By Steve Moran

I know even the headline makes it sound like I have been hit by lightning since I mostly take the position that we have got to get a lot better if senior living is going to stay relevant or get relevant for more people.

I am going to admit right at the beginning that I could be wrong about this, but hear me out — this could be a real truth.

The Assumptions — Today

  • Baby boomers are just now beginning to need assisted living — not yet in big numbers, but we are seeing it.
  • We have an ongoing staffing crisis where frontline care workers are being paid a lot more than they were in most marketplaces. And even with higher wages than before, it is really hard to recruit and retain new workers.
  • The potential caregiver population continues to decline in proportion to the number of people needing care, which means there will be a need to increase pay rates faster than the rate of inflation.
  • Except in limited circumstances, the government does not pay for assisted living. They favor home care, partly because this is older people’s preference, but mostly because it costs the government less money.
  • There are two types of home care consumers – Those who are wealthy and can afford it, and those who are lower income and have no choice.

What Could Happen

I picture a time when experienced, skilled care workers will be so in demand that they will be making $30-$50 an hour across the country and more in high-cost marketplaces. When this happens, the relatively low-cost home care that the government prefers to pay for will become the most expensive way to provide for older people who need care. Home care is, in reality, crazy inefficient and only works where wages, relative to the economy, are low.

A caregiver doing home care can serve just a few individuals a day. That same caregiver could give better care to at least twice as many people in the same amount of time in a senior living community, making the incentive for the government to fund assisted living for more middle- and lower-income older people.

The bonus of course is that it will also give those individuals a better quality of life than they would have had at home.

Complicated and Messy

Getting there will be complicated and messy. It will mean rethinking staffing and compensation for every single position in the senior living community. It will mean figuring out the best way to use people more efficiently to do the things that only people can do.

It represents a great opportunity for technology companies to find ways to replace things that people are doing today, where humanness does not really bring value to residents or the organization.

It means the government rethinking how it serves older people in this country and in Canada.

I would love to hear your thoughts.