5 Senior Living Providers to Watch in 2022

With contributions from Tim Regan and Nick Andrews

Rapid growth, innovative operating models and seasoned leaders who are still generating new ideas.

These are among the factors differentiating some senior living providers from the pack, making them companies to watch in 2022.


As the industry embarks on a critical re-building year, these providers are taking risks and infusing energy into the sector. They are worth keeping tabs on for the next 12 months and beyond.

Jaybird Senior Living

Jaybird Senior Living CEO Kevin Russell purchased two senior living communities in Minnesota as part of a passive investment about five years ago.

Now, Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Jaybird Senior Living operates a portfolio of 75 communities in five Midwestern states. The firm has more than tripled in size since 2019, making it one of the 40 largest operators in the country.


The senior living industry called out to Russell, who was a partner with a venture capital fund in San Diego when he purchased the original communities. So, he spoke with his wife and decided to go all-in on seniors housing, buying an additional 20 communities and a small Midwest operator – Jaybird.

“I just fell in love with this industry,” Russell told Senior Housing News, adding that the convergence of real estate, technology, and health care excited him. “I think we just got really excited about the opportunity… not just commercially, but also the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people.”

Jaybird’s growth slowed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our head was down and we were focused on the task at hand,” he said.

But, as the pressures from the pandemic appear to be subsiding, Jaybird is poised to make its way into Missouri as soon as this March.

Driving much of the growth is an emerging market that Russell believes is the future of the industry.

“The real opportunity in senior housing is in the middle market whether that be by income levels or geography,” he said.

While the firm’s biggest presence is in Iowa where it operates 40 communities, it also operates 13 in Wisconsin, 11 in Minnesota, and two each in Kentucky and Illinois with Missouri on the way.

“I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon,” said Russell, who brings a unique perspective to the industry: An attorney, he spent time practicing law in New York City and in London, then worked in investment banking before winding up in Abu Dhabi as an advisor for a branch of the Royal Family before returning to the States and making the investments that introduced him to senior living.


LifeStar’s launch in July 2020 garnered headlines, thanks in large part to the involvement of NBA “super agent” David Falk. Falk’s agency (FAME) represented NBA superstars including Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins, John Stockton and Alonzo Mourning.

Under the leadership of industry veteran Joel Anderson, the company has made significant strides — as well as some interesting pivots and strategic decisions. And the organization will pass a key milestone in 2022, when construction starts on its first community developed from the ground up.

That project is called The Manhattan St. Petersburg, and is located on the coastal waterway of St. Petersburg, Florida. The high-end community will be constructed in two phases, feature a continuum of care, and introduce a membership model of senior living.

The membership fees will range from about $300,000 to $1.4 million, reflecting the level of exclusivity and luxury that Lifestar intends to deliver. The perks of Manhattan membership will include comprehensive concierge services and access to experiences beyond the walls of the community. Membership also brings health-related benefits and care coordination, and The Manhattan will reserve its health care settings for members only.

Presales are underway, and construction is slated to begin in Q2 or Q3 of this year, once 70% to 75% of independent living residences are reserved, Anderson said.

LifeStar also has been named as the exclusive professional services provider for Convivial Life, a new not-for-profit organization that recently acquired its first property, The Cabana at Jensen Dunes. LifeStar advised Convivial through the sales process and will manage the community. Rick Grindrod, former CEO of Erickson Retirement, is Convivial’s board chairman.

The Cabana at Jensen Dunes currently includes 126 rental units of assisted living and memory care, situated on a unique piece of real estate that includes 12.34 acres of nature preserve. LifeStar is expected to serve as the development consultant on a project to add independent living and other units and amenities.

Convivial is not the only organization for which LifeStar is providing professional services. The brand’s growth has been driven in large part through the services delivered by its three divisions:

— Full-service marketing agency LifeStar Creative

— Development consultancy LifeStar Development

— LifeStar Advisory, offering executive recruitment, strategic planning and other services

The company now employs 23 people and supports 2,700 senior living units through third-party relationships, with clients such as Lutheran Life Communities and VOA National Services.

The pieces are in place for LifeStar to pursue further growth, so look for more news from the company in 2022. In addition to growing through strategic acquisitions with Convivial and expanding its third-party services, the goal is to build and operate eight to 10 properties in Florida within a decade, turning The Manhattan into a distinct brand.

Falk has significant expertise in building a brand through his sports background, including helping to create the Air Jordan brand, Anderson noted. So, he is confident that they can make their vision a reality.

“When you pull up to a Manhattan project, you’ll know that it’s a Manhattan,” he said.

Cogir USA

David Eskenazy first met Cogir CEO Mathieu Duguay at a dinner organized by Welltower (NYSE: WELL). At the time, Canada-based Cogir was preparing to operate its first U.S. communities, and Eskenazy offered to be a resource, willing to share expertise gained through leading companies such as Aegis and Merrill Gardens.

Subsequently, Eskenazy became chairman of the board for Cogir Management USA. In this role, he worked with Cogir USA President Wally Jossart — also a former Aegis executive — to help steer the company through the first 20 months of Covid-19.

Last November, Eskenazy became CEO of Cogir USA, with the business now ready to pursue the growth plans that were interrupted by the pandemic. That growth has already begun, as Cogir added five communities formerly operated by Sunrise, bringing its total portfolio to 17.

Cogir USA is far from the only regional operator to be adding scale at the moment, but the leadership team of Eskenazy and Jossart, and the company’s connections to the Canadian arm of Cogir, make it a provider to watch this year.

The seasoned leadership team will be able to draw on decades of experience while also innovating in a company that Eskenazy described as “a little like a startup.”

“You take tidbits … as you move through your career, and you try to mix that with some things, I’ve mostly learned from the people in our buildings … you see some remarkable management happening every day, you figure out how to take what they can teach you and move it through an organization,” he said.

Innovations could come through technology — Eskenazy is known for implementing tech both to enhance the resident experience and bring greater efficiency and effectiveness to operations.

The insights into Canadian senior living also should lead to some novel operational approaches and design elements, particularly in development projects that Cogir USA is pursuing.

“There are some interesting things that Cogir does in Canada that I haven’t seen done here before, which I think is pretty cool,” Eskenazy said.

In terms of specific plans, Cogir USA is creating a more formalized, company-wide memory care program, and its growth strategy involves creating density in selected markets. The current portfolio is concentrated in the Seattle area and Northern California, from Sacramento through the Bay Area.

Look for more concrete news about Cogir USA’s expansion in 2022, as Eskenazy said there are “exciting partnerships” and plans in the works.

Experience Senior Living

Phill Barklow boasts the resume of a distinguished senior living industry veteran who has served with providers of various sizes, care levels and price points, including Holiday, Sunrise, Brookdale, Silverado, Atria and Balfour.

Now, he is drawing on the skills and knowledge he has accumulated to launch a new operating platform, as president of Denver-based Experience Senior Living. Barklow took on that job in Nov. 2021.

Experience is affiliated with NexCore Group, one of the largest U.S. health care real estate investors and developers, with a portfolio encompassing more than 14 million square feet of outpatient care facilities and more than 7.3 million square feet of medical office leases.

NexCore has developed a limited amount of senior housing as well, working with third-party operators. In launching Experience, the vision is to pursue a more expansive strategy with an in-house management component.

The plan is to create a multi-brand portfolio with communities serving different price points and care levels, including active adult, middle-market and upper-middle-market senior living, and a high-end offering, Barklow told SHN.

Providing a window into the high-end brand, Experience recently announced plans for The Reserve at Lone Tree. Located in a mixed-use, master-planned community in Lone Tree, Colorado, the project calls for 124 IL, 60 AL and 24 memory care units.

Barklow anticipates even larger future projects, as he believes in having a continuum of care and in the efficiencies of scale that come with sizable communities.

Experience plans to continue selectively working with third-party operators on some projects while self-managing others.

Part of the special sauce for Experience lies in having in-house development and design expertise.

“I’ve walked into probably 150 or so buildings … and you just go, ‘Why did they do it this way? Why was it designed this way? Why was it built this way?’” Barklow said.

With Experience, he is confident in being able to build “the right way” from the start, and have the right people in place running the communities.

“We partner with the best architects and design consultants that we can find, both in senior housing and non-senior housing, to make sure that we’re on the cutting edge of amenities, cutting edge of design, cutting edge of living space,” he said. “We have also been very involved in ESG, before it was really cool. We want to create green buildings … for sustainability purposes, and we think it’s the right thing to do.”

NexCore’s medical office business also could create advantages, such as with co-located senior living and health care buildings, enabling easy access for residents and potential staffing synergies.

Having efficiencies in development also should help enable more middle-market price points for certain communities, as will larger building sizes and the ability to share workforce among multiple properties in a given area, Barklow said.

The name “Experience Senior Living” is meant to reflect the fact that the company will be “fixated” on a high-quality experience for residents, family members and staff, Barklow said.

Still, it’s an appropriate company name for someone with his deep industry experience to be leading.

“I think when you’ve seen such a broad spectrum of the business, it really just allows you to kind of think differently when you’re standing up your own management company,” he said.

Bella Groves

Senior living operators have long sought to extend their services outside their walls, but a membership model from a recently launched memory care operator might offer a new way forward for doing so.

Though Bella Groves will offer a slate of typical memory care services at its 32-bed, household-style memory care community in Bulverde, Texas, the company’s co-founder and CEO James Lee has more ambitious plans in mind.

Bella Groves is unique in that the company is not solely looking to be a standalone memory care community operator. Instead, Lee envisions it as a company serving primarily people who don’t currently live in a memory care community.

“Ninety percent of our business is going to be focused on people outside of residential care,” Lee told Senior Housing News in December.

The company is working on offering three membership tiers for people living inside and outside of its community. Services include at-home education, training resources and support, for $20 a month; a $1,500 tier with more personalized aid, medication management services and one day of respite care at the community each month; and more standard residential memory care starting at $7,500 a month.

Bella Groves is still working on launching its educational services and other components. But if the company is successful in its plans, Lee believes the company’s margins would “far surpass the operating margin of the best senior living operators in our market.”

Given the number of people who care for loved ones living with dementia at home, a decentralized service model like Lee suggested could indeed boost margins and revenue much higher for memory care operators. And if Bella Groves lands on a model with reproducible results, other operators may be quick to follow suit, given the number of them looking to expand in the segment this year and beyond.

If there is someone in the senior living industry to change the way memory care services are offered, Lee is a good candidate for doing so. He is an industry veteran, having previously worked as an executive director with Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE: BKD) and as vice president of training and sales with Silverado.

“You’ve got people either on one end of the spectrum doing senior housing, or on the other end of the spectrum doing dementia care services direct-to-family,” Lee said. “But you don’t have anybody who’s doing the full range.”

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