This is the first in an occasional series written by LCB Co-Founder and CEO Michael Stoller.
I’ve been in the business of building and managing senior communities since the early 1990s, and I’ve seen huge changes and growth in the industry since then – particularly within the past decade. When we first started out, the assisted living field was somewhat one-dimensional and undeveloped, consisting mostly of smaller mom-and-pop organizations that offered residents a very basic benefits package – an apartment, a dining room, common living spaces, maybe a shuttle service into town, along with help with the activities of daily living (ADL). The food was passable, the environments were somewhat uniform and “cookie-cutter,” and there might have been two properties to choose from in a given geographical area.
So what changed? Between that first wave of building – roughly between 1993 and 2001 – and the second wave, starting up in 2010, came the recession. And along with it, a ton of consolidation. The mom and pops were largely bought out by bigger, deeper-pocketed companies, creating a much more competitive playing field. And at the same time, the growing aging population and their baby boomer children were learning about the industry, becoming better educated and savvier. Providers saw a more knowledgeable consumer and responded – with higher quality environments, greater choice in apartment configuration, and a more sophisticated array of amenities that consumers have come to expect. So standard fare these days are locally-sourced menus; full-service recreation facilities; and more sophisticated activities calendars packed with programming designed to go beyond entertainment to challenge residents intellectually and stimulate them culturally. And where ten years ago there might have been one or two locations to scout out in a given area, today there could be 3 or 5 options to consider.
The assisted living industry of 2018 is a mature, diverse marketplace that requires companies like LCB to be much more sophisticated both in how we operate and how we market ourselves. In a field swimming with options, we know it’s critical to establish a brand identity that boldly stakes out a market position and articulates that to the consumer. We also know we must have a strong understanding of the individuals who choose our communities and the lifestyles they expect. There’s nothing more inspiring than gaining that relationship with – and respect for – the people you’re serving. And there’s never been a more exciting time to be active in the business of creating senior communities.
It’s a deep and varied topic, and one I look forward to exploring further in this space.