Craig D. Hanson – A New Kind of Senior Living and How It’s Changing the Lives of Seniors

EPISODE 153

As our population ages, it’s more important than ever to consider the impact of active aging, brain health, senior living, and affordable housing on the aging population.

Active aging is a lifestyle approach that emphasizes involvement in physical, social, and cognitive activities in order to maintain independence and vitality as we age. Brain health is essential for maintaining cognitive function and deferring and maybe preventing dementia.

Senior living options can provide a supportive environment for seniors who wish to remain independent and active. Affordable housing is an essential issue for seniors who may be on a fixed income or have medical expenses.

By understanding the impact of these issues on the aging population, we can ensure that our seniors have the best possible quality of life.

Today my guest is Craig Hanson, a visionary leader who implements sound strategy and corporate culture. He intuitively perceives opportunities in an organization, weaves them into a coherent whole, and pushes culture and strategy to produce business benefits. Focusing on innovative service and value development, he knows a firm is only as good as its employees. He’s attracted and retained top industry talent at all levels by creating a respected, challenging, invested-in, empowered, and accountable work environment.

His father, a 1976 Weigand-Omega Management founder, taught him business and principles.  He then founded Omega Senior Living, a senior living management company. VitalCore Health Strategies focuses on improving population health.

Craig’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/craigdhanson-servantleaderfan/

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Hanh Brown

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Hanh Brown / Craig D. Hanson

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Episode Transcript

EPISODE 153

[0:00:00]
Hanh Brown: Hi, I’m Hanh Brown, the host of the Boomer Living Broadcast. The broadcast was founded with a mission of helping families and senior care professionals navigate the latter third of life.

[0:00:12]
Hanh Brown: We believe that everyone deserves to age with dignity gracefully and live their best life possible.

[0:00:19]
Hanh Brown: Our goal is to provide information and resources on topics that matter to seniors, including healthy living, active aging, brain health, dementia, Parkinson’s, caregiving, technology adoption, affordable senior living options, and financial security. We believe that by addressing the social determinants of health, we can help seniors live their best lives. So whether you are a senior care service provider, a baby boomer yourself, or caring for a loved one who is a senior, we hope that you tune into our show and join the conversation.

[0:00:56]
Hanh Brown: Also, please check out our newly launched platform, Senior Care System, an all-in-one sales and marketing tool for individuals and businesses that provide care for the aging population. Senior Care System, one app to replace them all.

[0:01:12]
Hanh Brown: So, today’s topic is a new kind of senior living and how it is changing the lives of seniors. As our population continues to age, it’s more important than ever to consider the impact of active aging, brain health, senior living, and affordable housing on the aging population.

[0:01:31]
Hanh Brown: Active aging is a lifestyle approach that emphasizes involvement in physical, social, and cognitive activities to maintain independence and vitality as we age. Brain health is important for maintaining cognitive function and potentially preventing dementia.

[0:01:50]
Hanh Brown: Senior living options can provide a supportive environment for seniors who wish to maintain their independence and remain active. Affordable housing is an important issue for seniors who are on a fixed income and have high medical expenses. By understanding the impact of these issues on the aging population, we can ensure that our seniors have the best possible quality of life.

[0:02:13]
Hanh Brown: So today, my guest is Craig D. Craig is a visionary leader who implements sound strategy and corporate culture. He intuitively perceives opportunities in an organization, translates them into coherent goals, and pushes culture and strategy to produce business benefits.

[0:02:33]
Hanh Brown: Focusing on innovative services and value development, he knows a firm is only as good as its employees. He’s attracted and retained top industry talent at all levels by creating a respected, challenging, invested, empowered, and accountable work environment. His father, the 1976 Regan and Omega Management founder, taught him business principles. He then founded Omega Senior Living, a senior living management company, and Vital Core Health Strategies, which focuses on improving population health. So Craig, welcome to the show. I’m honored to have you here.

[0:03:13]
Craig D: Thank you very much. It’s really good to be here. How are you doing?

[0:03:19]
Hanh Brown: I’m doing good. I’m doing well. Hey, could you please share with us something personal about yourself and your professional wealth of knowledge that you bring to this conversation?

[0:03:31]
Craig D: Sure, I would say I’m a farm boy at heart. You should perform to the best of your abilities. I got into the C-level business because of my mother. My mother always had a long struggle with dementia. She passed away about a year and a half ago, so that was the motivation behind the family legacy for life.

[0:03:55]
Craig D: We’ve built our business around this culture, but I was originally born when we founded Legacy Senior Living. Our goal is to provide the best care possible, not just basic activities, but going beyond to enrich life, whatever the abilities are at the time. We try to meet individuals at their stage of life. It’s just life-enriching.

[0:04:24]
Craig D: I’m not your typical corporate leader as we’ve talked about. I come from a farming background. My father founded the company while I was doing management and studying statistics.

[0:04:35]
Craig D: I grew up in the property industry, from cleaning pools to a variety of roles from an early age. I worked my way up to management. I led the company to not only do apartments, but also retail office management, hotels, resorts, and warehouses.

[0:05:10]
Craig D: So, a little bit of everything from that is more to the forefront of Legacy Senior Living, which we started in 2016. Legacy Senior Living encompasses a range of options.

[0:05:20]
Craig D: We offer 35 plus housing varieties, from independent living to assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing. It’s a broad spectrum.

[0:05:29]
Craig D: I also probably should mention family members of our board for our Core Health Strategies, which was created to improve health outcomes for people.

[0:05:38]
Craig D: We work in various areas like state prison systems, recovery, and development of company cultures, and more.

[0:05:46]
Craig D: Those are a few of the things we do, but also cater to the 55 plus demographic.

[0:05:50]
Craig D: So, I’m going to move to a nonprofit organization or we’re in the process of becoming a nonprofit. The goal is to bring affordable, good-quality housing to communities.

[0:06:06]
Hanh Brown: That works so well. Well, thank you, thank you so much for your contribution. We’re blessed to have you in the industry. So, moving on to our next question.

[0:06:16]
Hanh Brown: We’re on the topic of active aging. So, what are your thoughts on active aging and how can senior housing promote active aging?

[0:06:28]
Craig D: You know, the senior housing industry is really trying to find new terms for work. It’s trying to find unique approaches.

[0:06:38]
Craig D: If you look at the spectrum of services and how they can approach it, the industry is really trying to define several new product types that are coming out. People are trying to figure out where the service line starts and ends. Some people refer to this as a continuum of life or independent living.

[0:06:59]
Craig D: There’s a whole host of new product types and terminology that are coming out.

[0:07:05]
Craig D: The industry as a whole is really trying to figure out how to provide affordable housing and how to incorporate whatever level of services are appropriate into those models, so people can afford it.

[0:07:21]
Craig D: Depending on what product type we’re talking about, what goes into active aging can differ greatly.

[0:07:36]
Hanh Brown: So what amenities do you think are necessary for promoting active aging?

[0:07:42]
Craig D: Amenities, I believe, are very important.

[0:07:49]
Craig D: Things like having a well-equipped fitness center, access to outdoor spaces, pools, and other facilities like elevators are all purpose-built and very important.

[0:08:01]
Craig D: These are things that are taken into consideration in developments. But, what’s most important to some degree is the life enrichment that goes on with it.

[0:08:12]
Craig D: This varies greatly depending upon what product type we’re talking about, but the quality of life, the social interactions, and the focus on doing things that promote health as we age are crucial.

[0:08:26]
Craig D: We focus on a lifestyle that encompasses spiritual, social, physical, emotional, and nutritional aspects. These are the key components that we focus on.

[0:08:44]
Craig D: It varies depending upon the product type and the level of service we’re providing. But that’s the approach we take, and it works very well.

[0:08:54]
Hanh Brown: That’s great. So, what are some other challenges that senior housing faces in terms of encouraging residents to stay active?

[0:09:00]
Craig D: The primary challenges often revolve around staffing and the culture of the company.

[0:09:08]
Craig D: The question is, are you trying to provide the basics, or are you trying to enrich lives?

[0:09:13]
Craig D: The quality of operators and their styles vary greatly in the industry.

[0:09:20]
Craig D: So, I think it’s essential for anyone looking for senior housing to really do their due diligence and homework to make sure that you’re not just placing a loved one or yourself in a home, but finding a place that has the right culture and truly understands what you’re looking for and what’s expected of them.

[0:09:47]
Hanh Brown: So what do you think is the future and the vision of senior housing in terms of providing more active aging and fostering activation?

[0:09:58]
Craig D: I think one of the things that is crucial…

[0:10:03]
Craig D: The aim is to cater to the market, particularly the demographic of 55 plus. We offer more than 35 distinct product types, specifically designed for this age group.

[0:10:09]
Craig D: These facilities are purpose-built with all the amenities we discussed earlier such as elevators and other features catering specifically to seniors. We also incorporate a lifestyle component which we believe is important.

[0:10:29]
Craig D: If you look at the spectrum of senior living, on one end we have age-restricted apartments. These are apartments restricted to certain age groups. They may or may not be purpose-built for seniors and may or may not offer additional services.

[0:10:52]
Craig D: On the other end of the spectrum, you have multifamily apartments that are age-restricted. 

[0:11:00]
Craig D: Between these purpose-built, age-restricted apartments and independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities, there’s a gap in the market, in terms of price and service.

[0:11:20]
Craig D: We are focused on the active adult 55 plus market as we see this gap as a new opportunity on the horizon.

[0:11:29]
Craig D: As we see across the country, people age differently. For example, in a couple, one partner might age or deteriorate health-wise faster than the other, and they don’t always have the same needs. 

[0:11:50]
Craig D: We’re seeing a lot of couples where one spouse needs more assistance, and they try to stay together in the same environment for as long as possible.

[0:12:00]
Craig D: Usually, there is an event that triggers a move. Typically, it’s not a positive event. Often, the healthier partner moves into the independent living sector while the one needing more services moves into assisted living or memory care. 

[0:12:20]
Craig D: Across the country, we see that the typical stay in an assisted living or memory care unit is about two years.

[0:12:29]
Craig D: But to stay in close proximity to one another, these couples are spending quite a bit of money, sometimes $10,000 – $15,000 a month. 

[0:12:47]
Craig D: After a couple of years, one spouse may pass away and the other is left having spent a large portion of their retirement to stay close to their spouse. 

[0:12:50]
Craig D: This is where the 55 plus model comes in. It aims to target these needs and provide an environment where outside healthcare companies can come in and provide services as needed on a à la carte basis. 

[0:13:10]
Craig D: This can be a way to bridge the gap and provide affordable housing opportunities for seniors without bundling all the costs. 

[0:13:57]
Craig D: We provide a host of services from meal services to providing additional assistance on an as-needed basis, from dog walking to plant care for the residents.

[0:14:26]
Craig D: This allows us to offer some additional support in other areas that might benefit them and might be areas they are struggling with.

[0:14:36]
Craig D: As their needs change, they’ll have the opportunity to access additional assistance from third parties.

[0:14:40]
Hanh Brown: When we talk about the 55 plus group, what is the typical age of the residents? Is it actually 55?

[0:14:50]
Craig D: Well, from our experience so far, the typical age we see is around 72 to 74.

[0:15:07]
Hanh Brown: So, help me understand what this looks like years from now.

[0:15:10]
Craig D.: Yeah, that’s right.

[0:15:11]
Hanh Brown: It’s going to fix the roads, right? So, who determined that fifty was the high limit? Where did that name come from? I have a sense of it, but I wanted to hear it from you. Does the ordering of it really depend on the setup of the community? I mean, there are different rules depending upon the type of programs, right?

[0:15:31]
Craig D.: Yes, it does depend on the community. There are different rules depending on the programs available. The current laws allow for certain age restrictions in typical apartment communities as long as the needs are met for the percentages. So, there are different programs that are out there and current laws that permit this type of use. It also depends on what the developer is going for.

[0:15:54]
Hanh Brown: Yeah, that’s great.

[0:15:56]
Hanh Brown: Wow, I’m going to talk about brain health, but I wanted to know if there is anything more that you would like to add about aging because I know that it’s such a huge topic, and I don’t want to miss any key component.

[0:16:09]
Craig D.: Nowadays, there is a huge traffic in each, you know. A lot of it is personal and it varies depending on the individual. Now to answer your question about brain health, it depends on what product we’re talking about, whether it’s assisted living or memory care. For instance, in an assisted living setup, an article I read just recently stated that there’s about thirty percent of residents in normal assisted living who have some type of dementia-related illness. I would probably say that the percentage is even higher than that. So, dementia and brain health is something that we’re very focused on. One of the reasons why we joined this business was just to find better ways to do it and address the concerns of the community. It’s something that’s very important to us, the brain health.

[0:17:05]
Craig D.: This is a key component, and it’s a very personalized topic. When we talk about it, we gauge what our residents want. A lot of it is very personal because the things that would be engaging to you might not be the same things that might be engaging to me. We have different experiences, different things that are important to us throughout our life and in our careers. So, we really try to discover what makes our residents tick and the things that are important to them. We leverage these things that have been familiar in the past and things that they were good at in the past. By bringing those things out and using them to engage our residents, we find that it really helps cognitively and just enriches their lives.

[0:18:01]
Hanh Brown: That’s true. To talk about affordable housing, I love the idea of bridging the gap between regular places and senior living. It’s a means to make it more affordable by giving people what they need, as opposed to an all-in-one bundle of care that they may not need right away. It’s a great idea to make it more affordable. And I think, as you mentioned about engagement, I see that often the seniors and families who come to active living or senior living have experienced some level of loss, whether it’s physical or mental cognition type of decline or loss of a loved one. On a personal level, because my parents-in-law tend to close up, it’s hard for me to get them to engage. Do you see this as a common difficulty?

[0:19:07]
Craig D.: If you look at a lot of senior living facilities, especially memory care places, they’re often very reactionary. A lot of times, there’s not proactive planning. There’s something that has happened, like a loved one has passed away and there’s no care left for the other individual, or something else has triggered some kind of dangerous event that has prompted a move. Family members also often fail to recognize when we’ve reached a point where we really need to start taking care of things. This can happen and progress, and sometimes you don’t see it until one of these events has happened. Sometimes, the children don’t want to recognize what’s happening because we want to remember our parents as they were.

[0:20:04]
Hanh Brown: You know, we live in a spot where our parents really don’t have all the faculties and capabilities that they did before, right?

[0:20:09]
Craig D.: Exactly, and that’s one reason why driving factors like these are so important. I think it’s crucial for professionals like you and me to bring these conversations to the forefront so that people start thinking about them, preferably in their forties, not their sixties.

[0:20:29]
Craig D.: Normalizing these difficult conversations is a must.

[0:20:32]
Hanh Brown: Yeah.

[0:20:33]
Craig D.: It’s about bringing these facts to the surface. But do you know any individuals or organizations that regularly discuss these issues? Usually, people find these discussions difficult because they have to confront and talk about what’s going to happen, what’s coming down the line, from healthcare to living arrangements and financial benefits.

[0:20:59]
Craig D.: Typically, people don’t want to engage in these hard conversations. But yeah, I’m sure you’re also going to start these difficult conversations.

[0:21:14]
Hanh Brown: That’s true. So, seniors often face unique challenges when it comes to brain health. As we age, we may find it more difficult to remember things or concentrate for long periods of time. We may also be at risk for conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, Parkinson’s, and a whole list of other things. What are your thoughts on ways that seniors can promote brain health and prevent cognitive decline?

[0:21:46]
Craig D.: There are many things that seniors can do to promote brain health. Several studies have shown that activities like reading, puzzles, and things of that nature can help keep your mind engaged. If we’re talking about it in a care setting, for example in our memory care units, we focus on the sights, sounds, and smells. We use colors and other stimuli that have research backing them.

[0:22:31]
Craig D.: For example, in the mornings, we use citrus scents to help residents wake up. Old-time scents can help spark an appetite, and in the evening there are certain scents like lavender that can calm them down. We also pay attention to lighting, and how it can be really helpful. Waking them up slowly with a light that mimics sunrise and dimming it gradually at the end of the day helps regulate the residents’ body clock.

[0:23:20]
Craig D.: We also promote a Mediterranean diet specifically designed to help combat the effects of aging. And even the colors we use for the plates we serve the residents on, play a role. Certain colors can stimulate the appetite, like reds or yellows, whereas blues might not. We pay attention to that because it makes a difference, and we also want contrast. If you have a white plate with white gravy, for instance, it’s difficult for some residents with vision problems to see the contrast and locate their food.

[0:24:28]
Craig D.: It’s these little things that contribute to overall health. If you combine that with routine and regular engagement, it can really help improve the residents’ wellbeing.

[0:24:38]
Hanh Brown: So, what are the biggest threats to brain health for seniors, in your opinion?

[0:24:45]
Craig D.: The biggest threats I see are lack of engagement and isolation. Cognitive decline can happen very rapidly when residents are not engaged. That’s one of the reasons why we started with this business model. We aim to create environments that keep the residents engaged. If residents aren’t using their minds or interacting with others, or if they don’t have a life enrichment component in their lives, cognitive decline can occur rapidly.

[0:25:29]
Craig D.: On the other hand, in situations where residents are engaged, have friendships and relationships, and have activities they enjoy, and ways they feel they can contribute and be meaningful to others, either in the community or outside of it, cognitive decline can be slowed down.

[0:25:49]
Craig D.: Activities that can bring families into the community to participate, including grandchildren, are a huge bonus. I see that to be a huge bonus because I know it’s hard for me, for example, to get my mom to do things. But I know when her children and grandchildren are around to encourage her, she’s more likely to engage.

[0:26:11]
Craig D.: We’re more successful that way, you know, and it can be very difficult, it’s like moving mountains in the later part, especially with dementia. You need a whole family, you need a whole village.

[0:26:24]
Craig D.: And indeed, sometimes it comes with some dysfunctional stuff with family dynamics, but you still need them all to nudge Mom or Grandma to be active, I tell you.

[0:26:35]
Craig D.: Or whenever, you know, we’re open up again because it was a very difficult time to recover when we had residents that consider family members. In our circumstances, we resorted to phone calls, trying to do FaceTime with them.

[0:26:54]
Craig D.: You know, video conferencing, places like us found that difficult. It was difficult for the residents, especially, but it was also extremely difficult for our teams that were caring for those residents.

[0:27:05]
Craig D.: You know, that was, it was tough all around, truly.

[0:27:11]
Hanh Brown: And gosh, I know at a personal level, I think that engagement is important.

[0:27:17]
Hanh Brown: Period.

[0:27:18]
Hanh Brown: For all of us and me, I was concerned about my mom, of course, but then later on, it’s really important for adolescents, for children, that engagement, that socialization, because in all phases of life, there is a window that kids learn to be social, to be active, to engage in all those life lessons.

[0:27:38]
Hanh Brown: So, I worry about, you know, my mom who’s in her nineties, and kids who are in those formative years that were isolated. And around here, we had some unfortunate things happen in high schools and churches where kids didn’t come out okay.

[0:27:58]
Hanh Brown: So, that brain health, mental health, socialization is vital for all ages.

[0:28:06]
Hanh Brown: This is universal.

[0:28:09]
Hanh Brown: Okay, so let’s now talk about affordable senior housing. Obviously, it’s a very vital resource for seniors. As we age, many of us find ourselves on a fixed income. Social security and pensions don’t go as far as they used to, and health care costs can be sky high.

[0:28:29]
Hanh Brown: For many seniors, the idea of being able to afford a comfortable place to live is simply like a pipe dream. But affordable senior housing can make those dreams a reality. So what are your thoughts on the current state of affordable housing for seniors and the challenges that come with that?

[0:28:49]
Craig D.: What I see is, over the last probably four or five years, I’ve traveled around to a lot of different senior events, seminars and conferences. What I’ve observed is one of the things that everybody’s trying to figure out is how do you provide affordable senior housing?

[0:29:10]
Craig D.: And health care too. You know, necessity drives innovation.

[0:29:17]
Craig D.: I think everybody sees the need for that. You see a lot of new senior residences that have been built over the last couple of years are often very high priced. It’s hard to build, especially from scratch, because it’s hard to build affordable housing due to all the costs that go into it.

[0:29:37]
Craig D.: When you build, you have to have a certain price point to make that model work for new construction. So, the affordability component will probably be forthcoming in the next couple of years because there’s going to be a lot of need for answers.

[0:29:49]
Craig D.: There will be a lot of different groups trying to figure out really where the opportunities are. There will be a lot of different types of products that come up, each catering for one particular niche or another.

[0:30:10]
Craig D.: There will be a model that really works well to provide that affordable care, while maintaining a high level of quality. So, what are your thoughts on hotel conversions or school conversions? How compatible or feasible is that?

[0:30:27]
Craig D.: There’s always been a trend to consider over the last three years, from surplus hospitals being converted into senior living.

[0:30:32]
Craig D.: The hotel industry has had to adapt as it went from thriving to hardly any travel, so there was a real opportunity for a number of groups trying to do hotel conversions. Some of them will tell you it can work, but you have to have all the community space and things that go into senior developments.

[0:31:02]
Craig D.: Then the smaller hotels that really don’t have the amenities too, and I think those are going to be a big challenge for developers who really don’t understand, coming from a different industry, they really don’t understand the dynamics of the senior living component. So they think they can come in, find a hotel very cheaply, and then just convert it to senior living.

[0:31:25]
Craig D.: There are all kinds of regulations that go into that. We’ve had developers who really haven’t understood and didn’t really understand how much a typical hotel was going to have to change. We’ve actually turned down business on some of the hotel models where the living space and life enrichment was just going to be one long hallway and people were going to be stuck in that hallway.

[0:31:54]
Craig D.: We’ve turned down those, as we didn’t feel like it was going to be the right environment for people to thrive in. So, the conversion of hotels is not readily compatible in a lot of cases.

[0:32:19]
Craig D.: I wouldn’t say it’s entirely incompatible. I think it’s going to depend on certain types of hotels that have the amenities and facilities we’ve talked about before.

[0:32:30]
Craig D.: Developers are going to have to understand that there’s probably not going to be a demand for a 300 or 350 square foot assisted living unit. That market is going to be very limited. There might be some demand for different memory care unit sizes, but I think some of the developers are going to have to come to the realization that they’re going to have to combine some of those units and really reconsider.

[0:33:04]
Craig D.: It’s not going to work on a large scale to come into a hotel and just put a new logo out front, then immediately fill up spots.

[0:33:21]
Craig D.: There’s a learning curve, and the rush to capitalize on this quick opportunity where all these hotels are available due to COVID-19 might lead to mistakes. For example, one hotel we looked at with a developer had been completely remodeled in 2018. It was a beautiful hotel.

[0:33:40]
Craig D.: So, the opportunity was there, but only while the hotel market is depressed. Once it comes back, that opportunity will not be there. I think a number of developers are really trying to strike at a low point for the hospitality sector and maybe don’t understand senior living like they need to. There are some limits.

[0:34:15]
Hanh Brown: Can you talk about the tax credit for affordable housing? How is that helping to build more affordable housing? Is it helping enough, do you think?

[0:34:26]
Craig D.: You know, I probably have a limited perspective on that. Our property management company only deals with affordable housing. The tax credit, I have not been involved directly with a community that uses tax credits. I’ve seen some of the models and how they pencil out.

[0:34:44]
Craig D.: So, I think there’s an opportunity there that could be good for the industry. It’s certainly something to explore, but I am not a direct expert on it.

[0:35:03]
Hanh Brown: So what are creative ways you think we can find more affordable housing for seniors?

[0:35:10]
Craig D.: Creative ways to find affordable housing involve encouraging state governments to create incentives. 

[0:35:18]
Craig D.: You know, with the tax credit program, there’s also the potential for real estate tax abatements.

[0:35:25]
Craig D.: There are things that can be done from a community perspective because we do see needs in neighborhoods where people really want senior living options. Otherwise, they’re going to go somewhere where they can find a product that they want.

[0:35:49]
Craig D.: I think some communities that have been opposed to some development in the past are now realizing that if they don’t have certain types of products for their entire demographic, those individuals are going to leave the market and go elsewhere.

[0:36:07]
Craig D.: And I think city councils, small towns, and even suburban areas of larger cities are realizing it.

[0:36:19]
Hanh Brown: Yes, I see. I know we’ve identified several opportunities and challenges, but I’m going to hone in a little bit in case we haven’t addressed the main one. So, what do you think the biggest challenge a senior housing company is facing today?

[0:36:39]
Craig D.: I think for operators, one of the biggest challenges is the staffing crisis that’s going on. Over the last couple of years, especially in the skilled nursing component, there have been so many regulatory changes. As an operator, it was extremely frustrating because regulations would be introduced without proper explanation.

[0:37:12]
Craig D.: The industry would be in upheaval, wondering how to implement these new changes. Companies would prepare, then clarifications would come out that might negate some of the work that operators did to prepare. It felt like a continuous cycle of revising policies and procedures to stay in compliance and keep people safe.

[0:37:54]
Craig D.: Because of these challenges, a lot of people in the industry who were at or near retirement decided it was too difficult to operate during that time. Some people felt that their hands were tied in providing the best care due to the regulatory environment. So, a lot of good people and talent left the industry over the last couple of years.

[0:38:34]
Craig D.: That’s created a challenge. You also have people retiring from healthcare, contributing to the shortage. The staffing crisis is still a very real thing for every segment of healthcare. That’s probably the biggest challenge right now.

[0:39:09]
Craig D.: We try to combat that by focusing on our culture, which is very important to us. We aim to create and nurture a specific culture for our associates.

[0:39:26]
Craig D.: That’s a big focus for us, and we hope to create a magnetic culture where people are drawn to work for us and inspired by our mission and how we conduct ourselves.

[0:39:41]
Craig D.: Over the next couple of years, I think the companies that have good cultures are going to be much more successful than those that don’t. People will have a choice on where they want to work.

[0:39:57]
Craig D.: And if they want to be in the senior living industry, there will be opportunities at multiple companies.

[0:40:03]
Craig D.: So, I absolutely agree that staffing is the biggest challenge from an operator’s perspective. Now, from a developer’s perspective, the challenge is keeping construction costs under control.

[0:40:15]
Craig D.: We’re always seeing new developments that we’re working on, and we’re facing delays from windows to carpets and more. There are containers just sitting on ships somewhere, waiting to be delivered, because the supply chain was disrupted over the last couple of years.

[0:40:35]
Craig D.: So, controlling those costs is crucial to maintaining a return on investment and providing affordable housing. If construction costs continue to skyrocket, it becomes difficult to control those costs. To get something off the ground, you need to charge a certain amount of rent to make the numbers work. So as construction costs have increased, the price of these new products will go up as well.

[0:41:11]
Craig D.: Yes, inflation, recession, gas prices, food prices, construction costs. It’s a global problem. But you know, I try to keep a positive outlook despite these challenges.

[0:41:27]
Craig D.: We made it through COVID-19, a crisis some people didn’t survive. If we made it through that, all the nuisances, the inflation, the recession, these are things we can overcome over time. So, thank God we’re still here even in the winter.

[0:41:50]
Hanh Brown: Now, how do you think technological advances will impact the senior housing industry?

[0:41:59]
Craig D.: There’s a lot of technologies out there being tested currently. As a nurse, I’ve seen different devices like tracking devices, communication tools, and other devices. There’s technology that can measure the state of residents and even predict falls before they happen.

[0:42:23]
Craig D.: These technologies are being utilized and tested right now, and over time we will see whether they really help prevent issues or detect problems in advance. Technology is developing very fast all around us and the senior housing industry is no different.

[0:43:01]
Hanh Brown: That’s great. Are there other areas of senior housing that you see growing rapidly in the next couple of years?

[0:43:14]
Craig D.: I think the active adult market is going to grow rapidly. Active adult communities, senior apartments, there’s a lot of different names for it, but I believe these models will prove themselves over the next few years.

[0:43:41]
Craig D.: I think there will be a lot of different things tried in that space. It will be a process of trial and error to figure out where the demand is and what people want. People in active, independent lifestyles want choice. The expectations of the baby boomer generation are quite different from those of the silent generation.

[0:44:28]
Hanh Brown: Absolutely, they’re a different generation. My parents were part of the silent generation, and now my mom is in her nineties. The baby boomer generation has a lot of expectations, including wealth transfer, technology, and choice. If these are not provided, they might not want to leave their homes unless physically, biologically, or mentally necessary.

[0:44:55]
Hanh Brown: So, what advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to get into the senior housing industry?

[0:45:04]
Craig D.: Well, if you’re considering the senior housing industry, I initially thought it was real estate with a hint of healthcare. However, I quickly learned that it’s an operational healthcare business with a slight focus on real estate.

[0:45:15]
Craig D.: Real estate matters, but the operation is more significant. For those looking to get into the industry, understand it’s not just about the real estate aspect. There are many apartment developers who try to develop senior living, but it’s very different because it’s an operational business with real estate as a component.

[0:45:38]
Craig D.: There are multifamily developers who come over thinking it’s the same as what they have been doing for years, with a few tweaks to the model. They get frustrated when they realize it’s not; it’s a distinct industry, not just multifamily with a healthcare twist. It’s its own thing.

[0:46:14]
Craig D: It all rolls around the operation and how to provide the services that we provide. So, for anyone wanting to get into development or ownership, I would say, you know, it’s good to have some experience in the industry. 

[0:46:32]
Craig D: There are lessons learned the hard way. 

[0:46:35]
Craig D: Being able to listen and learn from others is certainly the safest way for anybody wanting to enter the industry. 

[0:46:42]
Craig D: You know, it can be one of the most rewarding fields, but it’s also real that you’re going to develop connections with people and you’re going to see loss, you’re going to see cognitive decline, you’re going to see some of those hard sides of life, so if you’re willing to be vulnerable, it can be extremely rewarding.

[0:47:02]
Craig D: But it will come with the harder side of life because we’re catering services that are towards that stage of life which is not always easy. 

[0:47:18]
Craig D: So it’s very rewarding, but that reward does require vulnerability. 

[0:47:25]
Craig D: You’re dealing with hardships, loss, cognitive decline, falls – I appreciate that you brought that up, because I think too often we don’t talk about these things.

[0:47:45]
Hanh Brown: And we don’t see that in the forefront, we see beautiful buildings, fun activities, great culture – all necessary. But we don’t see or talk too much about the loss, what it’s like to see someone decline over years and the difficulties in getting people to engage, how to get families together – it’s real and it’s a complicated mix.

[0:48:27]
Hanh Brown: And creating relationships and working with the families, it’s a big piece of it too, not just working with the residents.

[0:48:37]
Hanh Brown: It’s about their families and their support system and hopefully providing support to our seniors who don’t have that support system. Some of our seniors may find their loved ones have passed on or they’re isolated and the people who support them are in other states or whatever it might be. 

[0:49:08]
Hanh Brown: Meeting them where they are in life is very important, so it’s important to cater to them.

[0:49:24]
Hanh Brown: Everyone comes with varying levels of predicaments, different levels of loss, and it’s difficult to kind of reset yourself to meet people where they are, because it takes you acknowledging your own vulnerability to adapt to their situation. 

[0:49:56]
Hanh Brown: You know, someone who was a leader of a company before, giving them something to lead can be very meaningful. 

[0:50:03]
Hanh Brown: If someone was an avid artist, providing crafts and things like that for them to do can be very meaningful as well. 

[0:50:25]
Hanh Brown: It’s about understanding what is going to enrich these people’s lives and meeting them there, using their past, their experiences. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. 

[0:50:57]
Hanh Brown: Well, thank you so much, Craig. I enjoyed this conversation. LinkedIn is giving us a little bit of a notice that we’re at the tail end. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

[0:51:17]
Craig D: No, thank you for the opportunity, Hanh. I appreciate your time, your expertise, and your wisdom in sharing your wealth of knowledge. In closing, the trend of active aging is changing the landscape of senior living. More

 and more seniors are looking for opportunities to stay healthy and engaged, and developers are responding with new kinds of affordable housing that cater to their needs. 

[0:51:33]
Craig D: There are challenges facing the industry, but there is also exciting growth. Active living will continue to grow in popularity, benefiting both seniors and the businesses that serve them. 

[0:51:48]
Hanh Brown: In the coming weeks, we will be covering some very important topics, including the importance of music for seniors with dementia. Music has been shown to help people with dementia by improving cognitive function, communication skills, and mood. 

[0:52:03]
Hanh Brown: Remember to check out our Senior Care system, it’s an all-in-one sales and marketing digital platform for senior care providers. Subscribe to our Boomer Living broadcasts on Google Play. 

[0:52:12]
Craig D: Thank you, Hanh. I appreciate it. 

[0:52:28]
Hanh Brown: Thank you for listening to another episode of “The Boomers Living” broadcast. I know you have a lot of options when it comes to podcasts and I’m grateful that you’ve chosen this one. Please share this podcast with your friends and family, write a review on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play. It helps others discover the show. 

[0:53:04]
Hanh Brown: Check out our TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube Channel, Age Media Show and subscribe for weekly tips on how to best serve the senior population. We want to help them have a great experience as they age. Thanks for tuning in until next time.

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