Nursing home owner trying to keep people out – for now

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Rick Miller has an interesting take on long-term care: He owns numerous nursing homes but is working to keep people out of them – at least until they're older.

Miller is attempting to open a chain of fitness clubs for the 50 and older crowd. The first opened Monday in Oregon.

"It's obvious to everyone there's a problem with nursing homes," said Miller, chairman and chief executive of Avamere Health Services Inc., based in Wilsonville, OR. Government reimbursements are too low, he explained, despite the good intentions of staff at his and others' facilities.

Miller said he hopes to introduce seniors to Avamere senior care facilities through the development of the health clubs/gyms, starting first in Oregon and Washington and possibly spreading nationwide. Strength training and osteoporosis prevention will be among the first classes offered.

More than two-thirds of Avamere's annual revenue in 2003 came from its nursing homes, according to a published report. But the 39-year-old Miller said he expects the amount to drop to less than one-fifth by 2014, with newer operations picking up the slack.