These communities are really the pioneers in the concept of universal workers.

By Steve Moran

The Single Most Profitable Senior Living Opportunity – Almost Certainly Not What You are Doing

When I first started into the senior living industry I was very young and not very smart; which probably explains why my first venture was an abysmal failure.   My introduction to the industry was in the world of small board and care home that served 2-15 residents. 

Care consisted of meals, some light help with ADL’s and assistance with medication and a minimalist activity program . . . so minimal I think, that one of the activities was afternoon nap time.  It was rare for anyone to have all private pay residents (in my very limited view).  Because of my early perceptions, even today when I think of board & care level senior living I still think in terms of these providers serving the poorest of poor elders who need care. 

The Other Assisted Living Association

I have a long-time friend from my college days by the name of Tom Cullen, who runs an organization called Community Care Options that is focused primarily on serving small board and care/senior living operators.  They are not quite a typical trade association in at least three ways:

  1. They do very little in the way of legislative advocacy.
  2. They are a for profit organization.
  3. Their primary mission is to provide very cost effective CEU’s and other resources needed to operate a small assisted living.  This runs the gamut from preparing licensing packages, providing policy and procedure manuals, and running both on-line and physical training classes.

Then twice a year he runs relatively large educational conferences that include a trade show. Recently I attended his big conference in Reno, Nevada.  My primary reason for attending this event was to help Carevium a Senior Housing Forum Partner chat with prospective customers.   While Carevium offers a full featured suite of assisted living and home care tools, the business model and user interfaces have been very specifically designed to meet the needs of smaller senior living communities.  

The Big Surprise

As I was chatting with various owners and operators at the Carevium booth, I found that a great many of them have these nice little neat cottage businesses where they have one or a few small communities that provide care to elders in what is a true homelike setting. The rates are often comparable to what large enterprise operators are charging. 

These communities are really the pioneers in the concept of universal workers.  Because they are so small, they just plain don’t need a lot of the consultants, regional directors, corporate accounting departments, purchase approval processes . . .  and on and on.  As a result they make a very good living running these tiny little enterprises.

A Threat to Large Communities

I spent some time talking Paddu about these communities and where they fit in the senior living space.  His take is that they are mostly complementary.  Some do take low income residents and other serves those residents who just plain don’t do well in large communities.  That being said, he also noted that as monthly rates continue to creep higher, they could be a more significant competitor to large senior living communities.