Ascension Forms New Nonprofit Senior Living Giant

Ascension, the nation’s largest nonprofit Catholic health system, has announced it will unite the majority of its senior-focused programs under the national organization Ascension Health Senior Care, creating the second-largest not-for-profit long-term care provider in the country.

Ascension Health Senior Care will oversee a total of 5,568 senior care/senior living beds and three PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) programs totaling 725 enrollees.

The senior services ministry will include independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing sites, as well as PACE programs, that are a part of Ascension Health, Ascension’s health care delivery organization.


With 34 senior care facilities and more than 5,500 beds, the number of senior living units under Ascension Health Senior Care places it in the top-five of the LeadingAge/Ziegler list of 100 largest not-for-profit multi-site senior living organizations.

And the move could signal more activity among nonprofit health systems with senior living properties under their care umbrella, based on the competitive advantage a large, senior care-focused parent organization brings.

They’re going to be able to compete by doing exactly what Ascension is doing with this roll-out of their senior living programs — creating a very distinct focus on their senior living communities and programs,” says Ziegler Senior Vice President Lynn M. Daly, of the Ascension move. “This is really putting them in a position of strength and opportunity for continued strength going forward.”


By separating its senior care operations from the Ascension health system as a whole, the senior living facilities will have the potential for greater access to capital without having to compete with their acute care counterparts, and appropriate human resources and senior living-specific benchmarks, Daly says.

“We are seeing the health systems starting to look at their senior living assets strategically in terms of what they want to do with them — either rolling them out [as with Ascension], investing in them or divestiture,” Daly says.

Ascension sees the move as a competitive advantage that will allow for greater investment in facilities and equipment, better resource allocation, more efficient operations and growth opportunities, the company says.

“Combining Ascension Health’s senior care facilities into a single operating unit will help ensure best practices are systematized and standardized, intellectual capital is more effectively shared and strategy is implemented consistently at all of our facilities,” says Mark Frey, Ascension Health Ministry market leader for senior services. “Seniors will increasingly demand more from providers – more value, better outcomes, greater involvement in decision-making. A unified approach to senior care will increase the likelihood that we will successfully meet expectations.”

Headquarters for Ascension Health Senior Care will be located in St. Louis, and the facilities will be divided into east and west regions for the purposes of administration and organization. The senior leadership will centralize most functional areas including finance, quality, human resources, supply chain and IT.

“[An] increasing number of seniors with increasing expectations of their providers will necessitate more focused, creative and effective approaches to their care – this is best done through an organization that works exclusively in this area,” says Frey, who is also the president and CEO of Alexian Brothers Health System, part of Ascension.

Written by Emily Study

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