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Do Not Be Fooled Into Thinking Demographics Will Solve All Occupancy Problems

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By Steve Moran

We know occupancy rates in skilled nursing are the pits and, while much better in senior living, they are nothing to write home about. At several conferences I have attended over the last few months I have heard more than one speaker say something like this:

“Occupancy rates are not great right now but in a few years the Boomer Age Wave will hit and those beds and units will all be occupied." I could be very wrong and have to eat crow, but . . .

I WOULD NOT BET THE FARM ON IT!

It was only a few years ago where almost everyone who came away from a NIC conference that was focused on Memory Care said the demand for memory care was all but limitless and there was no way we could possibly build enough.

We Now Know That is Not True

And yet, particularly for the skilled nursing operators, I still hear people saying that the Boomer bubble will be so big that, not only will all the beds be filled, there will be a shortage of beds.

No Way.

And here is why . . .

  1. We are still mostly selling a product that people don’t want. The one shining exception is that Life Plan Communities (CCRCs) are completely lifestyle driven. It might even be that we should not be trying to convince people to largely want something they don’t want.

  1. Particularly with respect to nursing homes, the Boomer generation will, in droves, avoid the prolonged process of dying that nursing homes enable. I am realistic to believe there is a significant probability that if my mom and our family had made the decision to insert a feeding tube, her body would still be alive, but at no quality of life. It is a decision that even after her passing I have zero regrets about.  

  1. It is expensive. Much of what we are offering is out beyond what most seniors can afford. Even those who can afford it are not crazy about parting with their money.  They would rather preserve it for their kids, grandkids or a favorite charity.  

  1. The government is going to do all they can to encourage folks not to use senior living communities at all cost because it is so costly.

An Example . . .

I was recently sent a link to an article titled “Postal workers will watch over your elderly parents”. It turns out that in France, like in the US, their postal service is suffering a substantial decrease in revenue because of all things digital. So they came up with this very cool plan where families can pay for postal workers to pause during their route and spend some time with elders.

Clearly, it is far from the level of intervention that senior living provides, but there is hope that it will keep seniors at home longer. This is a significant goal of governments around the world . . . and for seniors and their families.  

I am not negative about senior living at all. We have a huge potential and I, 100% believe, there is enough age- and income-qualified seniors to fill every community (though not true for skilled nursing, where we have too much capacity and will likely always have too much capacity). We need to program better, market better, sell better and, most importantly, tell our story better.

We can do this.  

We will do this.

Some of you are already doing this with great success.   

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