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Will This Be the New Model for Senior Living? I Hope So, How About You?

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By Steve Moran

Recently I received a press release from Charter Senior Living about Wellpoint, a new community in Huntsville, Alabama, that is focused on wellness. I get a lot of these press releases and like getting them, but it is not the kind of thing we regularly cover at Senior Housing Forum unless the new community is doing something unique, which is why this particular one caught my eye.

"WeWork" for Senior Living

What I love about this project is that, in its second phase, they are planning an innovation center that will include coworking space.

I have long thought that one of the most interesting things senior living operators could do was pair a WeWork-type space with a senior living community. My big idea is that creating a co-working space would . . .

  • Provide another revenue stream

  • Create an everyday multigenerational experience for residents

  • Demonstrate to young business leaders that senior living is an amazing place to work . . . an amazing career

  • Allow budding entrepreneurs to tap into centuries worth of business acumen that is inside the minds of residents and mostly goes untapped and wasted

  • Perhaps provide a place for residents to hold jobs doing administrative tasks, and thereby defray a portion of their service fees

I recently had a chance to visit with Keven Bennema, the CEO of Charter, about this community. You can watch the entire conversation at the end of this article. I would ask that you indulge the echo. I was in a very sterile hospital conference room where my father was hospitalized . . . and thanks for asking, he is fine now.

Here are highlights of what he had to say:

  • This community will have 190 apartments with 114 being independent living, 50 assisted living, and 26-32 memory care. The community is under construction and they expect to open in May of 2020. It is adjacent to a Robert Trent Jones golf course.

  • The innovation center and coworking space will happen in phase 2 of a 4-phase project.

  • Charter currently has 14 communities including their first development project which, after just 3 months, is 50% occupied.  

  • They see their “secret sauce” as keeping corporate overhead low and treating team members well believing that when you treat team members well they will do a great job of serving residents.

  • They are particularly excited about the second phase, named The VIA, which will provide comprehensive wellness services, including primary care, for both the local community and the residents.

  • Actually, their expectations are bigger than that. They expect to provide something so special that it will attract people from across the country and internationally.

  • Phase 3 will be a hotel and Phase 4 will be some free-standing villas, some of which will likely be sold to individuals.

We worry a lot about whether we will adapt to the needs of the emerging Boomer generation. This community is a further sign that we are figuring it out.

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