Why Senior Living Models Need to be Reexamined

Updated on August 2, 2021
ken stoll

By Ken Stoll

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry is set to make adjustments to accommodate the changing needs of patients and professionals. The senior living sector, which was hit hard by COVID-19 due to the vulnerable populations housed within such facilities, stands to make significant changes to existing models for the sake of improved care, comfort, and infection control.

There is no better time than now to investigate how senior living models can be improved. While each senior living facility may implement different practices and strategies, reexamining current models and identifying areas of improvement such as those described below could help improve broad standards of care and effectiveness of treatment offerings.

Infection Control and Prevention

It would be difficult to disregard the importance of infection control and prevention measures after living through the pandemic, and senior living facilities are especially pressed to make improvements in this area to help ensure the health and safety of residents and staff members alike.

One senior living model that proved to be effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 featured smaller residential centers in a centralized network — i.e., the Green House nursing home. In this model, residents received specialized care in addition to ample opportunities for socialization, and such facilities reported significantly lower rates of COVID-19 (and COVID-19-related deaths) among residents and staff members than other more traditional senior living models.

Another measure that aided in the fight against COVID-19 within senior living facilities was improvements to environmental control. By updating their infrastructure with more sustainable materials, enhanced air filters, improved plumbing, and higher standards for cleanliness and sanitation, facilities can naturally reduce the spread of disease and promote a better quality of life for residents and staff members.

With these developments in mind, senior living models may benefit from mimicking some of the aforementioned changes. Improving environmental factors to reduce the spread of disease and altering the framework of residential facilities to build networks of smaller communities could be productive paths toward infection control and prevention within senior living facilities.

Making Senior Housing Feel Like Home

To make senior living facilities more comfortable and effective, many experts suggest that the path to success involves de-institutionalizing facilities and adopting a small-home, community-network model. Many traditional senior living facilities adopt a more clinical atmosphere, which certainly facilitates the primary medical function of such institutions, but there are limitations to these models that make adjustments worthwhile considerations.

Rather than abide by the sterile, uniform facilities in which residents conduct all activity (including treatment, recreation, and rest), senior living facilities may benefit from smaller-scale models that encourage social engagement, physical activity, and community. Small-scale senior living communities will also help to reduce the strain on larger hospitals and other medical facilities by providing preventative and holistic care to residents on-site.

One example is Miami’s Vertical Medical City Biscayne, a high-rise facility in development that is intended to provide medical care and social support to residents. This facility defies traditional models by spreading out residents to grant more privacy and independence without limiting access to high-quality personalized care, which will be available in the same building.

Pocket communities — i.e., small neighborhoods clustered around common-area buildings and, often, a green space — are also growing in popularity. Steve Lindsey, CEO of one such facility, Garden Spot Communities in New Holland, Pa., told Senior Housing News that the idea behind them is that people are “hardwired to live in a small community.” Affordability adds to the appeal of such communities. And as with the Green House model, such low-density housing also minimizes the chances of spreading a virus-like COVID-19.

These initiatives may not be the standard yet, but as the needs of residents shift, investing in the comfort and independence of senior living residents without detracting from the quality of care they can receive will likely be important for the future success of senior living models.

By creating residential environments, from high-rise facilities to pocket neighborhoods, that are more comfortable and promote independence when appropriate, in addition to reducing the need for off-site transportation by constructing small, community-based networks of care and recreation, senior living facilities like this one can make senior care more attractive, effective, and efficient.

Improving Healthcare Through Holistic Ideologies

The pandemic has provided valuable insights into healthcare, such as the concept and importance of community-oriented health. For senior living centers, holistic (or whole-body) healthcare could improve residents’ overall wellness as well as their perspectives and outlooks.

Personalizing individual treatment and care plans with the use of technology like artificial intelligence should consist not only of pharmaceutical prescriptions and medical procedures but also elements such as diet plans and exercise regimens. By including more holistic practices in senior living centers, these organizations can promote a higher quality of life that takes a more proactive approach to healthcare rather than a strictly reactive one.

Nontraditional senior living models proved to be considerably more effective in mitigating the spread and impact of the novel coronavirus, and as we look ahead toward the future of the industry, making changes to better accommodate the needs and desires of residents while also taking strides to improve employee retention will be productive. The traditional model of senior living facilities certainly serves a purpose, but with what we learned from the pandemic, this model may be outdated in more ways than one.

Reexamining senior living models can illuminate the flaws of existing standards and highlight areas of improvement. By adopting innovative models–such as small home senior living communities or comprehensive facilities with limited need for outpatient services–senior living facilities can better care for their residents. Improving infection control measures, comfort, and independence levels, and whole-body approaches to healthcare could have a drastic impact on the wellness of senior living facility residents as well as the general health of the communities in which they live.

Ken Stoll is an Operating Partner of Chicago Pacific Founders and leads the Medicare Advantage platform. 

Prior to CPF, Mr. Stoll served as President, Resolution Health, Inc. where he led, managed and oversaw the overall operation, products, account management and consumer/provider messaging and behavioral economics for Population Health Insights. While at Resolution Health, Ken also lead the strategic development of RHI: aligning products strategically with the market; product development and delivery; and, consumer engagement initiatives – integrating RHI analytics into medical management operations, provider initiatives and population health management programs. Prior to Resolution Health, Ken was a Senior Vice President at Accretive Health, a leading healthcare revenue cycle management provider. While at Accretive, Ken successfully managed long-term client relationships, ranging between $60,000,000 and $100,000,000 in annual revenue, launched internal Medicaid eligibility business that generated $40,000,000 in annual revenue and reduced costs of processing by $4,000,000, implemented integrated patient collection processes incorporating pre-service, day-of-service, customer service, and post-service activities to increase operating performance by 200 BPS in net income, managed patient-pay profit and loss across 35 U.S. sites, and developed a patient financing program in cooperation with a large, multinational consumer debt provider, increasing patient revenue collections by 20%. Ken also served as a key strategy and thought leader in development of population health management offerings, driving 16% reduction in patient service costs across 350,000 member lives and 1200 Providers. Ken is a former partner at Accenture in their Health and Life Sciences and Consumer Products practices where he built enduring client relationships and significant business outcomes for his clients. Ken Stoll earned his M.B.A. from John Hopkins.

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