Technology, Wellness Define Seniors Housing of the Future, Say Exclusive Webinar Panelists

As the seniors housing industry prepares for the incoming wave of future residents — the oldest baby boomers are now 74 years old — operators are adapting their strategies.

“Being able to pivot your business is really key,” says Kelly Keefe of seniors housing software company MatrixCare. “There’s been an increasing shift, more of a light put on wellness initiatives.”

Keefe’s comments came during a webinar panel she moderated on Sept. 17 titled “How the Pandemic, Baby Boomers and Technology are Changing the Senior Living Business.” Presented by Seniors Housing Business and sponsored by MatrixCare, the other panelists included Benjamin Surmi of Koelsch Senior Communities, Bobby Petras of Priority Life Care, Steve Pacicco of MatrixCare, and Crystal Robinson of Oakmont Management Group.

To view the full webinar, click here.

The focus on wellness is a shift from the older model, which emphasized taking care of a family member, keeping them alive and taking the burden of caregiving off the family, panelists said. The seniors housing model of the future will not just provide housing, but a healthy lifestyle.

“We are in a time when wellness is at the forefront. We’re not just concerned about real estate,” said Surmi. “We want, as a family member, to ensure that what’s happening for mom or dad is helping them live well.”

Robinson noted that Oakmont polled the adult children of its residents to find out what they wanted for their parents. The results confirmed this renewed focus on wellness.

“We were able to listen closely and shift to care more for the wellness side — for example, being able to enhance and make more use of our fitness centers,” said Robinson. “We’re making them a lot larger than usual. Our residents want to spend more time there.”

At Priority, Petras said that food menus have become a major component of wellness initiatives. Resident diets may include special requirements for health issues such as diabetes, or trendy choices like paleo, keto or Atkins diets.

“Over the next 10 to 20 years you’re going to have a much more educated population coming in,” said Petras. “What we serve today won’t work.”

Other wellness initiatives at Oakmont — on-staff doctors, telemedicine appointments and monitoring technology — are designed to keep residents from having to go to the hospital, added Robinson. These also include an increase in technology to support operations.

“There are foundational things that enable your organization to engage more effectively to deliver wellness. It starts with streamlining operations, where we must have technology,” said Pacicco. “Technology enables processes to be standardized, information to travel effectively, and for you to scale your operations. Without that, you won’t get the return on the investment.”

Streamlining technology initiatives can include tracking resident interactions, real-time data collection, fall prediction and medication administration.

“If you’re on paper today doing medication administration, you’re inefficient,” said Pacicco. “You’ve got to get efficient.”

— Jeff Shaw