Independent Living Expands the Care Continuum
There are many stops along the aging path and independent living is only one of them. With an average stay of three to five years, independent living facilities are in a constant state of turnover. Independent living attracts seniors traveling along the care continuum, offering what residents desire, which means either affordable or increasingly upscale options. They also want health-care access when and where needed.
The aging of the independent living population presents some unique financial challenges. People are living longer, so the average resident is older now when they move into an independent living facility than they were five years ago. The average resident is more than 80 years old, more fragile, and has more health concerns. Over half live with some sort of assistive device – a cane, wheelchair, or walker.
Independent living facilities feel the pressure to offer health-care and wellness options as add-ons to accommodate these older residents. In order to provide the space for these services, the independent living facility will take a few apartments from its inventory and create the required space. An activity room might become a gym or an on-site therapy center.
Some independent living facilities target the middle-income market in suburbs and rural areas. These facilities must balance cost control and quality service. One way they do this is have live-in managers who get free housing and meals, thus keeping down salary expenses. Also, apartments do not consist of luxuries like granite counter tops, nor does the dining hall serve a huge buffet every day. Good-looking apartments are offered with three sit-down, restaurant-style meals each day. Kitchens concentrate on reducing waste and, thus, expense. Mid-market residents are looking for value.
Additionally, facilities have added health and wellness nurses to monitor health by measuring blood pressure and weight, partnered with local physician groups, and added on-site wellness centers. Seniors want access to health care, so the potential lost revenue is worth the price. It is also a great marketing tool. The goal is to bring what residents want to the facility. Instead of just having an exercise room, resident now have access to exercise directors on the staff. To cater to the needs of these older residents, communities run formal programs with a range of group activities, as well as personalized fitness programs and personalized fitness assessments.
Adult children of seniors help guide their parents’ wellness choices. They are concerned about access to medical care. However, they frequently do not understand the options available. Independent living executives must make helping seniors and their adult children understand care options and how to make the best care decision part of their marketing strategy. Independent living facilities must differentiate their produce, especially from nursing home options.
To this end, independent living facility sales reps go through training programs, which help them, educate people out in the community. They are encouraged to participate in local business groups, and get to know their local churches, social groups, and veteran’s organizations.
Seniors are concerned with making economically responsible choices. They are dealing with a sluggish economy. This has increased the focus on the middle market. However, some factors cut across all of independent living.
- Operations have to be consistent.
Meals need to be at the same time, staff must be stable and long-term, and management available.
- It can be difficult finding a physical configuration that serves multiple populations.
The space has to feel like home, while still meeting clinical needs
- It is predicted that the independent component on the care continuum will continue to shrink As the community gets older, creativity will be necessary to maintain a significant portion of the physical plant as independent living.
- There is a trend toward a more upscale lifestyle.
Some facilities are feeling increasing pressure for even more upscale lifestyle choices, like a luxurious clubhouse and a chef-style oven.
- There is a need to adapt properties to serve a greater range of needs.
Seniors and their adult children do not want to have to move to another facility to have their needs met.
At Highland Risk Services, our goal is to help our agents provide their clients independent living facilities current industry information and the proper insurance coverage. Please contact us to discuss your insurance needs at one of our offices in Chicago at 847-832-9100, Lansing at 517-676-7100 or Phoenix at (847) 832-9099