I have great fascination with people and admiration of companies that deliberately choose a path away from the main stream. Tiffany Tomasso and her new company Kensington Senior Living live solidly in that space. I got a chance to catch-up with her at ALFA a few weeks ago.

Kensington Senior Living

Tiffany is probably best known from her time at Sunrise Senior Living. A little over three years ago she started her own company along with four other partners with a number of very specific goals:

  • Create a high “quality of life” medical model senior living community. The merging of “high acuity” and “high life-style”.
  • Develop and own communities in states that allow 24/7 nursing care, which makes it possible for residents to stay in their living unit to the end of their life.
  • To be a legitimate skilled nursing alternative that provides a much higher quality of life, more hands-on care each day and a lower cost than high-end private pay skilled nursing.
  • To provide very high levels of personal care (their current care model is 1 care staff for each 5 residents). (Our ratios vary by neighborhood based on acuity.  The 1:5 caregiver ratio is the baseline staffing in our advanced memory care neighborhood. It can actually be lower based on individual resident’s needs, such as feeding assistance and toileting, two areas that can be very time intensive.)
  • To be able to care for residents who need assistance with feeding and who have severe dementia. (Not sure this is particularly unique.)
  • To provide an activities program that is based on small individualized groups. (Activity staffing and programming is specific to each of KSLs programs . . . assisted living, “Connections” and “Haven.” The community doesn’t have an Activity Director allowing more hours to be dedicated to direct programming. The company utilizes a model of “pocket programming” enabling residents to participate in smaller groups activities based on their interests and abilities, resulting in increased levels of engagement and participation.
  • To develop and own senior living (assisted living/memory care) communities in higher income, high barrier to entry marketplaces. This means having the tolerance to endure a three-, four- and five-year entitlement process. In some cases this has meant and continues to mean having to work through ballot initiatives in order to gain project approval.

These sites always mean high carrying costs during the entitlement phase, high entitlement costs and some risk the project could hit impossible snags (like losing on a ballot initiative).

Strategic Advantage

The reason for this strategy makes a huge amount of sense. The communities are being built in market areas that will support the cost of a premium senior living community. Perhaps most important, it is unlikely or at least very difficult for a competitor to come into the marketplace.

Their first community in White Plains is full with a legitimate wait list. I never believed a waiting list in high acuity AL and MC was possible. Glad that I was proven wrong.

The Cool Stuff

There are a bunch of really cool things they are doing and seeing:

  • Most of their move-ins are coming from skilled nursing and other assisted living communities.
  • They have an operating philosophy of loving and caring for families, not just residents.
  • At each community, they have hired a Director of Family Services. This individual serves as life coach for families, helping them stay involved in the lives of their elders and work through the decline of their loved ones.
  • They never charge the family for eating with residents; something that costs them several thousand dollars a month, but substantially improves family engagement.
  • They have cocktails every day before dinner.
  • They have all day dining.

Future Development

They are currently targeting the northeastern coast and California for development. They have a community under construction in the Southern California community of Sierra Madre and another in the Bay Area in Redwood City, CA. They have additional sites under development in Montclair, NJ; Ridgewood, NJ; Redondo Beach, CA; and Fall Church, VA.

Steve Moran