Will independent living become the new middle class assisted living?

Several weeks ago I dropped into a Holiday Retirement independent living community.  For a variety of reasons I ended up never writing about the visit, even though I was treated very well.

Today, Easter Sunday, my wife and I joined our daughter-in-law’s family for Easter Brunch at the Del Web Sun City community in Roseville, California. I considered writing about that experience. It is a beautiful community, but by the time we left I didn’t feel like I had a good enough feel for what they do to write a credible article.

Driving home we passed a senior living community and, rather than going out again, I decided to stop. Holiday Retirement, Mistywood They were in the middle of serving Easter lunch when I walked into the community.  Paul and Leslie Platner were the co-managers on duty.  Paul was busy interacting with residents in the dining room but came over to talk to me and was very helpful.  The first thing he wanted to know was if I wanted lunch, an offer that was repeated even after I explained who I was and why I was there (and how much I had eaten at brunch). It was the perfect kind of reception to an unexpected visit.

The Big Question

There is no question in my mind that Holiday Retirement has the entire independent senior living experience dialed in.  As an enterprise scale senior living company they have been doing this longer than anyone else.  They have developed some unique management practices, such as live-in co-managers, that optimize resources and create a genuine relational style of management. What I keep wondering, though, is if the independent living model is sustainable.  We know that seniors are waiting longer and are more frail when they finally move into a senior living community.  We know that independent living communities have been able to attack this problem by aggressively allowing private duty care givers to contract directly with residents which, in effect, creates an “assisted living-like” experience.  And yet, is this sufficient to sustain the model?

The Economics

On one hand when I look at the current senior living market there does not seem to be much interest in the freestanding independent living model and yet . . . I can’t help but thinking that creating an “assisted living like” experience where the services are unbundled could see a significant resurgence as a way to control costs. I envision a time where a senior moves into a Holiday Retirement or Holiday style community and family members provide much of the ADL support which is then supplemented by outside agencies creating a much more affordable experience. Your thoughts? Steve Moran