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The Senior Housing Economic Gap - Solutions

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This is part 2 of a series on the Senior Housing Financial gap.  You can find part 1 HERE
Last week I talked about the huge gap in senior housing for Boomers who are not able to afford typical independent living/assisted living monthly fees. Over the next decades this gap will grow, creating pressure on the health care delivery system, senior housing companies and families. That being said, because this gap exists I also believe it presents some tremendous opportunities for nimble creative operators and developers.

I am hoping this blog posting will serve as the beginning of a conversation on what these opportunities might look like. Here are some of my thoughts .

1. More Modest Communities - I love going on vacation to nice places and staying in nice hotels. That being said, I am not sure I would be happy living the rest of my life in a luxury hotel. I would miss home cooked meals and taking care of myself. In fact, on a recent business trip I ended up staying in the Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas and honestly it was so much luxury that it felt intrusive.

The starting place for creating more modest communities is to substantially reduce the size of common areas, most of the common areas in a community look nice but are rarely used. Shaving the size of living units will also reduce costs. Big saving can also be achieved by using more of a cookie cutter approach to designing projects. Rather than starting from scratch on each new project, developing a pro forma project design that focuses on economy rather than luxury, then modifying that plan to accommodate the local concerns would result in greater efficiencies.

2. Mixed Age Communities - I have to credit one of the blog readers for this idea, but I like it a lot. We have created this idea that seniors are from another planet and should be segregated from the rest of us except for visits by friends and families. It makes a lot of sense that a mixed population would spread costs and make these communities more attractive.

3. Working Communities - The thing I find most concerning about the whole concept of luxury senior housing is that the very concept, sends the message that seniors have no further value to society. That their only function is to consume resources until they die. Sure the consuming is done in a very comfortable setting but none the less they are told they have nothing further to contribute.

How about hiring the seniors to work in the community as a way to reduce costs and create meaning in their lives? There are so many places they could serve doing tours of the community, at the reception desk, data entry, managing web pages, helping in the kitchen.

Several months ago I read about someone, who is developing smaller assisted living buildings (around 30 residents) where the residents and staff are integrated to look more like a family rather than a hotel. This means that a resident might prepare one or more meals (with help from other residents and staff); Another might play the piano or sing for the activities program.

I would love to hear year ideas about how to turn this gap into opportunity.


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