Monday, August 9, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
The occupancy rate at assisted living properties rose to 88.3% in the second quarter, up 50 basis points from the same period a year earlier, according to NIC’s analysis of the nation’s top 31 metropolitan statistical areas. The average monthly rent at assisted living properties rose 0.7% during the same period to $3,525. That follows a 1.4% rent increase in the first quarter.
“The number one point is that the fundamentals in this asset class are holding up much better than a lot of other property sectors,” says Michael Hargrave, vice president of NIC MAP, which tracks key metrics in seniors housing quarterly and provides that data to owners and operators, developers, lenders and other interested parties. Hargrave is referring to the troubled hotel, multifamily, office and retail sectors, where loan delinquencies continue to climb as net operating income contracts....
Pent-up demand is a driving force in the assisted living sector today, explains Hargrave. “Assisted living is more needs-based. You can only hold off putting mom into an assisted living facility for so long,” emphasizes Hargrave. “Secondly, over the past few years the assisted living supply, or inventory, hasn’t been growing as fast the independent living inventory.”...
Construction activity across the seniors housing sector has bottomed out, Hargrave says. He anticipates the growth rate of new construction to be about 1% annually for the foreseeable future.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
We’re not talking about zip code-based direct mail. Geo-location awareness—the science of marketing to consumers by matching up smart phone geographical location with user-identified browsing and purchasing preferences—opens up a virtual door to real-time customer interaction based on a locality.
...While consumers have been fairly open to sharing their geo-location via cell phone, privacy and safety concerns are beginning to push a trend towards more ambiguity in user-allowed geo-locating. And phone owners seem more comfortable reporting their presence in certain neighborhoods. Location vagueness isn’t weakening outreach to those users, however. “Neighborhood boundaries allow you to start drawing much more powerful demographic-type information that you can leverage against retail [and consumer marketing],” Clement says. “If I’m an apartment owner and I want to start driving push ads and I’m in Soho, I’m probably going to get a lot better response from people who are in Soho than people who might be in an adjacent neighborhood even if they are closer by the straight line distance.”
...“I think local geo-marketing is a really good community relationship building tool, but as an apartment owner I’d be wary of how you deliver your message,” says Elysa Rice, emerging media consultant at Dallas-based multifamily marketing firm Ellipse. “Residents don’t want to feel like they are being constantly advertised to when they really only make a moving decision once a year...[read more]
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
CCRCs and Problems: Much Ado About Likely, Very Little [click to read more]
A product that has seen its share of struggles in the economic downturn is entry-fee CCRCs. To clarify, not all CCRC models are struggling and not even all entry-fee based CCRCs are struggling as certain regions have seen less housing market fall-out and concurrently, operators have done the right things to keep their census stable during the “down times”. Where problems have cropped-up is in new primarily new, unstabilized developments, CCRCs in markets where housing sales are significantly depressed, and in larger suburban and urban market locations where options within the price range are plentiful.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
I went to www.wave.google.com and it let me log right in, recognizing my landon.syn@gmail account. Ok, this is cool.
Here are videos about Wave.
And you can collaborate in real-time with people who speak other languages due to an instant translation 'robot'.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Michael Strong is the author of The Habit of Thought, a book that describes how to use intellectual dialogue in the classroom to develop deeper reading, writing, and thinking skills. He has also founded several innovative schools based broadly on the strategy described in his book and above, including Moreno Valley High School in Angel Fire, NM, which was ranked the 36th best public high school in its third year of operation based on the Washington Post’s Challenge Index. His two children, now eighteen and fourteen, have spent a portion of their K-12 education outside of formal schools engaged in activities similar to those described above; both have been admitted to prestigious schools and (in the older case) universities despite an unorthodox schooling.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Multi-Housing News talked to the CEO of an apartment REIT. I noticed a couple things relevant to senior living:
"Jay" Olander says that his Grubb & Ellis Apartment REIT is buying properties in the American South, following population movements and anticipating more than 90 million additional people in the U.S. by 2030. [So I'm paying attention to the future of the CCRC industry in the South.] He is avoiding Arizona, Las Vegas, and Florida where there was significant over-building of single family homes and condos.
He also spoke about 'fractured condo deals' - where a single investor purchases a number of units in a condo development in order to run a rental housing operation.
If you have a large mass of units, fractured condos may make a lot of sense. Any time there’s a mixed ownership, that means there’s a mixed contribution to the common elements. So it just depends on how much you control... you have to control a lot of the property to be able to control the common area elements, to be sure it’s well-maintained.In the right location and given sufficient local demand for continuing care retirement living, could distressed condos be an economical way for a successful CCRC operator to acquire a new campus at a substantial discount? There would, of course, be major renovation costs to renovate to make the property suitable for its new use.
Monday, July 5, 2010
Brand observes current population and urbanization trends, predicting that the 'West' (basically the developed nations of Europe and North America) will soon have shrinking populations and cities full of old people. Meanwhile the developing 'South' (especially Asia and Africa) will host burgeoning cities full of young people.
How will older people expecting comfortable retirement in developed countries get the services they need when the bulk of growth and energy will be in the developing world?
How will urbanization and moving away from traditional support networks (extended family/tribe) affect older people in developing countries? Brand reports that urbanization is defusing the 'population bomb' in a way that surprised everyone. Urban women have far fewer children. So how will nuclear families provide for their elderly? In the squatter cities everyone works who is able, from little children to old people. What will happen as they become more prosperous? Will they want a North American or European type of retirement? Will retirement even be financially plausible in the foreseeable future?
What if retirement communities were productive and contributed significantly to their neighbors, or generated income for residents - and did not simply consume resources?
What kind of aging services will be needed and appropriate in the squatter cities that are growing up outside the formal economies of the developing world? What is already being done? What opportunities exist and how can we get involved?
Sunday, July 4, 2010
I think it's cool that the IASHA blog is drawing on top-shelf foreign policy think tanks. And I'm thrilled to have already found a way to enjoy my new career through the lens of culture and international relations, which are among my favorite subjects.
The IASHA blog had another post about 'Age Friendly Cities' but the link was misdirected. A recent UN article explains:
The Global Network of Age-friendly Cities is part of the agency’s broader response to rapidly greying populations. The greatest changes are taking place in less-developed countries, and it is estimated that 80 per cent of the expected 2 billion people over the age of 60 will be living in low- or middle-income countries.And the article refers us to the World Health Organization's page on age-friendly cities.
“Older people are a vital, and often overlooked, resource for families and for society,”
This is especially important due to the rapid urbanization of earth as described in an intriguing talk (audio here) by Stewart Brand on the City Planet (in PDF).
People are rapidly moving to cities all over the developing world. Cities are still growing and the country-side is emptying even in the developed world. What does this mean for providers of aging services? What does this mean for Continuing Care Retirement Communities in North America?
It sounds like a huge opportunity if you have proven systems that deliver the experience of genuine community. You can expand into new markets which are increasingly affluent. Maybe CCRC's will locate in growing cities in order to benefit from an energetic young workforce. (According to Brand, current population momentum means 2 billion additional people born in cities during the next decades.) There could even be a growing niche for international destination retirement communities (a play on 'destination weddings').
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Focused on non-profit:
American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA) www.aahsa.org
"Our 5,700 member organizations ...offer the continuum of aging services: adult day services, home health, community services, senior housing, assisted living residences, continuing care retirement communities and nursing homes."
In Pennsylvania there is http://panpha.org/
Focused on both for-profit and non-profit providers:"Our members – nonprofit providers of long-term care and aging services"
International Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (IASHSA) www.iahsa.net
"represents more than 20,000 ageing services providers worldwide who serve almost 5 million elderly daily."
American Health Care Association (AHCA) www.ahcancal.org
"the nation’s largest association of long term and post-acute care providers...advocates for quality care and services for frail, elderly and disabled Americans"
National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing and Care Industry (NIC) www.nic.org
"resource to lenders, investors, developers/operators, and others interested in meeting the housing and care needs of America's seniors"
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Over the past decade Rob has been concerned to see many communities run a negative operating margin and make up the difference on their investment portfolios (often heavily dependent on interest income). They had lots of cash flow but were actually losing money on operations. Now that their portfolios have shrunk and investment income is down significantly, their previous operating practices are clearly unsustainable.
The next 5 to 10 years are likely to be volatile for the CCRC industry. Stronger players will acquire or merge with weaker ones. Many top managers will resist this necessary development for a while. Rob expects that most of these mergers will be local affairs, with several (say 4 or 5) established communities coming together to achieve economies of scale - to provide similar levels of service, but with just one Director of Nursing instead of five (for example). Mergers will be challenging, requiring the Executive Directors to sit around a table and negotiate 4 of 5 of them out of a job!
Rob mentioned Erikson, one of the biggest players in the CCRC industry, as an example of the economies of scale that smaller regional CCRC mergers may try to emulated. I asked if Erikson will be one of the big consolidators but Rob thinks it unlikely, due to Erikson's current dance with bankruptcy.
On the demographic front, the U.S. population is moving South and South West. The CCRC industry generally serves an audience that is upper middle class and above. The growth over the next decade is likely to come in the higher end of this market.
But the big question is whether affluent Baby Boomers will actually buy into the CCRC or Life Care model and move into communities the way their parents did. It remains to be seen.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The Internal Revenue Service surprised and alarmed retirement community operators recently when it challenged an operator of luxury continuing care retirement community’s tax treatment of refundable entrance fees.Will this ruling stick and how might it change CCRC financial management? Are operators actually alarmed? Erikson, for example, which operates many communities (including Ann's Choice near me in Warminster, PA) still highlights its "Refundable Entrance Deposit" as a key selling point.
Classic Residence by Hyatt...followed industry practice by treating the refundable portions of residents’ entrance fees as loans with obligations to repay. In December 2009, the IRS sent a notice of deficiency for almost $129 million for the 2005 tax year to Classic insisting that the company should have treated the more than $318 million it received in mostly refundable entrance fees that year as taxable income “from rental/occupancy of the living units.”
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
- Today's new retirees, now age 65, are baby boomers. Will they become the next generation of residents moving into CCRC's? (I bet that enough of them will want a very different kind of long-term community to support some very interesting niche-markets in the near future.)
- Who is positioned to serve the over-65's who want to live in eco-villages, or who might prefer a more age-integrated community (not just over 55), but will also eventually need continuing care?
- Will baby boomers even move into CCRC's or are their tastes and needs so different from their parents that the CCRC industry faces decline in 10 or 15 years?
- Are CCRCs essentially a North American phenomenon, and mostly in the U.S.?
- Is there a CCRC industry in Europe or Asia and what does it look like? Can we learn from them or can they learn from what's been done in the U.S.?
- What does the global trend toward urbanization mean for senior living and CCRCs in particular?
- And is urbanization relevant to senior living and retirement communities in the U.S. and other developed countries?
Monday, June 28, 2010
My friend Bob Milanovich, who referred me to Rob Love, works in the not-for-profit segment of the CCRC industry. Rob Love focuses on serving non-profit communities, and he explained that he prefers to work with mission-driven rather than profit-driven organizations. Rob believes that the quality of care tends to be a bit higher in a non-profit setting. (I'd like to find the research he mentioned that demonstrates this difference.) He also has the sense that non-profit communities are a bit more stable, not beholden to shareholders or focused on quarterly profit reports. There may be a bit more risk or volatility in for-profit continuing care retirement communities. (I wonder how/whether this affects the employees and residents.)
According to Rob, many continuing care communities are 10 years behind what today's potential residents want and need. Their facilities may not have been updated and their approaches to selling the benefits of their communities may have become stale. Both the physical and social infrastructure of many CCRCs need to be upgraded.
Who works in sales/marketing? Rob informed me that the typical marketing director is a woman in her mid 50s, who returned to work when her kids started school. Often she started as a receptionist and eventually worked her way up in the sales/marketing department until she became director. This observation is not meant to disparage these people, only to point out the potential benefits from a broader range of disciplines and experience as the industry moves forward. The CCRC industry really needs innovators. Some of the most effective executive directors that Rob knows have come from other industries. One of the best CCRC executives came from banking, making a significant impact with strategic-planning and team-building in the CCRC setting.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
I've known Bob for 16 years. Our friendship developed during family visits to my great-grandmother who lived at John Knox Village (JKV). My great-grandmother died about 9 years ago but my paternal grandmother still lives there.
I met Bob while I was a teenager, the oldest of 9 kids, when we drove from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada to visit my great-grandmother and grandparents over Christmas. Somehow we ended up singing on stage at the John Knox Village holiday program. My youngest sister was a toddler at the time. At one point I knelt beside her holding the microphone while she sang "Jesus Loves Me". As Bob tells it, he fell in love with my entire family at that moment.
After the show we spent a very memorable evening with Bob driving around the village crowded into a golf cart. (We obviously didn't all fit, so we took turns walking.) Bob took us caroling to the 'villas' where residents lived independently. We caroled through the assisted living building and sang to the little groups sitting in the common areas of the nursing center. We completed the evening by going room to room, crowding around individual beds in the nursing center, singing to people who were unable to get up. My parents had taken me on a number of visits to nursing homes while I was a boy so the delighted smiles, the soft hands, and the thin arms were very familiar as we sang and hugged our way through John Knox.
After that, our caroling became something of an annual tradition.
What I noticed about Bob that first night became more apparent as I got to know him during our visits. (We sometimes lived for a week on the JKV campus as Bob's guests.) He was Director of Marketing and I understood that his job was to sell JKV to new residents, yet he did so much more. His presence lit people up. Bob deeply cared for his residents' well-being and by extension, for the whole community. Though he may technically have been 'only' an employee, as Bob walked around JKV he behaved as though he was the host or proprietor. He always seemed to be walking around the community or whirring along in an open golf cart, stopping to shake hands, answer questions, give hugs, or to thank and encourage staff. He made it his business to ensure that everyone felt appreciated from the lowliest staff in housekeeping or dining service, to residents and visitors. I watched as Bob drew people in and made them part of the enterprise. He was both humble and in-charge. He exercised a kind of leadership that was subtle yet very effective - making residents feel at-home, cared for, and part of a meaningful community.
As I began considering a career in senior living and community entrepreneurship, I realized how deeply Bob Milanovich's example had touched me. I am very grateful for his encouragement and his kindness to my family.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
In his experience death and dying are taboo subjects. People are generally unwilling to talk about death and the process of dying. "God forbid!" you are supposed to say if the subject of death accidentally comes up. This lack of conversation and real communication about death and dying makes the whole process much more painful for families and much more complicated and awkward for everyone involved.
I look forward to talking openly about death as a part of life, as a transition from this world we know to the world beyond death. Regardless of what people believe about an afterlife, the end-of-life process will be more manageable, if no less challenging, as we talk things through. Hopefully before-hand.
What's the standard in the senior living industry? Do marketing directors mention the dying process when selling the continuing care retirement community concept? From what I've seen there is lots said about the care continuum from independence to assisted living and skilled nursing, "if the need arises". But how do they communicate about death? Or do they?
It reminds me of my 2 years working for a financial planning firm, selling life and long-term care insurance. Our sales training encouraged us to skirt the issue of death, because although death sells in the media and on soap operas, it doesn't actually sell life insurance. Even calling it 'life' insurance obscures the fact that you are not insuring life, rather you are insuring against the economic consequences of death. Although death was rarely mentioned to prospective clients, the organizational culture where I worked sometimes used death for emotional leverage, to stimulate fear or shame (when appealing to love or duty failed), and hoping to sell insurance as relief.
I understand that the term 'life-care community' has gone out of fashion (now everyone is a CCRC instead) precisely because 'life-care' implies death. But as my neighbor the hospice nurse pointed out: life is a terminal illness. Everyone dies. I'm not saying that death doesn't frighten me a little. I am afraid to die: partly for myself - I don't like pain and don't want to 'miss out' on this familiar life; and partly for my family, my wife and kids who will be sad when I go.
But I am certain that death and the process of dying are not the worst things that can happen.
My maternal grandfather died this past Monday morning. He was very dear to me and I am sad to lose his physical presence in my life. But he was not surprised. He was ready. He had already embraced the process, which accelerated rapidly over the preceding 7 days. He was in his own room, looking out on his beloved church across the valley with an ancient sycamore towering in the foreground. He was eager to be reunited with his wife of nearly 60 years, with whom he was more strongly connected than ever, despite the 5 years since her death. And he was at home, surrounded by loving children, visited by friends and tiny babies, basking in the prayers and fond remembrances sent his way by others who could not be physically present.
I missed my grandfather's last week of life. I was not at his bed side. I was in the Outer Banks with my in-laws, on the annual beach trip that my wife and kids look forward to all year. And I am content. In the several years before my grandfather's death I frequently walked down my street and through neighbors' yards to visit him. I had spoken to my grandfather at length the week before, and I had what I needed. I told him that I was embarking on a new career. He expressed his love for and confidence in me - and let me know that his previously-held concerns about my life-direction were gone.
So as my grandfather was dying these past months and this past week I experienced peace. I knew he was in our Creator's tender care, and I was certain that his family's loving hands were supporting him during his transition.
I am determined to find ways to help others experience their own version of this remarkable process of dying. Along with the sorrow or pain, I wish for others to experience the death of their loved ones as an opening for peace, healing, and unexpected blessings.
Friday, June 25, 2010
I am pursuing a career in the entrepreneurial creation of genuine community. The senior living field brings a number of services, helping professions, and business disciplines together in a conscious attempt to deliver the experience of community. It's my hunch that the most successful senior living operators are those that can effectively invite people to participate in a thriving community AND consistently deliver a community experience to residents and their (very important) loved ones.
I'm especially drawn to the continuing care retirement community model (CCRC, also called a life-care community). CCRC's integrate a comprehensive array of services along the continuum from independent living, to assisted living, to skilled nursing care. I look forward to learning how the pieces fit together and which elements are key for developing and sustaining a sense of genuine community among residents, staff, and family/friends who live elsewhere.
In my next few posts I'll touch on the following:
- An inspiring example that steered me onto this career path
- Perspective from a Care Coordinator with decades of experience in assisted living
- A 5-10 year outlook for the senior living industry from a CCRC marketing specialist
- Updates as I learn about senior living and CCRC's in my area (Philadelphia region)
- Pertinent discoveries during my job hunting process
- Impressions as I visit senior living communities - surprises, what I like/loathe, comparisons, interesting people
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Check out John Robb's description - sounds pretty close to my hometown, Bryn Athyn, PA... especially with the Cathedral shops, the new Redmile teaching garden, and ongoing discussion/support for creating a nearby CSA:
Robb says in part (referring to what makes a home valuable in the current 'depression'):
- Is the home located in a viable community? One that you could work with to solve problems as they emerge?
- Is there a strong tradition of entrepreneurship in the community such that it allows the fast formation of new ventures?
- Is the community defensible? Considerations include geographical footprint, proximity to cities, entry/exit, etc.
- Does the community have arable land available for food production? There are so many factors here, it would take a book just to explore them.
- Can the home produce energy? Does it have solar PV or solar hot water? Does it use geothermal heating/cooling?
- Does the home have sufficient space for or already mature gardens?
- Is the home's connection to the electricity grid bi-directional?
- Is the connectivity to the global network both redundant and fast?
- Does the home have room for a workshop?
- Are the real estate taxes low enough to avoid liens in the event of inevitable job loss (by at least one of the members of the household) or a reduction in pay?
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Tools to Create a Culture of Virtue
A Socratic Practice Workshop - Thinking for Yourself, Integrity, Service to Others
3051 Buck Road, Bryn Athyn, PA 19009
Adults $40, Couples $60, Family $75, Children (ages 7-14) $10
Registration 12:30 pm
Contact Landon or Michelle Synnestvedt LandonSyn@yahoo.com
1 - 1:30 Introduction to Socratic Inquiry and Socratic Practice at Home
(For adults, though if older children want to be there that's fine.)
1:30 - 2:30 Socratic demonstration with adults
(It’s always good to start with an experience as a learner oneself and experience the norms directly before trying to develop them in younger people.)
2:30 - 2:45 Debrief of adult session
2:45 - 3:00 Break
3:00 - 3:30 Demonstration with younger children (age 7 & up)
3:30 - 4:00 Debrief demo with adults
4:00 - 4:30 Demonstration with older children
4:30 - 5:00 Debrief demo with adults
5:00 - 5:30 How to craft a custom Socratic program for your children.
Michael Strong is the Chief Visionary Officer of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. and FLOW, exploring and documenting ways that organizations can make the world a better place. He recently co-authored Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World’s Problems along with John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, , Co-Chair of the U.N. Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor, and others.
Prior to founding Conscious Capitalism, Inc., Michael spent fifteen years in K-12 education, where he founded several schools based on Montessori and Socratic principles, including a charter high school in that was ranked the 36th best public high school in the U.S. by Newsweek. The author of The Habit of Thought: From Socratic Seminars to Socratic Practice, he has provided Socratic educational consulting for hundreds of groups around the world. He was educated at Harvard, St. John’s College (Santa Fe), where he was valedictorian, and the (where his dissertation advisor was Nobel Laureate economist ).
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
* An already large and growing group of people that are looking for a resilient community within which to live if the global or US system breaks down (ala the collapse of the USSR/Argentina or worse). Frankly, a viable place to live is a lot better than investing in gold that may not be valuable (gold assumes people are willing to part with what they have).
* A larger and growing number of prospective students that want to learn how to build and operate resilient communities (rather than campus experiments and standard classroom blather).
* A large and growing group of young people that want to work and live within a resilient community. A real job after school ends.
Triangulating these markets yields the following business opportunity:
* The ability of prospective residents of resilient communities to invest a portion of their IRA/401K and/or ongoing contributions in the construction and operation of a resilient community...
* An educational program, like Gaia University's collaboration with Factor e Farm, that allows students to get a degree while building out a resilient community...
* A work study program that allows students of the University to pay off their student debt and make a living...
Friday, February 12, 2010
Here's a working draft of what I call Marauders Map:
Bullies and criminal thugs thrive in the shadows, and in the ambiguous edges where they can threaten and overpower their intended victims one at a time, isolated from their natural supports in friends, family and community. Imagine that a local criminal (drug lord, corrupt official, foreign fighter, violent religious zealot – it doesn’t matter) suddenly finds that he can’t reliably hide. What if his movements are being tracked and recorded – not by a distant spy satellite or state informant – but potentially by anyone he sees, and plenty that he doesn’t see behind curtained windows? Imagine neighborhood disapproval or outrage at past abuses building incrementally among the many weak or fearful people who would never directly challenge the bully regime, now empowered to help deny sanctuary to the offender. The bright light of transparency or the power of social ostracism might be effective on its own. If not, a rival criminal/government agency might easily capitalize on the offender’s vulnerability. And perhaps most powerful, the community might converge to physically end the bully’s reign of terror – maybe even creating an ad hoc ‘truth and reconciliation’ process to deal with collaborators and to heal neighborhood wounds.