yet are faced with high construction costs just like senior living. There could be an opportunity for developers to look at student housing and senior housing to share in amenity and community space to lower the costs for both. This would also allow both populations to take advantage of the educational opportunities.

Do you have any other creative ideas that could benefit the middle market?

Another idea I have thought about from a socialization standpoint is to build senior centers on or next to local public schools to leverage intergenerational opportunities and programs. High schools are being renovated all over the country and facing issues of getting funding passed. Why not look at combining the two? The more our younger population interacts with and understands senior needs, the more we will see solutions to take care of older adults in the future. To get youths to understand seniors, you have to put them together.