For much of the past decade, it has been fashionable to suggest that the senior living sector is struggling with adolescence. 

It’s not too difficult to see why. Let’s face it: More than a few operators have been acting in ways that suggest immaturity, impulsiveness and unwillingness to deal with obvious facts. 

So this might be a good time to ask whether the sector actually is growing up or if it remains mired in a purgatorial state between accountability and immaturity.

For after taking in several sessions at this year’s Argentum Senior Living Executive Conference in San Antonio, it would seem a strong argument could be made for either point of view. 

On the one hand, there is clearly an evolution and revolution taking place across the field. Operators are refining and improving their offerings in ways that demonstrate real progress. 

We also are seeing game-changing disruptors emerge as never before. They are serving up new approaches and challenging conventional wisdom in ways that are truly transforming the sector. 

Moreover, some operators now appear willing to address the largely underserved middle market.

These and other developments would seem to indicate this industry is serious about putting on its big-boy pants.

But at the same time, it remains awfully easy to find operators unwilling to give up the bad habits and poor judgments that so often are associated with the teenage years.

This includes those who insists that the good folks from the insurance sector — who will be calling many of the shots under Medicare Advantage — happily will reward them for innovation and risk-taking. Should that unlikely outcome actually take place, you can be sure it will be more by accident than design.

Let’s not forget that insurance companies exist to make profits, not to make your life better or easier. That does not make them evil. But to believe they will ever put your financial well-being before their own is a dangerously naïve notion.

Still others would like to believe they can transition into the world of post-acute care without compromising on resident autonomy or old ideas about their corporate culture. Let’s just say that accomplishing one will be a pretty tall order. As for doing both? Not likely.

So what is the verdict here? In my view, the jury is still out. 

To be sure, many operators are well on their way to adulthood. But far too many others still have some growing up to do.

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