This week, Americans headed to the polls to decide what their country will look like in 2017. Come January, there will be a new president—as well as the start of some new trends for the senior housing industry. In fact, there are at least three major trends that will take hold in 2017 and likely impact the industry for years to come, according to Travis Palmquist, PointClickCare’s vice president and general manager of senior living.
In some ways, the senior living industry won’t change next year, according to Palmquist, who spoke to Senior Housing News Monday at PointClickCare’s 2016 SUMMIT in Orlando, Florida.
“Senior living’s always trying to carve out their space, and it’s always going to be different from skilled nursing,” Palmquist tells SHN. “I don’t think they want to go down this road where they’re just 10 years behind skilled nursing—they want to remain private pay, they want to remain high-service organizations. That’s what they’re there to provide.”
Still, though senior living providers don’t necessarily want to change, the needs and the expectations of residents, families, and regulatory bodies inevitably will, he says. In many ways, demands and expectations from these players are all on the rise.
“This creates a pressure around formalizing the industry, and the need for tools to manage it,” Palmquist says.
In 2017, Palmquist predicts, senior living providers will:
1. Experience heightened competitive pressure.
Though the most recent data from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) suggested that senior housing supply and demand remain basically in balance, Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE: BKD), the largest senior living provider in the country, admitted to struggling with “unprecedented” new openings in several of its markets during its third-quarter 2016 earnings call last week. And Palmquist thinks more senior housing providers are going to experience similar competitive pressure in 2017.
“The pressure they’re feeling is real,” Palmquist says. “I think that there has been a lot of construction, and you’re going to hear a lot more buzz about competitive pressure from an occupancy perspective.”
2. Try to differentiate themselves.
In this same vein, senior living providers will likely have to do some introspection in order to cope with increased competitiveness. This involves recognizing and promoting their own strengths, Palmquist explains.
Generally, residents choose to move into assisted living communities because they need assistance with their medications or with some activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing, toileting and eating. At the same time, there are some medical diagnoses that tend to be very common among assisted living residents, Palmquist explains. And if providers realize that diabetes in particular is prevalent in their communities, for example, they can use that fact to their competitive advantage.
“To compete for occupancy, providers are going to tiptoe into saying ‘We offer this really cool diabetes management program,’” Palmquist says.
Simply put, in order for a provider to be successful in 2017 and beyond, they’ll have to have much more than just “the bells and whistles and the amenities,” Palmquist explains.
“I think they’re going to have to start going to the market with a little bit stronger message about what they can do for people to stand out in the crowd—especially when you’ve got the amount of construction that’s taking place,” he says. “It’s going to be very competitive.”
3. Begin to meet seniors where they are.
It’s a well-known fact that most American seniors would prefer to age in their homes instead of moving into a senior living community. And once some seniors decide to actually make the move, the process can be long and arduous for providers who have rooms to fill and occupancies to boost.
“Often, you’ve got a 2-to-24-month window between people coming to tour your community to them moving in,” Palmquist says.
An opportunity exists, he says, to meet seniors where they are—not to force them into making a decision they’re uncomfortable or unhappy with.
“Instead of talking them into doing something they don’t want to do, why don’t they help them do what they want to do?” Palmquist says.
In short, more providers may begin to offer some assistance to seniors in their own homes, before they’re ready to move into a senior living community.
“I do think you’re going to see organizations start to go beyond the walls of their communities to go provide services,” Palmquist says. “Providers will start to leverage some of the new technology in ways that maybe weren’t possible before.”
Providers may send seniors home with a tablet, for example, and remotely remind them to take their medications. Regardless of how these out-of-community services are offered, they provide senior living communities with an entirely new revenue stream that doesn’t require any bricks and mortar—as well as an all-but-guaranteed pool of soon-to-be residents.
Some senior housing providers may initially be hesitant to offer services to seniors outside of their communities. After all, the process seems to throw the importance of occupancy and census to the wayside.
“But what happens when that resident does make a move-in decision?” Palmquist asks. “Who’s got that relationship? Who’s sticky?”
Written by Mary Kate Nelson