Looking to expand your senior living business? All states are not created equal

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

For any senior living operator, figuring out where to grow is a constant challenge.

Fill out an existing campus? Add more buildings in the same neighborhood? Acquire a complementary operator? Target a metro region? What about branching out across state lines? The options are nearly endless.

Each choice presents opportunities and a risk of failure. Small wonder NIC MAP is doing such a bang-up business these days.

But if you can't afford the NIC freight, here's a poor man's (or woman's) alternative: Simply read a new study on health across the states in this week's JAMA.

Although the piece does not list hot new markets for senior living construction per se, it indirectly reveals something that might prove to be just as helpful.

Yes, the calculus may be cruel, but the bottom line message is unmistakable: People live longer in some states than in others. The takeaway from that little nugget? Build in places where people live longer and you are likely to have more customers.

So where are these optimal and best avoided locales?

If the numbers in the study are to be believed, Hawaii is your best bet. In 2016, a person's life expectancy at birth averaged 81.3 years. The worst state? Mississippi. There, the number dropped by more than half a decade, to 74.7 years.

Don't want to leave the mainland? Then maybe California is the place you ought to be. There, the life expectancy at birth was 80.9 years. Other places topping the 80 benchmark were Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Washington.

As far as other trouble spots go, there's Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia, None of these states topped the 76-year mark.

To be sure, this is a thumbnail approach at best. And even within these states, clear distinctions exist.

But this study does make one thing pretty clear. We may be the United States. But when it comes to living to a ripe old age, we might as well be living in different countries.

John O'Connor is editorial director of McKnight's Senior Living. Email him at john.oconnor@mcknights.com.

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