By Rob Love, President/CEO
I recently had the pleasure to speak with several friends who are CEOs of Life Plan Communities—Anne Doyle of Lasell Village, Doug Feller of Village On The Isle and Mike Rambarose of Whitney Center. We talked about their top goals for 2022 and how they plan to achieve them. The responses were wide ranging, and I will be summarizing some common themes and priorities in this series of blogs.
In the first blog, “It’s Time to Prioritize Line Staff,” we addressed each of their thoughts on how their organization’s culture is key to staff retention, how staff retention is dependent on staff satisfaction and how—by making staff a top priority—they expect to increase resident satisfaction. In the second blog, “Tactics to Increase Staffing,” we delved into specific tactics they are implementing or considering to attract new staff to their communities in 2022. In this third and final blog in the series, we address their plans for growth.
While workforce issues are a major part of CEOs’ focus in 2022, growth comes close behind in importance. Growth in revenue, growth in service lines and growth in people served are all top-of-mind to these forward-thinking senior living leaders.
For the Immediate Future
“For any leader, it is essential to continue to look at not only what our organization needs to do today to meet the everyday needs of residents, but also to be looking to the future,” Anne Doyle, CEO of Lasell Village in Newton, Massachusetts, said. “It’s not enough to be in operational mode every day.
“We laid the groundwork for an expansion in 2021,” continued Anne. “We did the market analysis for more than 30 additional independent living residences, conducted an initial financial feasibility analysis, and got our attorneys started on what we need for local approvals. This year, we are involving and engaging residents in the next stage of growth planning. It can’t just be leadership looking at growth; the residents need to have a voice in it as well. We recently sent out a survey to all residents, and we’re going to include about 90 residents in focus groups.”
“I think we are in a great place for growth,” Anne said. “Years ago, our wait list was in the 70s. Now it’s in the 150s. It’s been unbelievable. Our residents are our biggest promoters. They’ve been very satisfied with what we’ve done during COVID.”
For Doug Feller, CEO of Village On The Isle in Venice, Florida, growth means many different things, first and foremost of which is growing revenue. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to meet our expense budget for the year,” Doug said. “Costs are just increasing too rapidly. So we are focusing on increasing revenues wherever we can. We are working hard to drive census at all levels of care.”
Identifying Key Opportunities for Growth
Village On The Isle is also looking to diversify revenue sources for the future. It has conducted a feasibility study for home health care, and is looking to grow that revenue both on campus and in the greater community. It is also exploring unique contract options for its smallest residences, where prospects can select the residence but not physically move in. Prospects would get full healthcare coverage on paying the entrance fee, but would only pay a very low monthly fee for access to select services.
“We would only offer a small number of these contracts,” Doug said. “It would help us address census challenges we have in the smallest residences, and the people who select those residences would have the first choice of any available residence when they choose to move in physically. The entrance fee they pay for the smaller residence would be applied in full to the entrance fee of the actual residence they move into.”
Doug and his team are also looking at more traditional growth opportunities. The community was successful with its Emerald Terrace expansion of 46 larger apartments in two buildings a few years ago, and it is exploring opportunities to gain access to additional land adjacent to the community. Its goal would be to add about another 70 independent living residences in three more Emerald Terrace-type buildings.
For Whitney Center CEO Mike Rambarose, growth planning has even more dimensions. The community, located in Hamden, Connecticut, is exploring traditional opportunities for growth, such as a possible acquisition to fill a gap in its continuum. It is also working to rebuild independent living census and revenue, with the goal of reaching and sustaining 90 percent census in 2022. Perhaps most importantly, it is also looking at building an infrastructure foundation to support growth in the years ahead.
Making the Most of Technology
One of the most important parts of this foundation is technology and data management. “We are developing a comprehensive plan to manage technology from a data management perspective,” Mike said. “We are replacing our accounting platform and electronic medical records systems, along with six or seven other programs. Our goal is a streamlined and integrated platform that brings together all of the services we offer.”
Technology integration is, indeed, a great opportunity for Life Plan Communities. Mike shares a vision with Tom Mann, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Moorings Park Communities, and others about Life Plan Communities’ unique opportunity to integrate health, dietary, fitness and social data into a powerful and preventive wellness program that truly enables residents to live their best lives as long as possible. (For additional insights on this topic, please see Tom’s blog, “In Search of the Fountain of Youth,” and the webinar he participated in last August, “Integrated Wellness and Prevention.”)
“We want to be able to use data to better engage with our customers, and to better meet their needs. We want to provide our managers with insightful data that help them become better business managers. With this enhanced infrastructure, we will be prepared to integrate additional services into our offerings, and to support more residents.
“We are also looking to integrate artificial intelligence and robotics into our community, which will expand our staff’s capabilities to serve residents, especially given today’s workforce challenges,” Mike continued. “We are looking at incorporating robots into dining services and floor cleaning, and we are looking at smart home and smart community technology that will enhance the resident experience. This includes installing sensor and monitoring technology to enable residents to stay in their homes longer, reducing the needs for higher levels of care.”
From rebuilding census and revenue to launching new service lines, adding new residences and putting in place the infrastructure needed to support even more future growth, these forward-thinking CEOs are not only looking at what it takes for their communities to be successful today, but also what is needed for them to be successful well into the future. They are setting the example that all Life Plan Communities should be following.