Surging Memory Care Construction Pushes Developers to Innovate

As assisted living construction shows little sign of slowing down, senior housing developers seasoned in the art of memory care development are banking on innovative design and programming to stay competitive.

Assisted living development continues its steady climb to accommodate forthcoming demand, but recent data show it’s memory care that has been surging. Anticipating a sizable platform for growth in the coming years, one developer is planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into new memory care development.

In the first quarter, combined properties—typically assisted living and memory-care construction—made up 73% of new construction. Standalone memory care made up 30% of that share, according to data from the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry (NIC).

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“That highlights there is a lot of memory care [construction],” said NIC Senior Research Analyst Chris McGraw during a June webinar.

To stay ahead of the curve in a market brewing with a slew of development on the memory care side, some developers are sticking to their guns by expanding their exclusive care models in markets they already know before making footprints elsewhere.

One of those companies not easily intimidated by the competitive development landscape is The LaSalle Group. The Irving, Texas-based company develops memory care communities under its Autumn Leaves brand.

“Competition is healthy,” says Joseph Jasmon, chief operating officer for The LaSalle Group. “As more players come into the space it challenges everyone to do better.”

To date, The LaSalle Group operates 36 Autumn Leaves communities in four states, totalling approximately 1,832 units.

Currently, the company has 21 projects either in construction or development stages and has plans to expand into Florida, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C., with due diligence proceedings already underway in states including Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee.

The four most recent Autumn Leaves communities to open their doors have combined development costs totalling nearly $40 million. Many of the company’s developments tally in the neighborhood of around $10 million, give or take.

Autumn Leaves developments also follow a similar design patterns, encompassing approximately 30,000-square-feet and unit count in the range of 50 units.

Each community also focuses on making it easier for residents to navigate the facility, with the intent of boosting cognitive ability, featuring some wings that might be color-coordinated or embodying a certain theme, such as western or garden design.

The company’s care model also relies heavily on various activities to stimulate cognitive ability, such as the use of aromatherapy, audio-visual exercises via iPad and computer, or something as simple as having an engagement manager share an orange with a resident, Jasmon says.

“We’re constantly looking for other ways to do science and evidence-based activities,” he says. “Enhancing the senses can help a resident have five minutes of clarity that other folks with dementia might not normally have.”

Looking ahead, The LaSalle Group aims to develop 8 to 12 memory care projects a year—at least for the foreseeable future to 2018, Jasmon says.

“Our high level of attention to caring for residents and exclusive memory care model will stand the test of time. It just makes sense.”

Written by Jason Oliva