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What If Jeff Bezos, Amazon and Whole Foods Went Into the Senior Living Business?

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By Steve Moran

I frequently find myself believing the single biggest threat to traditional senior living and senior living operators is that some billionaire entrepreneurial maverick like Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, Mark Cuban, or Richard Branson will take a look at the demographics and the current product that is mostly out there and see big profits.

The Hot Pick-up Spot

Then last week I came across an article published by the Wall Street Journal titled “The Hottest Social Scene in Town Isn’t the Singles’ Bar. It’s the Supermarket”. (The article may be behind a paywall.) It turns out that many people, particularly the older generation, are finding love in the aisles of the supermarket. The article tells the stories of several people over age 50 who have either found romance in the grocery store or are using markets as a place to make new friends, romantic and otherwise.

It Got Me Thinking

It would be really interesting to build a senior living community where an upscale market was integrated into the design. I am not talking about a Dementia Village-style market, but rather a real market like Whole Foods. It would do 4 things:

  1. Create an additional revenue stream for the community -- While profits on grocery items are razor thin, margins on prepared foods are high. These margins are part of what is driving markets to expand areas for socializing.  

  2. Create amazing intergenerational interactions -- Everyone goes to the market. Mom’s with newborns and toddlers, young school kids, and teens. Imagine having a daycare where kids could stay for 20-40 minutes with adopted "grandparents" while parents shop.

  3. Normalize senior living as part of society -- I am particularly fond of the idea that integrating senior living could actually make it something more than a place people go to die.

  4. Really showcase senior living as something desirable as opposed to something to dread -- Perhaps the best benefit would be that it would create a highly desirable space that people would be attracted to rather than repelled.

I find myself dreaming that we will figure this stuff out and that we will not be overrun by a mega-entrepreneur who sees only profits. 

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