The sign on the front door said “Tours by appointment only”.

One of my big concerns about senior living in general and assisted living more specifically is whether or not the industry can create an affordable assisted living model that provides a decent quality of life for residents. This week I toured an assisted living community that was an example of low income market rate assisted living.

The Community

This community looks like it was built in the 1960’s or 70’s. It sits in a marginal neighborhood. They have about 40 rooms and all are licensed for two residents.   The building is completely surrounded by a decorative but functional and slightly imposing steel fence. The exterior of the building was plain but well kept. There were steps to access the front entrance, which would make it tough for a prospect to tour the building.

The Tour

I am used to seeing senior living communities with big signs in front saying “Tours Available Today”. This is the first time I have seen a community that had a sign on the door that said

“Tours by Appointment Only”

. . . I turned around and went home . . . ok no I didn’t, I forged on. When I walked through the front door I was hit with a faint but noticeable scent of some sort of antiseptic cleaner that almost covered up something less pleasant smelling. It was far from overwhelming but not what I am used too experiencing except maybe in too many skilled nursing nursing facilities. I explained who I was and asked for a tour. The administrator showed up in just a couple of minutes and gave me a quick and perfunctory tour that consisted of a rapid circuit around the rectangular design. I did manage a quick glance into a number of resident rooms, a common room, the dining room/kitchen and the courtyard. There was zero selling, or promoting of the community. I asked questions and she gave me minimalist answers. Here are the bullet points:

  • Licensed for 80+ beds
  • All rooms configured the same
  • Rates are $2,500 – $3,000 for private rooms (depending on level of care) and $2,000-$2,500 for semiprivate rooms. They do not take any Social Security only residents.
  • They are about 85% full.
  • The administrator did point out that that the “facility” (her words), is owned by a local family and “not a corporation”.

Shoot Me First…

This building would have passed licensing inspection and provides the basics of a room, a bathroom, meals and transportation. But, honestly, the place felt terrible. Residents seemed to be sort of just wandering around lost. Lighting was dim, the rooms were grim and the staff seemed disengaged (except for one person in the kitchen who gave me a big light up the room smile when I glanced in). In this particular case, not being a corporation was a credit to corporate ownership.

What It Could Have Been

Maybe this is the best you can do with those rates and, at least, there is something available that someone with only social security could actually afford. And yet . . . as I walked the building and thought about what I saw. I could picture spending a relatively modest few thousand dollars that would transform a grim existence into a terrific minimalist look and feel that would be homey and comfortable. It spite of what it was, I came away thinking that it is possible to actually create low cost senior living in the state of California, and that means it is be a lot easier to do in many other states. Steve Moran

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