If today’s continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) were sold on retail shelves, most would be labeled “one-size-fits-all.”
After all, each and every resident of a particular CCRC often pays the same price for the exact same product if they’re on the same type of contract, no matter their care needs or preferences. While this cost structure may have seemed worthwhile to consumers in the past, this approach likely won’t cut it with future CCRC consumers, according John Cochrane, president and CEO of HumanGood.
The Pleasanton, California-based parent company of provider and management companies American Baptist Homes of the West (ABHOW), be.group and Beacon Communities, Inc. officially rebranded as HumanGood earlier this year. The new name was intended to be a “conversation starter,” but also to signify the start of a fresh era for the company.
Armed with a new name, HumanGood plans, among other things, to “reinvent the concept of the CCRC,” Cochrane tells Senior Housing News. The process will involve consumer research, pilot programs and—yes—likely abandoning the “one-size-fits-all” mentality that CCRCs have relied on for so long.
Outdated and misaligned
It’s high time the CCRC industry make some real changes, as great deal of existing product is “outdated and misaligned,” Cochrane says. On top of that, the target CCRC consumer—and his or her mindset—is “changing rather dramatically.”
These issues aren’t problematic only to HumanGood.
“I think that, as a field, we know we’re somewhat misaligned with the marketplace,” Cochrane says.
Over the years, HumanGood and other CCRC providers have tried to fix these issues in superficial ways, he explains, by slapping on a fresh coat of paint or building a bistro. Now, though, HumanGood intends to spend enough money to fundamentally reshape and rethink the CCRC.
“We’ve tried to do this on the cheap, and not make the real investments that are required,” Cochrane says. “As a company and a field we need to get past that. They are not inexpensive undertakings, but they’re also not unimportant.”
As such, HumanGood plans to spend “not an insignificant amount of money” on its CCRC reinvention project. Cochrane believes the work and capital HumanGood is putting into CCRCs may be what’s ultimately required to save the sector.
“If [CCRC providers] were going to remain healthy and vibrant and vital, we were going to have to refresh an existing product,” he says.
Cable TV problem
HumanGood already has a plan to tackle its grand CCRC redesign.
“We’re really starting the exploratory process, determining what’s working about our current product, what isn’t,” Cochrane says. Part of that process involves learning more about the lifestyles of the consumers HumanGood is failing to attract. This, along with other consumer research, will inform how the company ultimately reworks the CCRC experience, Cochrane says.
Then, HumanGood will use its research to create pilot programs it can roll out at its various communities. Cochrane envisions that the company’s CCRC redesign initiative will result mostly in changes to the communities’ programming and services, not in rebuilding entire CCRCs from the ground-up.
Still, the new programs and services will likely have design implications down the road.
“It will inform how we do space planning, design—it will inform all of that,” Cochrane says.
Additionally, many of the country’s CCRCs, including HumanGood’s, suffer from what Cochrane calls “the cable TV problem.” Nationwide, Americans of all ages have begun abandoning their cable television plans because they feel they’re paying too much for numerous channels they don’t watch, instead of paying more reasonable prices for channels they actually enjoy.
Consumers may also be applying this logic to CCRCs, Cochrane believes. They’d likely rather pay only for services they receive—not for a bundle of services, many of which they will never use.
“We’ve bundled a whole bunch of services together, offered them as a bundle—but that may not be the most relevant or economically viable thing to do,” he says. “One of the things we’ll be exploring is un-bundled services.”
Written by Mary Kate Nelson
- Cochrane Photo_1: Mary Kate Nelson