By Dan Brewer
Most aging Americans want to age in place within their own residence, and innovations in technology are making that goal increasingly possible. As an investor in senior housing, I see this as a positive trend. Why? Residential aging in place will create many new potential revenue streams for operators within the senior housing industry. It will also allow operators to encounter seniors even earlier in the aging process, ensuring a longer and stronger relationship with potential residents. More revenue and more long-term residents make for a winning investment opportunity.
Before I discuss these ideas further, there are a few important terms to understand.
- Aging in place is a term used to describe a person living in the resident of their choice, for as long as they are able, as they age. This is primarily their residential home.
- Residential assisted living is a method of converting once residential housing into group housing for aging Americans. RALs are managed by operators, much like assisted living communities. Aging Americans move into RALs as temporary residents.
- Continuum of care describes housing planned and operated to provide a continuum of accommodation and service for seniors as they age, including but not limited to independent living, congregate housing, assisted living, and skilled nursing care.
Keeping the above terms in mind, the following are trends I expect to see in senior housing as innovations in residential aging in place continue.
- Senior housing operators will recognize new opportunities for outreach and revenue. As seniors seek to stay in homes longer, senior housing operators will be uniquely positioned to support them in keeping their homes safe and accessible. They will create a new community-based business model that meets seniors head on: in their homes. That could mean offering regular in-home wellness checks; offering recommendations for fall prevention renovations; or providing short-term in-home relief to family caregivers. By starting a relationship early, offering as-needed in-home care, operators have a chance to create a loyal relationship with the aging community.
- Residential aging in place and senior housing will be recognized as part of the same aging continuum. Residential aging in place is not a competitor of senior housing; it is a dynamic part of the aging continuum. There will always be a need for high-level care for seniors. I believe service lines will continue to blur in the senior housing sector, and there will become a more fluid—and positive—relationship between residential aging in place seniors and senior housing communities. Indeed, by working together earlier, senior housing operators can help better prepare families for various phases of aging. Seniors and caregivers will come to senior housing more informed of their options and better prepared to manage or finance them.
- Residential assisted living (RALs) will begin to partner with traditional operators to provide a wider range of services. As the number of people launching residential assisted living homes continues to grow, so will their need for specialized knowledge and support. RALs are fairly limited in the types of healthcare services they can provide to residents. Established senior housing communities will have the opportunity to serve as centralized resource centers for these homes and the seniors living in them. This will provide yet one more potential business model, and a new pool of potential residents.
- Senior housing will find ways to directly support caregivers. Even those aging in place will sometimes require support from a friend or loved one. Senior housing has the opportunity to meet these caregivers where they are to provide the help and support they need to stay healthy. This in turn creates a stronger relationship between the operator and the family as the senior continues to age out of their home and into a senior housing community.
The longevity industry is working to make aging a more positive experience. Residential aging in place innovations are an important part of that effort. I believe senior housing operators will see new and exciting business opportunities arise from advanced aging in place initiatives. Just as importantly, they will begin to play an increasingly important role in the communities in which they operate.
Dan Brewer is Chief Fund Manager of Senior Living Fund, a private equity company investing in quality senior housing communities nationwide. Dan has more than 25 years of business development and real estate investment experience, including 15 years in commercial real estate (CRE), and is a frequent speaker and panelist at industry conferences throughout the country. He is passionate about the social implications of aging and bringing senior housing to the forefront of the impact investing sector.
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