We’ve read — and McKnight’s Senior Living has written — much about the growing need for senior housing for middle-income older adults since April.

That’s when a much-anticipated study funded by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care was published in the journal Health Affairs.

As McKnight’s Senior Living previously reported, researchers forecast that 54% of the 14.4 million middle-income older adults in 2029 in the United States will lack the financial resources to pay for senior housing and care, and a combination of public and private efforts will be needed to address the looming crisis. Further number-crunching by NIC estimated that 2.3 million older Americans would be able to afford senior living if the annual cost were reduced by $10,000; knock an additional $5,000 off and 3.6 million more would be able to afford it.

The topic of the middle market had a prominent position at this year’s NIC Fall Conference last week, too — the group’s first national conference since the study’s release. The meeting devoted two sessions to the issue, one a “hackathon” during which teams of industry experts worked to devise solutions to operations, financing and physical plant matters, and the other a town hall at which these challenges were discussed further.

Judging by the standing-room-only attendance of the hackathon and healthy audience size at the town hall, both capital providers and capital seekers are very interested in the topic.

The programming “is meant to be the beginning of a platform of ideas that we can generate amongst ourselves to talk about how it is that we can really successfully address this need,” NIC Chief Economist Beth Burnham Mace said at a Wednesday press conference. “If the private market doesn’t step up to the plate to address this issue, as a country we’re going to be in big trouble, because people will spend down their assets to get on Medicaid, and the Medicaid coffers aren’t big enough to satisfy the need for that. So it’s in all of our best interest to try to bring a spotlight  onto this and try to bring solutions. …This is not only a big opportunity from an investment point of view, but it’s a really significant need that has to get addressed.”

She noted that some operators already are serving middle-income older adults. But more people need to be drawn to the issue, Mace added.

The conference is one way NIC is spreading the word after publication of the study and a couple of related events in the spring. Look for future articles by Mace in publications by the Pension Real Estate Association and Institutional Real Estate Inc. as she works to get information in front of additional audiences.

And we may see more research coming from the work that already has been done.

“An important part of the way we structured the study was to make sure that the data would be available out there, essentially open source, so those who want to investigate more on their own could have access to it,” NIC Chief of Research and Analytics Chuck Harry said.

“About half a dozen” requests for the raw data have been made, Mace said, and California researchers are attempting a more localized study.

Regardless of outside plans, the need for middle market senior housing is only going to grow — Mace said projections through 2029 are “just the tip of the iceberg” — so NIC will continue to study the topic and convene those in the industry to discuss it.

“Our hope is that in 10 years’ time, we’ll come back and we’ll have another piece of this conference that will be really devoted to the middle market and how it’s being served,” she said.

But you don’t have to wait 10 years to hear about the middle market at a NIC conference. The next big NIC gathering will be the organization’s Spring Conference, planned for March 4 to 6 in San Diego.

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