Smiling businesswoman discussing over document with colleagues in office
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Senior living operators looking for ways to pay for an increased presence of wellness programming in their communities have several options, concluded a think tank of senior living leaders who attended the International Council on Active Aging’s June forum. A report with their recommendations was released Thursday.

The thought leaders participating in the forum included executives and managers from continuing care retirement / life plan communities, independent living and assisted living communities, memory care and skilled nursing properties, affordable housing and home care services. They also identified metrics and key performance indicators to frame a new business model based in a wellness lifestyle.

Achieving a new wellness model with care options requires creative approaches to funding, they said. The think tank recommended investigating potential funding resources that may not be historically tied to wellness and also focusing on short-term results to build on down the road.

Potential funding sources that can serve as the foundation for a wellness model, they said, include allocations from the operational budget, additional dollars from private pay for dining and programs, fee-based services and programs open to the general public, private equity investors, financial institutions, the government or government waivers, partnerships and grants.

Investing in wellness can generate returns on health, well-being and satisfaction that results in cost savings, move-ins and new revenue opportunities, according to the report.

“Integrating the wellness philosophy across all departments and services is an investment that brings in new revenue and reallocates current funding,” ICAA CEO Colin Milner said. “It is a catalyst for the longtime goal of crossing departmental silos and generates a return on health, well-being and satisfaction that result in cost savings, move-ins and new revenue opportunities.”

Wellness has value

The wellness philosophy merges clinical and nonclinical services into a suite of services that purports to save money and labor while opening the door to new revenue sources. 

According to the ICAA, wellness brings value to the business of senior living by increasing length of stay, stabilizing occupancy and increasing revenue. It also increases resident independence and engagement, reduces resident care needs by focusing on prevention, improves the staff experience and creates an environment that attracts private pay non residents to programs, dining and health screenings, the group says.

The wellness lifestyle also could be the solution to attracting and satisfying the middle-income market, according to ICAA, which could stabilize occupancy over the long term.

Adopting a wellness philosophy also will reap savings that can be reinvested into wellness, ICAA said. According to the report, cost savings can be realized through staff retention, healthier residents and use of existing community programs and volunteers.

“In terms of the business objectives, length of stay is a key performance indicator of great value to senior living — so is resident satisfaction, willingness to refer and a community that attracts people who desire the wellness lifestyle, even when they need care services,” Milner said. 

Focus shifting

According to an ICAA survey, 61% of senior living respondents said that by 2025, their community will be based in a wellness lifestyle with options for care, rather than being based on care with options for wellness. Making that happen, ICAA said, involves identifying goals, objectives and effects; conducting an organizational audit; and evaluating performance.

Key performance indicators that factor into adapting to the new wellness model include occupancy, length of stay, employee turnover, clinical indicators and functional outcomes, and program or initiative performance metrics, according to the report.

“It’s time to make a change,” the document reads. “Poised on the inflection point, senior living organizations can determine to grow with a wellness strategy and culture, or to remain with traditional philosophies and care.”

The “Funding the new wellness model in senior living” report is available on the ICAA website.