The seniors housing leaders of tomorrow are already making their mark, drawing encouragement and inspiration from their role models.
By Jane Adler
As the pioneers of senior living look toward the final chapter of their careers, the next generation of industry leaders is taking shape. In many cases, it’s literally the next generation — children of the existing industry icons carving their own path in the industry.
Take, for example, Lynne Katzmann and her son Andrew Katzmann. When the company she founded, Juniper Communities, was still in its infancy, Andrew was too. Out of necessity, Lynne sometimes took him to closings and meetings. Her rationale — besides the fact that she had to work — was that if someone didn’t like little kids, they probably didn’t like old people either.
“Everyone reminds me about my mom bringing me to meetings in a baby carriage,” says Andrew, noting that his first groundbreaking was as a 4-year-old at a Juniper property in New Jersey where the company is based.
He heard a lot about senior living at home too, learning about the business almost by osmosis — an experience shared by other next-gen leaders. Andrew volunteered at Juniper properties, doing everything from fixing fences to teaching residents how to use Facebook.
Andrew grew along with Juniper, which now operates 22 properties, the majority of which are assisted living facilities. The company owns 17 of the buildings.
When Andrew went off to college, Lynne figured he was going his own way and never dreamed he’d want a career in senior living.
But one summer Andrew helped conduct research for Juniper that would serve as the basis for its Connect4Life program, a platform to coordinate resident healthcare. That got Andrew thinking about the direct connection between his desire to help people and his search for engaging and creative work. “There are other ways to approach care,” he says.
Andrew also realized that senior living was a high-growth industry that catered to a rapidly aging population — another plus often cited by ambitious next-gen leaders. So after college, he joined LTC Properties, a healthcare REIT headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif. as a financial analyst, helping to manage the company’s senior living portfolio. “I’m always looking ahead,” says Andrew.
Lynne’s generation isn’t going away yet, but at some point it will be time to pass the baton. “We have to make room for the next generation,” says Lynn.
Big shoes to fill
The senior living industry has hit middle age. Its primary focus in the beginning was on skilled nursing facilities, often run by families. In the late 1990s, the industry morphed into more of a corporate concern as assisted living buildings run by companies sprang up.
The group of executives who led this early wave of senior living development helped to professionalize the industry. They spearheaded research on senior living and developed standards and best practices for the industry.
A number of these pioneers now have children who work in the industry. Some work together at the same company, while others don’t.
Either way, parents are role models and provide the wise counsel of an experienced industry hand. Parents also act as a sounding board, proud to share their thoughts with their offspring (see sidebar).
The next generation of industry leaders isn’t a carbon copy of their parents, however. They have their own ideas about the future of the senior living industry and what kind of housing the next generation of consumers — Baby Boomers — will want and can afford.
Next-gen leaders also are focused on how technology will reshape the sector. And, like many millennials, they want to be involved in an industry like senior living that does some good for society.
“There’s a big opportunity in front of us,” says Patricia Will, founder and CEO of Houston-based Belmont Village Senior Living, whose two sons work in the industry. “The surge in demand we will see as my generation becomes the customers will require a lot of creativity.”
Patricia’s son, Aron Will, is vice chairman and co-head of National Senior Housing Debt & Structured Finance for CBRE Capital Markets. Over the last 10 years, his team has closed about $6.8 billion in debt and equity for seniors housing.
Aron began his career at the company that preceded CBRE Capital Markets and helped launch a seniors housing division there. He realized that his mother had identified an opportunity in the senior living space that called for quality operators and developers to create a better living environment for the elderly. “I found the same thing on the finance side,” he says.
His timing was right. A decade ago, institutional capital was just starting to flow into the space. Favorable demographic trends and the fact that not many other groups were chasing senior living made the sector even more attractive, he adds.
Aron sees his mom, Patricia, as a role model. She was a real estate developer with an MBA from Harvard and, like a number of other industry veterans, started Belmont Village when she couldn’t find a decent place for her elderly mother-in-law who needed memory care.
Patricia believes in a motto widely quoted throughout the industry that next-gen leaders embrace: “doing well by doing good.” In other words, it’s possible to have a financially rewarding career and still have a positive impact on the lives of others.
Belmont Village currently owns and operates 29 properties. “My mother built something completely on her own,” says Aron. “I’m so proud of her.”
Ingenuity in demand
Next-gen leaders will have to figure out a way to build a more affordable assisted living product to accommodate aging Baby Boomers in the years ahead, says Aron. “It will be a difficult puzzle to solve.”
Baby Boomers will want something different from seniors housing, adds Aron. Boomers will demand buildings with more technology, and will prefer infill locations that are walkable. They will want convenient access to restaurants, entertainment and shops.
The next generation of senior living residents will want more hospitality options too. “They won’t want to be shuffled to the dining room every night at five-thirty,” says Aron.
Industry veteran John Rijos, managing partner of Chicago Pacific Founders, agrees that the senior living customer will change drastically over the next 10 years. Baby boomers will want opportunities to continue learning and to volunteer.
“They will not be satisfied with three meals a day and a bed. They will want hospitality and excellence,” says Rijos, who has two sons, one active in the industry and another in college. “The next generation of industry leaders must also create environments that offer care coordination,” he adds.
Rijos left Brookdale Senior Living four years ago and taught a course on seniors housing at Cornell University, where he attended college. He started Chicago Pacific Founders three years ago to invest in seniors housing and now owns 34 properties and manages 20 others.
Like his father John, Taylor Rijos attended Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. He recently joined the private equity firm Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors as the vice president of seniors housing and is based in the firm’s office in Boca Raton, Fla. Taylor previously worked as an analyst for the big healthcare REIT Welltower in its Los Angeles office. John’s other son, Parker, is currently earning a business degree in hospitality at Michigan State University.
John’s sons worked at Brookdale in high school during summer breaks.
Taylor learned about operations, which showed him that the care component will continue to be an important part of senior living as baby boomers reach the age where they need more services.
But Taylor is quick to note that a focus on hospitality and best-in-class building amenities will be the differentiators for successful senior living companies in the future.
Technology will also be key to success, next-gen leaders say. Having grown up with all kinds of technology, they’re focused on how to use it to improve services and reduce costs. And they’re not intimidated by it.
Adam Will, son of Patricia Will, joined Belmont Village four years ago. He is the company’s director of communications. “Everything has to be wired,” he says, referring to building design. Today’s residents are more “digital savvy,” and Baby Boomers will expect a state-of-the-art experience, he adds.
Belmont launched a social media campaign this year. It includes Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter. With a media background, Adam manages the creative content that is produced in-house.
Technology will be the big driver of growth and efficiency in the industry, according to Jeffrey Kraus, managing director of Spectrum Retirement Communities based in Denver.
He co-founded the company with John Sevo in 2007. Spectrum currently owns and operates 37 properties, and has another 15 underway.
“This new generation of leaders is better equipped to deal with the changes in technology that a growing company needs to adapt,” says Jeffrey.
Jeffrey’s son, Bradley Kraus was named president and chief operating officer of Spectrum in 2017. Focused on operations, he recognizes the importance of technology to improve efficiency, especially in a tight labor market. “My dad and his partner have created an amazing company,” says Bradley. “I want to be a good steward and put my own mark on it to adapt to an ever-changing market.”
Giancarlo Riso, an associate in the Los Angeles office of Blueprint Healthcare Real Estate Advisors, a brokerage company, thinks technology will change the way care is delivered. His father, Torey Riso, had been president and CEO of Care Investment Trust, a real estate investment company that was just sold. He was recently named CEO of Blueprint, which is headquartered in Chicago.
Torey sees himself as a mentor to his son and other next-gen leaders.
“The industry is changing,” says Torey, who spoke in December to the young staff at Blueprint when his appointment was announced. He tried to communicate to them that senior living is a great industry and it isn’t going anywhere. “We are not even at the starting line,” he says.
The industry will have a large market and continued demand, he adds. But the consumers of tomorrow will be different from those of today. And it will be hard to predict what those consumers will want and how technology will change.
The next generation of successful industry leaders will be the ones who ask the right questions, says Torey. They will be the thought leaders who take a philosophical approach and understand that the industry’s mission is to take care of seniors, providing them with dignity and respect whether they can afford to pay a lot or a little.
Next-gen leaders will also realize it’s their duty to take care of the workforce and provide them with opportunities, says Torey.
“If we support that, we will have the ability to shape this industry.”