As the affordable housing crisis continues to impact senior living, developers aim to fill in the gaps in service for middle-class seniors making the transition to the space — and Prime Senior Living Group President of Development Debra Maynard hopes to be among those helping to bridge the gap.
Prime is developing a construction pipeline of independent living communities across the mid-South, targeting the middle market. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based company broke ground in April on a 145-unit community in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Maynard shared Prime’s goals and strategies during a recent interview for the Senior Housing News podcast Transform, sponsored by PointClickCare. Transform focuses on the people and ideas shaping the future of senior living.
Addressing the imbalance in supply and demand for middle-market senior housing has taken on an added resonance of late, with a new study showing the senior population in this income bracket doubling to 14.4 million in the next decade, and 54% of those will not be able to afford senior housing. As industry experts look for a mix of old and new ideas to address the divide, developers such as Prime are taking things one project at a time.
On how Prime decided to focus on developing middle-market senior housing:
Joel (Locker, Prime CEO) created this model for finding pockets in the Southeast that could use independent living. We’ve created a system where he looks at a market for [demographic] numbers and I look for what is happening in the market [regarding competition] and is there a great opportunity for that middle market where there seems to be an absence.
There’s a need for housing for the middle class. Historically, senior housing has been a high-end product. We’re looking to create something different.
On the economic trends Prime has identified for its development strategy:
Everyone talks about how the first baby boomers are entering the space. This wave has made more money and spent more money. They don’t have large retirement accounts, pensions or savings, for a host of reasons, yet they’re still faced with the same care needs as their parents and grandparents.
On how Prime’s strategy targeting healthy seniors differs from active adult communities:
There’s a graying of the lines [in senior living]. Assisted living feels like skilled nursing. Independent living feels kind of how assisted living used to be. There’s even a 55-plus senior apartment model, with no services.
We offer meals and high-functioning activities. We had a putting green and are adding pickleball. We want to build communities where active people find engagement and something to do. Every senior housing company is trying to figure out what is the model of the future, what residents want and the services they demand.
On rising to meet the demand for middle-market senior housing for future generations:
I do think there’s a need [for middle-market housing]. The [demographic] numbers are increasing. Product diversity is expanding and we are passionate about what we are building. We believe there will always be a middle class we believe it is underserved. There is a gap between high-end and affordable for where we want to live in our 80s, and what that product will look like.
On what Prime is doing to educate potential customers about senior living:
We’ll use the traditional media methods — direct mail and advertising. We could use TV and radio spots.
We try to partner with community programs to come in and educate people on not only [senior living options], but the price points for each product and what to look for when touring a community.
We do believe the more people we educate about the product, it still helps us, ultimately. When I talk to people in a social setting about what I do, the term nursing home is attached to [their perceptions of senior living] 95% of the time.
People don’t understand the cost of care and services, or the number of people it takes to run a community. It’s a complicated issue to still be discussing, and I’ve been doing this since the 80s when assisted living first became popular.
On providing the quality of housing incoming boomers are demanding:
People want a place to go home to. They want it to feel like home. They want the separation between the main rooms in a unit.
When they’re moving in, we don’t want them to feel like they’re downgrading from their house to an apartment. They’re getting granite countertops and in-unit laundry. We listen to people ant these things matter.
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