There are several ways senior living leaders can prepare for the incoming Silver Tsunami, as well as the difficulties sure to come with it.
If you ask Craig Patnode, the best strategy is to keep calm, and get excited.
“Everyone is getting older. That makes it one of the top industries to be in right now, because there are 80 million people coming into the system that have to be cared for.’’
Speaking at the Senior Living Innovation Forum, Eldermark’s CEO is confident the industry isn’t merely bracing for the mounting issues the imminent wave of baby boomers will bring about — rather, it’s up for the challenge.
“It’s a very exciting time,” Patnode said. “We’re all in a position to shape a major part of the industry.”
This air of enthusiasm was well and truly apparent to anyone attending the retreat, this year nestled among the beauty (and vineyards!) of Napa Valley. Author and futurist, Brian Solis, was one such person impressed with what he saw. He took the stage to offer his insights on the direction of an industry, which “in five to 10 years is headed for either amazing new opportunities or,” like the aftermath of a tsunami, “amazing devastation.”
“All innovation comes to life when we step out of our comfort zones and allow ourselves to see how people want to live differently.
“Then we do the things that connect the dots about where we are and where we can be tomorrow,” Solis said.
And focusing on people-centric solutions is definitely what the industry is striving for. For many, such as the Chairman and CEO of Benchmark Senior Living, it’s a mission that’s best achieved with widespread collaboration.
“I come to conferences like this to get ideas from others who are thinking about what we need to do to change and what we need to be prepared for,” Tom Grape said, adding “The baby boomers who are coming are not going to want seniors housing as it is today. They’re going to want it to be very different.”
Taking time out from a busy schedule of thought-provoking presentations and strategic sourcing, attendees also enjoyed a slew of networking excursions, culminating in a memorable evening at Castello di Amarosa. America’s only medieval Tuscan-inspired castle and winery provided a meaningful contrast alongside the flood of innovation and new partnerships to result from the three day affair. Attendees capitalized on uninterrupted face time with over 50 leading service providers and suppliers, learning as much as possible about the latest products, services and technologies that will ultimately shape the industry’s future.
To help facilitate the creative process, guests were treated to a keynote from Harley-Davidson’s former Director of Communications. Reflecting on the brand revitalization of America’s iconic motorcycle company, the engaging Ken Schmidt urged senior living leaders to do whatever they could to shake an undesirable stereotype. Despite how much the industry is changing, much of the public continue to perceive all senior housing facilities as “nursing homes.”
“You sure as hell don’t want people calling your business that. What are you gonna do to get them to say it and describe it differently? That’s your most valuable competitive weapon — your reputation.’’
Such frank expression of ideas is what makes Activated Insights CEO, Jacquelyn Kung, believes the industry needs more of.
“The topics here are normal but the way it’s said is different,” she said. “It’s usually the same old, same old. But here, people really come out of their shell and say what they really think.’’
A reason behind this openness can perhaps be attributed to what Napa Valley is best known for. A visit to the Artesa Winery helped everyone soak up the best the region has to offer.
“Everybody seems to have a very open sense of sharing and discussion,” Retreat Healthcare’s COO and Clinical Director, Lena Ernst said. “So you’re learning faster and there’s a cooperation within the industry that you don’t necessarily see at perhaps an academic conference.’’
Hopefully, with continued gatherings like this, the direction the industry needs to take in coming years will gain greater clarity and eventually, crystallize into decisive action. Or, as Revera’s SVP of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships, Trish Barbato, suggested, “Perhaps, the future lies not with knowing the answer… instead, the future of leadership is knowing what questions to ask.’’
Formulating those questions sooner, rather than later, Dan Hutson believes, is of critical importance.
“Don’t think in terms of the baby boomer is coming,” HumanGood’s Chief Strategy Officer cautioned. “The baby boomer is here.”
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