That old stereotype of Grandma spending her later days watching CNN in her daughter’s back room may well be heading into retirement. Baby Boomers are entering their last decades in droves; according to statistics provided by the Pew Research Group, roughly 10,000 Boomers will turn 65 every day until 2030. The Census Bureau further estimates that the U.S. will have more 65-and-over residents than children in just over a decade. However, many of these newly-minted retirees aren’t willing to settle for whiling the days alone at home, watching TV and waiting for the grandchildren to visit — instead, they want to pursue their post-career passions and embrace a more active lifestyle.
This influx of retirees has created a new and pressing demand for residential solutions that can comprehensively meet an active seniors’ complex social, residential, and healthcare needs. Today, Active Living Communities (ALCs) offer residential options that empower seniors to spend their sunset years within a supportive social campus. These age-restricted communities are designed to suit independent seniors who want to engage with a socially-driven and active environment; once a senior buys a home within an ALC, they typically enjoy access to a host of activity programs, social events, and opportunities to connect with their peers. The rise of aggregated senior living also opens the way to innovate our approach to senior-centered healthcare and invest further in near- or on-site care options.
On-site clinics have already made a splash in Silicon Valley, where companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google have offered their associates access to convenient, on-campus primary care clinics. Near-site clinics, which are typically shared between several geographically clustered employers rather than hosted by one, offer similarly convenient care. Both options allow larger employers to distinguish themselves from competitors while delivering high quality, accessible and more affordable healthcare.
There’s an interesting potential parallel here. Although retirees aren’t spending their time on a shared corporate campus, they are migrating to active living communities. These tend to be geographically clustered and could clearly benefit from the convenience of on- or near-campus healthcare opportunities. These clinics could also put themselves above outside care facilities by providing care that recognizes the needs of a senior demographic. These seniors tend to need specialized care for age-related health concerns; if ALCs establish or obtain access to care facilities and providers that specialize in treating seniors, the vast majority of their residents will gravitate towards those sites rather than going elsewhere.
Villages Health (www.thevillageshealth.com), a senior-centered health network in Central Florida, stands as a case study for how effective and attractive onsite care can be. The health network is hosted by The Villages, a massively successful ALC that encompasses a full 32 square miles and is home to a whopping 74,618 seniors, all of whom have a unique set of healthcare needs. Villages Health understands the needs of its patient base and is specifically designed to support seniors’ age-related medical concerns. As their website describes, every clinic within the network is “specifically designed to help residents enjoy the active, vibrant lifestyle available in the Villages” and “keep seniors young, active and healthy.” For The Villages, providing on-site healthcare through Villages Health isn’t only about meeting a need — it’s a crucial aspect of their ability to deliver the active lifestyle it promises to residents.
Villages Health offers a plethora of services that span the gamut from primary treatment to specialty and hospital follow-up care. All Villages Health clinics are equipped to provide primary care services such as wellness visits, health consultations, vaccinations, and care for minor injuries. Each Villages resident has access to a personalized team of physicians who know how to address a senior’s age-related health concerns. A dedicated primary care physician coordinates this team, referring senior patients as needed to on-site specialists and nearby hospital providers. Just a few of the network’s specialty capabilities include cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, neurology, general surgery, orthopedics, and rheumatology. The sheer concentration of on-site specialists and general care providers empowers residents at The Villages to find care for almost every health condition — allowing them to better maintain their health and live active lives in retirement.
The most innovative feature of Villages Health’s network, however, is how it has integrated Medicare Advantage plans into its service offerings. The Villages has eight on-site Medicare Resource Centers, all of which are fully equipped to talk seniors through their insurance options and help them decide whether enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan is the right choice for them. The ALC offers a number of free courses on the subject, including “Medicare Simplified: How to Choose Worry-Free Health Care,” and “How to Get the Most Out of Your Medicare Advantage Plan.” All advisors are well-apprised of the Villages Health systems capabilities and can offer insights on how well certain Medicare Advantage plans will support their health needs given the community’s on-site care options.
The Villages is currently the only ALC of its size and capability, so it is currently the only major example of how beneficial on-site or near-site care could be to larger ALCs. However, the need for on-site care networks like Villages Health will surely grow as Baby Boomers continue to retire and opt for communities that can facilitate their active lifestyles. Investors are already eyeing potential opportunities to buy into the market; according to CBRE’s Winter 2018 U.S. Seniors Housing & Care Investor Survey Update, the active adult and independent living sectors are currently “holding the most allure for senior housing investors amid robust interest in the industry as a whole.” Given this, it seems fair to say that the number of lifestyle-driven ALCs will trend upwards in coming years — and when they do, I believe that there will be more opportunities to integrate ALC near-site care offerings with tailored Medicare Advantage plans.
To some extent, UnitedHealthcare is already working to bring care closer to home — though their offerings are more centered on those who want to age at home rather than in ALCs. The insurer’s Independence at Home program allows an enrollee to receive care at their home instead of traveling out of their way for a doctor’s visit or routine treatment. United wants to meet the senior where they are — and in doing so, they both make care more convenient for patients and limit the costs of acute care. It’s a philosophy that melds seamlessly with the capabilities of on-site ALC care.
Picture a senior living community that views on-site healthcare as a critical part of providing comprehensive support for the active lifestyle they tout. The ALC establishes a clinic that specializes in treating age-related conditions and partners with an insurer like UnitedHealthcare to ensure that their residents can receive top-notch care at an affordable price. With this framework in place, retirees can be as active, curious, and engaged as they want — knowing that supportive health services are only a short walk or golf cart drive away.