By Jack Cumming

Entrepreneurial transformation is not for the faint hearted. Who would have thought that one person, Jeff Bezos, could single-handedly have a vision that would so disrupt all the giants of retailing? But he did. He was a bold thinker. Will an emergent national brand disrupt senior living?

The meek may inherit the earth, but they don’t lead transformations from within an industry. More likely is disruption from without. Does the next Jeff Bezos have senior living in his sights? No one knows. Maybe it will be you.

To close out this three-part series, we list here ten bold ideas that might give aging senior living facilities a new life and might also transform how Americans live in the process.  For Part 1 in the series, Imagining Nationally Branded Better Living, click here.  For Part 2, Reimagining Senior Living as Better Living, click here.

Ten Provocative Ideas

While these ten ideas are intended to spark leaders’ thinking, and to transform an industry that seems headed toward drift and decline, you can likely think of more. Who will be the Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs of better living and better aging?

  1. Eliminate age restrictions so that residents are no longer seen as old and over-the-hill, though there can still be age-related response services for those who wish them.
  2. Provide needs-related home clusters, positioned to meet needs geared to each stage of living – co-living for the very young and very old; childcare for single parents and marrieds midlife; amenity services – meals, groceries, handyperson, and more – for those who want them. Cluster choices could include childless areas, co-housing concepts, and more.
  3. Consider hybrid corporate structures mixing nonprofit and taxpaying, each with commensurate arrangements between residents and providers. Owner residents have a different relationship from that of tenants.
  4. Emphasize eco-friendly, communal multifamily living to replace eco-squandering single-family, isolated living.
  5. Offer a relocation benefit within the nationally branded complex so that residents whose wishes change can relocate without penalty within the nationally branded chain.
  6. Make ownership – cooperative or condominium – available to those residents who want it, perhaps, with resale provisions, e.g., shares can only be resold to treasury at a set price; combined with lifetime occupancy leases terminating at care level transfer or death.
  7. Offer various lease terms, e.g., one year, five years, lifetime, with mathematically equivalent pricing, i.e., don’t favor some residents in pricing at the expense of others.
  8. Offer various service bundles, again with mathematically equivalent pricing. One bundle might include Type A care-inclusive commitments backed by reinsurance. Others might include an entrance fee option as a financial planning choice, or as a contribution toward nonprofit financing.
  9. Offer amenity packages to those who are not yet ready for residence but who would like participation in the amenities of the community and who are willing to commit to the national brand on a long-term basis. Mathematically equitable pricing can maintain fairness between residents and community members and among cohorts of residents. Active living communities call this perquisite “early admission.”
  10. Most critical of all, offer a quality commitment – whether luxury, standard, or basic – again with mathematically equivalent pricing and keep to the promised standard without alteration over the years.

In short, beyond consolidation and a skill for rooting out corporate bureaucracy, national branding requires creative imagination. Can we make congregate living something that people love and seek out? My belief is that we can with the right talent.

Will transformation happen and by whom? That remains to be seen. As a general rule, it’s easier to disrupt an industry from the outside than to transform it from within. Will senior living find transformative gumption? That, too, remains to be seen.

Closing thought: Will bold ideas, like these senior living ten, one day seem as routine as does ordering from Amazon for delivery later the same day? If you want to read the whole three-part series, click here.