While it is possible to develop a new project that is a disaster, it is tough.

By Steve Moran

I am midway through reading the book Creativity Inc. My number 1 or 2 favorite reads in the last 12 months. It is obviously not about senior living, but the big comparison is twofold:

  1. It takes a lot of money to get a movie made, before you know if you have gotten it right

  2. It takes a lot of time to go from idea to completion

There is one huge difference though and that is that with moviemaking there is no “let’s play it safe and just do what we did last time.” Even when doing sequels there is no real assurance it won’t turn into an all out disaster. In senior living, while it is possible to develop a new project that is a disaster, it is tough.

Moviemakers are unusually risk tolerant, maybe even risk junkies, as opposed to senior living providers/developers who tend to chose safety over innovation when creating their next new project. The typical mode is to take what they developed last time, integrate lessons learned and perhaps mix in what others are doing in their new communities.  

There is nothing wrong with this approach. In fact doing something radical would likely make it impossible to find capital to get it built.

The Opportunity

The big risk is that someone will do something that is not very radical but at the same time hugely radical. Here is what I mean. They will just plain look at doing something in a different way, and yet not necessarily high risk. Because those who are in the industry have been remarkably successful doing what they have always done, there is not much incentive for them to try anything radically different.

Here is how it might work in Senior Living.   

Recently a friend posted a story about a new housing community being built in Davis, California home to UC Davis, the most prominent agricultural school in California. Their big idea is to build a “community” where the homes are built around a sustainable farm that does at least three things:

  1. It builds community, a fancy way of saying it creates the opportunity for neighbors to become friends

  2. It promotes healthy eating

  3. It promotes getting outdoors and exercising

Now imagine how much better this would be if the development included a senior living community, where the seniors would be out there interacting with the families, creating multigenerational relationships. There would likely be opportunities for farming together, tutoring, mentoring and even babysitting.  

The Big Risk

Here is the big risk. Some outsider who isn’t smart enough to know “the right way” to build a senior living community will create something absolutely mind blowing. When that happens the rest of us will wonder why we didn’t think of that.

Maybe it will hurt the rest of the industry or maybe it will be the thing that causes the tide to increase for everyone . . . and that would be too cool.

This is the challenge for the insiders . . . figuring out how do a radical pivot.