Lloyd Jones has followed a winding path since first entering the senior living market in a big way, but the firm’s Aviva Senior Living arm is poised to make moves in 2024.
Aviva has 10 communities under management across the country and, considering the existing economic headwinds, COO Chris Casteel has said the company has fared well through 2023.
Since the start of the year, the company has achieved a net total of 88 move-ins, and more than half the company’s communities are just above 83% occupancy, an increase from 78% earlier this year.
“Being able to go from 78% to 83% has been a material gain for us month over month,” Casteel told Senior Housing News.
Back in April 2022, Lloyd Jones announced it was selling the majority of its multifamily portfolio in order to “go big on senior housing.” Casteel said the firm’s CEO, Chris Finlay, was eager to “help and support” senior living, which led to the creation of the Llyod Jones Senior Living arm.
However, the name caused confusion within the real estate market about what Lloyd Jones was doing, which led to the rebrand to Aviva Senior Living. With the brand in place, the company focuses on assisted living, memory care and some independent living.
While there have been economic struggles and staffing concerns, Casteel said he is looking ahead to what 2024 can bring for the company. That includes further integration of technology to enable a comprehensive picture of residents’ wellbeing.
A growing footprint
Looking ahead for short term growth, Aviva Senior Living is planning on a combination of acquisitions and third-party management, according to Casteel. However, the company does have one community under development in Port St. Lucie, Florida at the moment.
Casteel added he does not have an estimate on what additional development looks like at this time, however.
“One of the things, much like other providers, is that we are looking at debt markets,” he said. “I think that’s going to drive the appetite for new construction starts. The idea of us being able to build our own community and have it customized for the experiences we are looking to deliver is very appealing to us.”
For the current communities, Aviva Senior Living is beginning to examine fee structures, rent levels, care levels and medication levels to allow residents to customize their level of service. While this isn’t a new concept for senior housing, Casteel said he believes Aviva Senior Living has gotten better at “discerning a resident’s needs and pricing accordingly.”
The pricing for senior housing is also a concern and area of experimentation due to the concern about baby boomers not having the resources for senior housing. As such, Casteel noted short-term acquisitions could be a way for Aviva Senior Living to tap into the middle market, which he said the company’s leadership is looking at as being underserved.
Potential future acquisitions for the company could include distressed assets, which would then be brought up to “current day expectations” while maintaining a middle- market price point.
“I do believe that … market is potentially going to be left out as the higher number of baby boomers really start seeking to move into senior housing,” Casteel said.
Casteel added Aviva Senior Living will be using its existing partnerships to take a cluster market approach to expand its regional footprint in the areas it already has communities.
Moving forward, the company aims to really focus on the incorporation of technology into its communities, which so far includes real time tracking systems and radio frequency identification (RFID) door locks.
Casteel noted it has been “fantastic” to see how residents have taken to these technologies, and Aviva’s purpose is to increase their overall quality of life.
“It’s interesting to watch older adults experiment with and learn new technology,” he said. “It’s pretty cool when a resident can walk up to their door … and it unlocks without them having to fiddle with a key.”
The real time location services are seeing multiple uses, between finding residents when needed to tracking where they are spending the most time. Additionally, it is helping staff members see where accidents might be occurring within a community, after which staff can make adjustments to further elevate care.
Going into 2024, Casteel said the plan is for Aviva Senior Living to continue exploring new technological offerings, though each has pros and cons, such as devices or wearables that need to be recharged frequently.
“There are a number of factors that come into the success of how a solution will work,” Casteel said. “For me, I would like for us to be able to … understand the whole concept of the resident well-being through these types of solutions.”
Casteel believes future technology will include the use of AI for predictive analytics, which several companies and communities are beginning to incorporate. If the technology becomes more accurate, it could be a “game changer for the industry,” he said.
Pushing through headwinds
The greatest challenge Aviva Senior Living is facing at the moment is staffing, which has been a trending issue within the industry. No solutions have been pushed through yet, but Casteel said he sees the small size of Aviva Senior Living being an advantage, as it allows for easier pivoting and adjusting.
The leadership teams have been visiting communities and directly asking staff members what is working and what is not working, alongside sending out pulse surveys for staff feedback.
Staffing issues factor into the noticeable short-term challenges Aviva Senior Living is facing alongside the industry as a whole, given competitive labor markets, wage rates and benefit packages. By taking an engagement approach, Casteel said, the plan is to support the current staff and meet their needs so they can better serve residents.
An added bonus of doing so is the hope that it “creates stories” for potential candidates about how Aviva Senior Living stands out in comparison to other operators.
“We’ll be the first to admit we’re not perfect, but I think we’re doing a really good job listening to folks,” Casteel said.