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 NIC Conference Displays Investor Confidence in Seniors Housing, Long Term Care

For the more than 3,400 who gathered this week for the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care (NIC) annual fall conference in Chicago, the focus was not only on deal making, but also the broader issues and specific trends that are leaving many in the investor class confident of the opportunities in seniors housing.
NIC, which has been highlighting its recent report on the overlooked middle market housing segment, offered learning sessions over the course of the three-day event on issues like trends in skilled nursing, the hot topic of active adult housing (standing room only crowds), whether operators should own or partner on the home health front, and actions providers can take on workforce development and retention.
Speaking on the first day of the conference, Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, told attendees that the skilled nursing sector is seeing an improved outlook with slight upticks in occupancy, more favorable payment from Medicare, and a more positive financial standing for owners and operators.
Margins, he noted, are still under pressure when all payment sources are factored in like Medicaid and managed care, but providers are seeing more opportunity to tackle such issues and are innovating in both how facilities work and how care is provided ahead of what will be a favorable, ongoing demographic trend.
Janet Yellen, PhD, former chair of the Federal Reserve, also spoke at the start of the conference and weighed in on the important role new immigrants play in health care employment, stating that the tight job market is made even tougher for employers when the pipeline of new immigrants is curtailed.
In another address, Joseph Coughlin, PhD, director of MIT’s AgeLab, pounded home the theme that while there are scores of baby boomers aging into seniors housing and eventually skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) or assisted living (AL) communities, there is no guarantee of success for individual stakeholders serving seniors in any age bracket.
Saying there is no such thing as “destiny” when it comes to running a profitable business, he said providers and investors should know that while demographics favor their profession in the coming decades, the new class of elders would be part of a “disruptive” demographic trend. By this he meant that baby boomers are more active, better educated, and, as he put it, much more demanding than the traditional resident of a SNF or AL facility these days.
“Sixty-four percent of those 65 and older believe their IQ is higher than average,” Coughlin noted, using a tongue-in-cheek anecdote that a current SNF resident displays much trust in a clinician when it comes to care planning, whereas the next generation will have a great deal of confidence in their own ability to “just Google it” and care for themselves.
The key, he said, is for providers and investors to be innovative, alert to tech trends, offer different types of care than before, and be ready for what Coughlin terms the “longevity economy” in which people live much longer and require services that distinguish them from previous generations of seniors.
As a sidelight of the conference, NIC released its NIC Investment Guide: Investing in Seniors Housing and Care and Properties report. The latest data compiled by NIC show 2,800 independent living properties totaling around 427,000 units, 7,200 AL properties with 595,000 units, 1,400 memory care properties or 73,000 units, and 10,300 SNFs or l.34 million units.
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