For the second year in a row, Jimmy Buffett reigns supreme.
The most-read article on Senior Housing News in 2018 was a news story about plans for a third Margaritaville active adult community. Last year, the most-read article was about plans for the first Margaritaville development.
The sustained interest in these projects suggests that senior housing providers are asking themselves what the rise of Margaritaville says about the future of retirement living — and if their communities will be competing against the promise of a Parrothead lifestyle.
The year also brought some momentous news: Medicare Advantage policy changes could pave the way for benefits that cover some senior living services. Our initial reporting on this news captured readers’ attention, and Medicare Advantage is sure to be a top ongoing story in 2019 and beyond.
As is the case every year, readers were also attuned to industry giant Brookdale (NYSE: BKD), the intersection of technology and senior living, and the entrance of new operators and operating models.
Margaritaville Holdings, Minto Communities USA and St. Joe (NYSE: JOE) announced this year they’re pursuing the development of a new Latitude Margaritaville active adult community in Bay County, Florida. This is the third such property, with the first two open or in the works in Daytona Beach, Florida, and Hilton Head, South Carolina. Amenities in the forthcoming location include a resort-style pool, fitness activities, game and hobby rooms, arts and learning programs, live entertainment and food and beverage concepts with Margaritaville branding.
Starting in 2019, Medicare Advantage insurers will be allowed to cover non-skilled in-home care. Ever since this policy was announced in April, senior living providers have been trying to determine what it means for them. Few insurers are offering these benefits next year, but it’s increasingly clear that Medicare Advantage will play a much larger role in the future of senior living — whether as a payment source, an innovation driver or even a referral service.
New operators always garner attention, but especially when they’re headed up by familiar faces. Pegasus is the new venture co-founded by industry veterans Steve Vick and Chris Hollister, who are taking on the challenge of turning around an underperforming Brookdale portfolio right out of the gate.
Voice-enabled tech like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home clearly hold promise for senior living, and Front Porch was one of the first providers to show eager adoption among residents. As a linchpin for smart home environments — controlling thermostats, lights and other devices — expect Echo and similar devices to gain even more prominence in the future.
Readers are always avid to follow all the twists and turns at the nation’s largest senior living provider, Brookdale. In 2017, the storyline was about a potential sale of the company. This year, it was all about a turnaround effort that began in February, with the appointment of Cindy Baier as CEO.
Tech giant Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) announced new features for its Apple Watch Series 4 in September — and they could change the wearables market for older adults. The watch got some hardware enhancements in addition to new software upgrades that include fall-detection technology. The tech works with the help of an accelerometer and gyroscope to identify when hard falls occur, and if the Apple Watch detects such a fall, it may even call for help.
Like Pegasus, Eclipse is a new operator on the scene with seasoned leadership, including CEO Kai Hsiao. The Eclipse executive team is even based out of the former headquarters building of Holiday Retirement, the independent living giant that Hsiao once led. With Eclipse, he’s focused on a tech-forward platform and a multi-brand portfolio.
In what could be indicative of a much larger trend, more and more senior living providers are building dining venues into their communities that operate like a Starbucks or a Panera. The fast-casual eateries generally offer customized food orders, stylish menus, kitchens that are visible from the dining area and modern decor.
Wilsonville, Oregon-based Avamere Family of Companies made a splash when it announced plans to open a “micro CCRC” in St. George, Utah. The developments — now known under the brand name “Ovation” — include independent living, assisted living and memory care units as well as multiple dining options, concierge services and other upscale amenities. But most notably, the concept won’t feature any skilled nursing units.
Dee Ann Turner, Chick-Fil-A vice president of enterprise social responsibility, joined us for the inaugural Senior Housing News DISHED event in Chicago last March. Employee turnover is high in the quick-service restaurant industry, as it is in senior living — but Chick-Fil-A routinely scores top marks for its retention rate. Turner shared some of the company’s secret sauce with DISHED attendees, and we were happy to pass some of these tips along to our readers.