John O'Connor illustration
McKnight’s Editorial Director John O’Connor
John O'Connor

If you’re a senior living operator, your inbox probably is inundated with e-newsletters each business day. The simple task of clearing them out can be a job in itself.

That’s one reason why we at McKnight’s try to make sure our daily news items are as relevant and worthy as possible. The implications of some reports, however, may escape notice at first glance. Let’s delve into two recent items we featured, to examine why they hold more weight than meets the eye.

Item: Report: Alternative approaches to senior living, LTSS needed for growing older adult population

The gist: A recent story highlighted a report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, revealing that only 13% of adults aged 75 or more years, living alone across 97 metro areas, can afford to move into an assisted living community without depleting their assets.

Why this matters: We’re hearing a lot these days about the need to serve the so-called middle market. (I say “so-called” because industry views on the meaning of that range can vary considerably.) What this report makes clear is that the senior living sector more than has its work cut out here. Success is not just going to be a matter of paring options and operating costs to the bone — although that, too, likely will need to be a part of the equation. Essentially, those findings suggest operators will need to re-imagine how to reach this market. And that, my friends, is going to be a very heavy lift.

Item: CCRCs continue to report higher occupancy than other senior living segments

The gist: Continuing care retirement / life plan communities continued to outpace non-CCRCs in senior living occupancy in the third quarter, according to a data analysis from specialty investment bank Ziegler.

Why this matters: At first glance, the implication is obvious: These are good times to be running CCRC / life plan communities. Part of the advantage is that CCRCs often can charge higher entry fees and monthly rates. So everyone should want to become a CCRC, right? Not so fast. Many of these campuses have a 60-acre or larger footprint, which can be a substantial barrier to entry. Moreover, the full-service aspect of CCRCs can backfire, especially if one component of the portfolio — such as skilled care — hits hard times. Then what? It’s worth noting that the things that make CCRCs formidable also can hamper them when times are tough.

In case you didn’t notice, there is no single silver bullet when it comes to ensuring success in senior living.

Probably best to focus on finding many good bullets instead.

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.