The future of the senior living business has several key components, and some of the most important include engaging with residents and their evolving demands, and managing their healthcare outcomes, said a top Life Care Services executive during his company’s summit meeting held this week in Indianapolis, Ind.
These components can serve as a GPS to guide senior living providers along the way in an evolving industry, said Rick Exline, executive vice president and director of operations at LCS, during a presentation.
Some “must-dos” for the industry include welcoming resident participation in decision making; meeting the expectations of the current—but ever-evolving—generation of residents; understanding the competition; and capitalizing on performance data to help manage outcomes and get referrals.
Demographically, demand for the senior living product is on the rise as the population ages, and that trend will continue for the next couple of decades, Exline noted. Right now, communities are experiencing a transition from the GI and Silent Generations to the Boomer Generation, and the implications that changeover carries.
“There’s a higher level of expectation as it relates to resident participation in decision making,” says Exline.
Providers should take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of the consumer, he says, as former leaders and innovators number among many communities’ residents. And whether providers welcome that input or not, incoming residents are going to demand greater influence and control.
“Residents want new experiences and opportunities,” he says.
Although healthcare (in other words, how providers take care of people once they’re sick) was a top focus 20 years ago, a recent survey from the American Seniors Housing Association reveals today’s top concerns include wellness and healthy living (how providers prevent people from getting sick), transportation services, access to current technology, and the ability to age in place.
The focus has changed significantly, Exline noted, and the industry will need to reflect that.
Health care reform and the regulatory changes it produces will also have an effect on the industry. Going forward, referrals and occupancy will be driven by outcomes and results.
“We are entering an age of outcome management in healthcare,” Exline says. “It’s not just about the wallpaper or a friendly staff member. [Discharge planners are going to want to know,] What happened with this person under your supervision?”
Ultimately, as demographics in the industry continue to become favorable and supply increases along with demand, senior housing will continue to draw attention, he says, and providers will need to identify and understand their competition.
But competition, he adds, is not a bad thing, and providers should be open to partnerships and affiliations that can extend their communities’ service offerings.
“We need to be challenged,” he says. “There can be more than one winner in the senior housing field.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace