John O'Connor
John O’Connor

As more experts weigh in on senior living, two distinct trends are emerging.

One is extreme pessimism about the present. The other is unbridled optimism about the future. To which I respectfully reply: Both assessments could use a tweak.

Let’s start with the present. Yes, times are tough. Occupancy is down, whereas costs are up. That’s hardly a reason to celebrate. But let’s not forget that this downturn was not the inevitable result of bad businesses running out of mulligans. Rather, these hard times largely are due to the pandemic of the century.

Basically, this field was sucker-punched. More to the point, COVID-19 made a huge mess and continues to do so. But here’s the thing: it will not last forever. Already, multiple promising vaccines are about to be coming our way.

This bad stretch is on borrowed time. Hang in there; conditions will eventually improve.

Which brings us to the future. I agree that things will continue to get better for senior living. That goes both for residents and the organizations serving them.  

But some of the wildly optimistic predictions now making the rounds might be found guilty of irrational exuberance. Yes, demographics are on the field’s side. Yes, we eventually will move on from COVID-19. And yes, new innovations and breakthroughs will allow many operators to up their games.

But you know what else will increase? Competition. And you can be sure the future will deliver more than just happy pills. Senior living always has been a tough business. I afraid that reality is not going away.

So what’s to be done? Here’s my take: Operators who focus on fundamentals and constant improvement will probably ride out this storm — and be well situated for others in the offing.

But then again, I’m no expert.