A missed opportunity?

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John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
One reason why the annual Dealmaker's Handbook is so much fun to put together is that it never fails to reveal emerging market trends. And here, the news is quite good.

For the first time in years, capital is becoming easier to obtain. And as a result, we are seeing an uptick in new projects across the senior living continuum.

It's a safe bet that capital and construction will be hot topics when the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry holds its 22nd annual meeting this month.

Having been to more NIC events than I care to admit to, I can testify that these meetings bring together some of the sharpest minds in the seniors housing and care sector. Besides deal making, these meetings also offer sessions on some of the field's most important issues.

But there is one area that I think needs more attention at the meeting — and in general: Our nation needs a much larger supply of affordable seniors housing.

Let's not forget that the median U.S. income in 2010 was $51,914, according to the Census Bureau. And it's probably safe to say many retirees are living on less. The entry fees and monthly charges most senior living communities require are unaffordable for many middle- and lower-income Americans.

That's not to say developers and operators are insensitive or should be blamed. Market realities have forced many to compete by offering more and better.

And let's not kid ourselves. Many older seniors were able to leverage their home values, pensions, and hefty nest eggs so that they could pay for their current senior living residence.

Many of the boomers who will soon be looking at senior living will be hard-pressed to match up in any of those areas.

But rich or poor, old people will continue to need housing, healthcare and other services that meet their changing needs.

Certainly, it will be a challenge for operators to compete for residents who are, well, poorer. But this is going to be where a huge chunk of the future senior living market will likely be found.

The market isn't just speaking, it's screaming. Is anyone listening?
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