Tech, Retail Trends to Drive ‘Un-Bundling’ of Senior Housing Services

Several senior living companies are trying to take a page from the hotel industry’s playbook, offering a greater variety of service packages and price points. This process is being hastened by converging trends in technology and retail, according to one expert.

“I’m a big believer that senior housing is going to be unbundled the way that hotels have gotten unbundled,” Liddy Manson, director of the AgingWell Hub at Georgetown University’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative, told Senior Housing News.

Manson came to Georgetown after a 25-year career in technology that included founding BeClose, a smart-home platform for seniors that was sold in 2015 to Alarm.com. The Washington, D.C.-based AgingWell Hub serves as a joint venture between Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business and multinational technology and consumer-product company Philips, with the goal of bringing together multiple public and private players in the service of developing new senior-focused technologies.

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The question of “unbundling” senior living has been raised by several prominent industry voices in recent months and years, including John Cochrane, CEO of major nonprofit provider HumanGood. Cochrane uses the analogy of cable television — whereas once consumers accepted that they needed to subscribe to a comprehensive package, now they want to only pay for and receive the channels that they actually watch. So too in senior living, residents increasingly will want more a la carte services that are tailored to their specific wants and needs, Cochrane believes.

Manson echoed this notion and emphasized the role that technology is already playing. For example, ride-hailing applications such as Lyft are reducing the need for senior living providers to be the go-to transportation provider for older adults who can no longer drive. Similarly, e-commerce options like Amazon.com and Walmart.com can deliver household essentials very rapidly. This is changing the calculus on when older adults move into senior housing and what services they want and need from the senior living company if they do make the move.

Tech startups and behemoths like Apple, as well as large retailers, are seeing this growing senior market and will only continue to target it more specifically going forward, Manson predicted. The AgingWell Hub has been working with Sam’s Club to understand what the aging Baby Boomer consumer is experiencing and how they are interacting with retailers.

“I think you can see this as an aggressive play into senior services or as customer-focused organizations seeing the needs of a core segment of their [consumer] population evolving as they age,” she said. “I think it’s more the latter.”

Senior living providers should be thinking about how technology is changing the retail landscape and what sorts of business relationships could be forged, she advised.

“I’m a big believer that at the end of the day, it comes back to human beings,” she said. “Who are these [aging] humans, what will they ask for, and how will we be predictive about that? Great cross-sector collaboration is crucial.”

Written by Tim Mullaney

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