A Conversation with Granger Cobb about One Voice

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In late February Senior Housing News “leaked” a story that Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) and American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) were considering a merger. Over the last year or so I have developed a very friendly email relationship with Granger Cobb, the CEO of Emeritus Senior Living, and this past Monday I got a chance to meet him face to face. 

It was a short meeting and we covered a lot of ground that won’t show up in print, but the big deal is that this ALFA/ASHA is well on the way to being a reality. This is bigger more important news than the Brookdale - Emeritus merger because, if it happens, it will not be just an expanded ALFA or ASHA but a reimagining of what a senior living trade association can do for the nation’s seniors and senior living providers. 

It will take senior living to a higher level that will improve the lives of seniors, set a high but reasonable bar for what assisted living and memory care ought to look like.  It will also present to the public and governmental officials a unified positive picture of senior living/assisted living. While Granger stressed that this is not a “done deal,” that it is still subject to Board of Directors approval from both ASHA and ALFA, considerable time and attention has been devoted to the effort from multiple organizations throughout the senior living sector.

Background

ASHA and ALFA are great organizations that have done as much or really more than was asked by their respective boards of directors.  The challenge is that the world of senior living has changed radically since those organizations came into existence.  

The average age of residents has gone up, resident medical needs have increased, there is much more public awareness of assisted living, good and bad, and finally, personal injury attorneys are increasingly looking at assisted living as a fertile deep pocket source of revenue. The other problem is that there are just too many organizations speaking  on behalf of the senior living industry.  While all are ultimately aligned in the desire to improve the quality of lives for seniors, lobby for reasonable regulations and provide quality training and research, each group has a slightly different point of view (none particularly wrong) which means resources are not being used efficiently and the industry is not speaking with One Voice.

Dreaming

Last year senior executives from Emeritus, Brookdale, Brandywine, Life Care Services, Atria, Merrill Gardens, Elmcroft, VI and Belmont Village gathered in a room and someone asked this question:

What if there was no ALFA, no ASHA and no National Investment Center (NIC) and we were going to start with a clean sheet of paper to create a brand new trade association. What would it look like?

They developed three key areas they would want this new organization to focus on:

Public Policy

  • Be an active participant in and advocate for the development of comprehensive programs to ensure effective state regulations that preserve consumer choice, support quality of life, and encourage operational excellence in senior living.
  • Be the voice of senior living in the evolution of federal policy that impacts our industry, its residents and its employees.
  • Be an advocate for a variety of consumer choices in senior housing and senior living, including independent living, assisted living and memory care.

Standards, Credentialing and Accreditation

  • Be the recognized national leader in the development and promotion of high-quality resident and employee-focused professional standards in senior living communities.
  • Be the leader in advancing the education and credentialing of team members in order to meet the varied needs of the residents and enhance consumer confidence in the quality of service delivery in member communities.
  • Be the champion for members who meet or exceed accreditation requirements.

Education and Research

  •  Be a responsible and active voice in communicating the needs and desires of consumers, the standards of our industry, and those attributes that make senior living an educated choice for families.
  • Be an educator of our leadership, including through a national conference.
  • Be a thought leader and contributing participant on issues that affect our industry and its constituents through engagement in research to advance the knowledge of and responsiveness to the needs of our aging population.

With these guiding principles as the foundation it made a lot more sense to then fold the existing trade associations ALFA and ASHA into a single new organization with a tight collaborative relationship with NIC that will take advantage of their research and data capabilities.

Still to come:

  • What the implementation might look like
  • How it might impact/benefit all senior living operators, including small operators who may be the biggest winners

Steve Moran


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