Celebrating One Year
One year ago we went live with our CCRC LifeCast website. In that year, we have written 60 posts. Let’s take a look at the top 10 posts (based on pageviews) over the last year… a little trip down memory lane.
Deerfield – LifeSpace, Des Moines, Iowa
Our One Year Statistics
In one year, CCRC LifeCast had 5,900+ users. Twenty-two websites linked to our site. A few of these sites have also published us in their newsletters (Thank you!).
We advanced from an Alexa ‘not ranked‘ starting point to a website rank 1,698,408 today! Alexa, owned by Amazon, ranks the popularity of websites. The lower the ranking number the higher the popularity.
What Have We Learned In One Year?
Some lessons learned over the last year.
- Stable or Stagnant Design. We’re surprised by how little physical design of new CCRCs has changed over the last thirty years. The space programming and layouts are remarkably similar to what we saw in the 1980s. Yes, decor and materials evolved, but the bones? Not so much. The flipside of that is how current an older community can feel if properly maintained and updated. We’ve seen outstanding updates.
- Loneliness is the enemy. That’s not quite strong enough. LONELINESS IS THE ENEMY. Yes, we’re shouting. This is what aging adults dread and fear is inevitable. No one wants to die slowly and alone. The majority of the benefits of a CCRC are from the community of peers. Peers that become friends and a social support network. So one way to judge the success of a CCRC should be how lonely and isolated residents are. It’s bad enough to end up isolated and lonely in your old home (so-called aging-in-place). It’s arguably the worst of all possible outcomes to move into a CCRC to avoid loneliness and still be lonely and isolated. Architecture can encourage social contact. Group dining is inherently a social activity. That’s not enough. The best CCRCs have a supportive community of both staff and residents. They understand the challenges of new residents and assure they get integrated. You will be assimilated. But you need to buy the engaging community and not just the architecture.
- Aging-in-Place. Aging-in-Place works until it doesn’t and then it’s typically too late to join a supportive community. Technology will greatly improve the lives of older Americans whether living alone or in a CCRC or life plan community. But we hope policymakers don’t default to aging-in-place just because it’s cheaper. It’s generally not better for live long (and prosper), and die short. A social community is essential for happiness and successful aging.
- Affordability Wall. CCRCs are not an option for everyone. The cost of entry and the cost of monthly fees together are more than most prospective residents have accumulated. We’re shocked at the almost nonexistent retirement savings of baby boomers (our peers). Affordability is a major challenge for the industry going forward. There are only so many college professors with great pensions. (This seems to be the archetype resident we meet most often.) Most private-sector employed baby boomers do not have traditional pensions and have not fully funded their IRAs or 401ks. Defined contribution plans aren’t succeeding in replacing pensions for the average worker. The Great Recession still lingers in stagnant real wages and poor long-term savings rates.
- Going beyond the Walls. We’ve broadened our focus to include lessons that can apply beyond CCRCs. Our focus extends the principles of CCRCs into the broader community. Other senior living options are growing, like “CCRCs-without-walls”, “Retirement Villages,” and more. Part of this broader focus is a recognition of the affordability challenge. Part of it is a practical recognition that even many who can afford to choose CCRCs resist assimilation. Old folk home stereotypes still persist.
- Everything (else) Changed. (Cue Lonestar.) The Affordable Care Act (aka as Obamacare) is transforming healthcare through payment incentives and penalties.
Aging boomers considering early retirement are confronted by staggeringly expensive individual health insurance rates despite high deductibles. Most need to work longer to make it to Medicare. Employers and the economy don’t always cooperate.
Hospital systems, physician groups, and health insurers are merging and consolidating. They’re consolidating their purchasing power. And they’re demanding data to prove both process and results from partners. The integrated health systems are being selective in their service partners. The best CCRCs have partnered with integrated health systems or Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). The best managed CCRCs have added new and expanded revenue lines from rehabilitation services responsive to the penalties hospitals face for readmissions within 30-days of discharge. The rehab patients are not limited to on-campus residents. Unfortunately, many CCRCs seem clueless about just how rapidly things are changing around them. CCRCs should be the regional experts in senior care outside the clinical setting. But new competitors are rising that may occupy that space in place of existing CCRCs.
Just as hospitals are merging, we see a growing need for CCRC management companies to merge or consolidate to match the sophistication and resources of hospital system as strategic partners. There’s still time to react. The only thing more fragmented than the CCRC market is the home health care market. CCRCs still have a chance to leverage their knowledge, experience, staff and campus resources to serve off-campus retirees. It’s an essential marketing funnel for the campus and a new business line. CCRCs should offer services to and build relationships with family caregivers. These caregivers are key decision-makers and advisers and often funders for retired parents. Too many CCRCs still seem stuck on selling real estate and not services or solutions. We think that may be an increasingly hard sell.
That’s a wrap up on our first year. Thank you for the support and encouragement we’ve received this past year. It has been an enjoyable year! We’ve met some wonderful, generous industry thought-leaders and we’ve toured a few leading-edge communities.
Here’s to year two!!