Operators must learn to fish where the fish are
John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
It's encouraging to see capital and new construction returning to the field.
And it's a safe bet that both issues will be popular topics when the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry holds its 22nd annual meeting in Chicago next month.
Having been to more NIC events than I care to admit to, I can testify that these meeting brings together some of the sharpest minds in the seniors housing and care sector. In addition to the dealmaking, these meetings also serve up sessions on some of the most important issues in the field.
For example, here are some of the topics on tap for this year:
· Partnerships Across The Continuum of Care: Changing the Face Of Skilled Nursing
· What Will The Growing Role Of Managed Care In Medicare And Medicaid Mean For SNFs?
· Political And Fiscal Realities And What They Mean For Post-Acute LTC
· Life after Medicare Cuts: Delivering Value And Maintaining Profitability
· Seniors Housing Market Trends and Outlook
· Not All Valuations Are Created Equal: Pricing Variables Today – And Tomorrow
· The Evolving Landscape And Need For Memory Care Services In Seniors
· Returning to Stability: Insights In The Real Estate Capital Markets
Those are some meaty topics, to be sure. And it's a rare attendee who leaves the event feeling it was anything less than extremely useful.
But if there is one area that I think needs more attention at the meeting — and in general — it is this: Our nation's needs a much larger supply of affordable seniors housing.
It's easy to forget that the median U.S. income in 2010 was $51,914, according to the Census Bureau. And it's probably safe to say that retirees are living on less. If you look at the entry fees and monthly charges most senior living communities require, the totals are out of the price range of many middle- and lower- income Americans.
That's not to say that developers and operators are insensitive or should be blamed. Market realities have forced many to compete by offering more and better. And as a general rule, more and better usually doesn't cost less.
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. And quite a few still get financial help from their still-working children.
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.