Another Health System Makes Senior Living Play as Tanner Partners with Beacon

A regional health system is forging ahead with plans for a senior living community, and it’s bringing along an experienced operator as its primary partner.

Tanner Health System, a nonprofit that includes five hospitals servicing west Georgia and east Alabama, has joined forces with Beacon Communities on a new community in Villa Rica, Georgia, called The Birches at Villa Rica.

For Tanner, The Birches at Villa Rica represents a new focus on senior living. The company first announced its push into the product type in 2018, citing the great and growing need for those services among the older adults it cares for.

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“We see this as another extension of health care where we can be proactive, and appropriately reactive, to help people have a good quality of life,” Wayne Senfeld, senior vice president of behavioral health at Tanner, told Senior Housing News.

More generally, the community is the latest example of how the senior living industry is increasingly finding value in onsite primary care services, and looking to more closely align with health systems. Other examples of the trend include Welltower’s (NYSE: WELL) $4 billion joint venture with nonprofit health system ProMedica to acquire the operations of HCR ManorCare, the 2018 merger between Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society and nonprofit health system Sanford and the Wellspire collaboration between non-profit senior living provider WesleyLife and Davenport, Iowa-based Genesis Health System.

As planned, the community will have 61 apartments, with amenities such as a fitness center, multimedia room, movie theater, hair salon and nail salon.

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The Birches at Villa Rica / Tanner

The community’s residents will also have access to the care the health system provides. For example, Tanner nurse practitioners or family-practice doctors will be able to care for residents in the community where they live. And, it will come with the infrastructure for high-speed internet, so that residents can stay in touch with loved ones even if they have to stay in their rooms.

Managing The Birches at Villa Rica is Cumming, Georgia-based Beacon Communities, a third-party operator with 13 communities primarily spread throughout the Southeast. The company works with five different ownership groups, and collectively has more than 450 residents.

Beacon also sees many benefits in collaborating with a health system, according to David Johnston, the company’s CEO and founder. In addition to linking residents with Tanner’s primary care offerings, Beacon also plans to implement some of the health system’s wellness offerings, such as its “Get Healthy, Live Well” program. Through those programs, Tanner offers assistance and guidance on topics including nutrition, chronic disease management, gardening, exercise and yoga.

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“We’re meeting with Tanner to discuss how we can integrate those programs into the activities and programming that we’ll be providing to our assisted living and memory care residents,” Johnston told SHN. “That’s really going to set The Birches aside from the normal assisted living communities.”

The Birches will open its doors next spring or summer, and is currently preleasing. Beyond that, Tanner sees growth opportunities in the senior housing space. And both organizations believe that consumers will respond positively to senior living communities that can offer robust health and safety services and resources, in light of Covid-19.

“When you consider putting a parent or your spouse or yourself into a senior living environment, with 60, 80, 100 other individuals, anything we can do as health care providers to offer a sense of safety … is going to be an assurance for the family member or for the resident,” Senfeld said.

Beacon sees similar advantages.

“I think this [pandemic] will be with us for a long time,” Johnston said. “Having Tanner as a partner, and the synergy of working together to help manage threats, that’s a good thing to have.”

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