By Steve Moran

The Washington Post appears to be intent on hurting older people in this country, and I don’t know why!

On January 16, 2024, they proudly published this article: “Senate to Examine Walkaway Deaths in Assisted-Living Facilities,” written by Christopher Rowland, a “business reporter focused on the health care economy’s impacts on consumer finances, health and safety.”

The focus of the article is a kind of celebration that “the chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging is launching a review of safety lapses in the assisted-living industry” based on the earlier Washington Post article titled “Understaffed and Neglected: How Real Estate Investors Reshaped Assisted Living.” (Click here for my take on that one.)

I have reached out by email to the Washington Post investigative team asking them for an interview. I want to specifically ask them how they think assisted living should be and how they would make it affordable.

Don’t hold your breath on hearing back. I suspect that while they want accountability from others, they don’t want it for themselves.

First Things First

What happened in Colorado and in the other elopement cases, particularly where people died or were injured, is horrific. There is simply no excuse. These life-ending cases should be a rallying cry for us, the senior living industry, to be better.

In addition, we need to be telling stories, and we are not — about residents whose lives were saved and transformed by senior living, about older people who were languishing at home and now are thriving in senior living.

Insanely Crazy Making

The problem with the Washington Post articles and writers is that somehow in their mind, they think they are making things better, but they are in fact making them worse. They seem to want:

  • Federal government regulation. This in spite of the fact that even a cursory look at the nursing home part of our industry shows that it has not gotten better with more regulation. That more regulation has only made it massively more expensive to operate and therefore more expensive for consumers and the government. And that regulations have become so prescriptive that they make it much harder to meet the real needs of residents.
  • Private capital out of the business. But they have offered not a single idea for how we would actually provide a quality life experience for older people. It is clear the not-for-profit space is not willing or able to close the gap. It is clear the government is terrible at creating this kind of housing.


Let’s assume the federal government gets involved and we have federal regulation and we somehow get private equity and REITs out of the business. Here is what the Washington Post will have accomplished:

  1. They will make senior living massively more expensive and simply out of reach for many more older Americans.
  2. They will make creating great living experiences for those who can still afford senior living much more constricted by regulation.
  3. They will substantially constrict the supply of new senior living, leaving more older people living in suboptimal to dangerous circumstances.


They miss the human factor in all this. No excuses for what happened in the specific cases the articles cite, but older people want the freedom to live their lives on their own terms. That means they are going to do things that put them in harm’s way, and sometimes bad things, including death, will happen.

Life itself for all ages involves risk calculations. People choose to rock climb, ride private subs to the bottom of the ocean, parachute from balloons and airplanes. Somehow, these reporters have so little respect for the autonomy of older people that they want to strip their ability to make choices.

They could have written a balanced article; they could have really learned about the industry. But in the interest of sensationalism, they will do great harm to older people and to those who serve them.