During the economic downturn, the independent living sector was hit with steep drop-offs in occupancy and a more sluggish rebound compared to assisted living. In response, some providers are getting creative in ways to spur on the slow-but-steady climb to recovery. They’re also looking to face the upcoming challenge of preparing for the future wave of boomers and what they’ll want. Here is the second of a two-part series looking into a couple different ways of providing consumer-oriented independent living.
A 62+ independent living community located in New England is utilizing home care services provided through an entity owned by its nonprofit sponsor to allow residents to age in place and couples to stay together.
The Groves in Lincoln, sponsored by the Masonic Health System of Massachusetts, opened in 2010 and offers both active adult living and healthcare, through a Visiting Nurse Association component.
Similar to National Lutheran Communities & Services, the Groves wanted to allow its independent living residents to remain in their homes for as long as possible, and without fear of separation from a loved one in need of higher levels of care.
Unlike with the NLCS, which needed to get assisted living licensing for its independent living units, there’s no need for the Groves in Lincoln to become licensed: although the Visiting Nurses Association is under the corporate Masonic Health System umbrella, it’s separate from the Grove staff. That means that the Grove community is not technically providing assisted living services (which would require licensure), but rather that its residents are able to independently hire the VNA on an as-needed basis.
Without a doubt, says Patrick McShane, vice president of corporate communications for the Massachusetts nonprofit, more independent living communities will have to adopt this sort of model.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a choice,” he says. “It’s going to be a necessity. Five, six, seven years down the road—people are living longer, they’re maintaining their independence longer, but there are needs that arise.”
While it’s “natural” that an independent living resident may begin developing more needs, he says, most of the time, the activities they need help with are “easy stuff”—getting dressed, perhaps, or cooking dinner. Rather than these needs precipitating a move into a higher (and often more expensive) level of care, services can just be brought to them.
“The days of assisted living and skilled nursing facilities are certainly not gone,” he says. “But as consumers get more educated and see they can stay together longer, it’s going to drive this market.”
The Groves community also has developed relationships with the local skilled nursing facility, as McShane acknowledges advanced care—especially for those with memory impairments—can be a challenge.
Providing the services has been an effective marketing tool for the community, he says, adding that a few couples have moved in just in the past couple of months thanks to a greater ability to stay together longer despite differing acuity levels.
“We’re a community that’s focused on keeping people together,” says McShane. “As we welcome new people in, what we’ve seen more and more is that we’re attracting a much higher percentage of couples than what you would normally see.”
The VNA services are also discreet, he says, allowing people to maintain their dignity and privacy instead of a more publicized move into a higher level of care.
About 30% of residents at the Grove have used the VNA services, McShane says, and the program works well at the Masonic Health System’s other senior living communities, which have been utilizing it since 2008.
Written by Alyssa Gerace