Aging in the Crescent City
Globally, the home health care sector is expected to see revenues grow from $180 billion in 2014 to $300 billion in 2020. Local industry executives explain the changes they’re seeing in this booming business.
hey proudly wore their Mickey Mouse ears, loudly screeched at the Beatles, fought in and against the Vietnam War, indulged in “free love” and frolicked in the mud at Woodstock, and now, the baby-boom generation is aging.
“Boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day,” said Jeré Hales, chief operating officer of Lambeth House, a continuing care retirement community overlooking the Mississippi River. “Most of the current trends in the industry are related to preparing to address the wants and needs of this huge segment of the aging population.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging (AoA), the older population — persons 65 years or older — numbered 46.2 million in 2014 (the latest year for which data is available), or about one in every seven Americans. By 2060, this segment of the population is expected to reach 98 million.
The AoA estimates that the global home health care sector, just one part of the overall industry, should see revenues grow from $180 billion in 2014 to $300 billion in 2020.
With government support such as Medicare and the advent of the National Institute on Aging, senior care as an industry began to grow in the 1960s. In 1965, Medicare provided the elderly with federal money for home care, and it has been far and away the largest single source of revenue in home health care services. The rest of the industry’s revenue comes from private insurance, out-of-pocket costs and Medicaid.
Because Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance set prices in the industry, competition between providers is not based on price but on quality of care, name recognition, reputation and referrals from medical professionals.
According to Daniel J. Ritter, executive director of Inspired Living at Kenner, which will have its grand opening later this month, there has been a recent boom in the number of senior communities being built in the New Orleans area over the last two years to keep up with the growing demand.
“At least five communities have been built or are in the process of being built in the greater metro area,” he said. “There are probably another 10 to 12 under construction in the immediate 150-mile radius from New Orleans. These numbers will continue to grow as the baby boomer population ages. And, of course, with these newer communities being built, some of the older communities will have to spend some money to add amenities, and services, or will need to renovate their current communities if they plan on competing.”
What is Independent Living?
An independent living community provides services that are included in their monthly rent such as utilities or even housekeeping, linen service and transportation. A meal plan may allow residents to select the number of meals they want or allow them the flexibility of cooking for themselves.
A one-time community fee is standard, and there may be a one-time pet fee. When couples join a community, they may also have to pay a second-person fee.
According to a 2015 survey done by SeniorHomes.com, the state with the most expensive median monthly independent living costs is Massachusetts at $4,002; Louisiana costs were considerably lower at $1,804.
Independent living means that residents do not require assistance with life’s daily activities like dressing, walking or medication management. Independent living communities may offer only the typical independent living services, or they may be part of a larger campus, such as in the case of continuing care communities, which also offer assisted living, skilled nursing services and even hospice.
“We hope that when our residents move here, it will be their last move,” said Shawn Montgomery, community development director of the Landing at Behrman Place, an active retirement community. “We’ve had residents receive hospice here because this is their home.”
Life Plan Communities
Jeré Hales, chief operating officer of Lambeth House, believes among the most noteworthy expansions in senior service industry is the birth of continuing care communities or life plan communities. Lambeth House is a life plan community, which means residents are provided with on-site assisted living and nursing care as their needs change from independent living to a greater care situation.
“For couples, who typically don’t age at the same rate, a life plan community is the perfect plan since it encourages aging in place for as long as each spouse is able, but also provides care options if needed. If and when one spouse needs more care, it is conveniently available in a community that is already familiar to them.”
Ritter says that there’s also been a perception change within the industry.
“We call our prospects ‘residents’ instead of ‘patients,’” he said. “We refer to our building as ‘communities’ instead of ‘facilities.’ We refer to their home as their ‘apartment’ instead of their unit. We simply offer a homelike environment for those residents who want that option of avoiding the institutionalized feeling of a hospital or nursing home.”
Who Lives There?
Not your great grandmother’s nursing home, today’s independent living communities are diverse, and their residents are still vibrant and full of life. In 2005, Merrill Lynch released a landmark retirement survey that forever changed the perception of how future retirees would spend their retirement. The survey discovered that the baby-boom generation upon retirement is not yet ready for the rocking chair; in fact, 76 percent of the boomers planned to keep working and earning an income during retirement.
“Our residents are, in a word, ‘amazing,’” said Hales. “We have some that are in semi-retirement and some who continue to work full time. Many have incredible backgrounds spanning from judges to artists.”
Did You Know?
The Little Extras
Because boomers are still so active, these communities offer many modern amenities and worldly experiences.
“We offer trips to museums and we are planning cruises,” said Shawn Montgomery, with the Landing at Behrman Place. “Our residents are still trendsetters. They are tech-savvy and health-conscious. They want couscous, hummus and kale.”
Inspired Living at Kenner offers a wide range of amenities and technology. “We have GPS-tracked wristbands, keyless entry to your apartment, anytime dining, and truly purpose-built amenities such as a heated swimming pool, a tiki bar, a fenced-in dog park, putting greens, walking trails and even a stocked fishing pond with pier for the true outdoorsy type,” said Executive Director, Daniel J. Ritter.
Upon entering Lambeth House, residents will find a formal dining room, a cozy library, a card room, an office and a parlor for entertaining. And their latest expansion reflects their progressive approach to healthy living.
“Our Wellness Center has over 21,000 square feet of space dedicated to areas that promote wellness of the mind, body and spirit,” said COO Jere Hales. “It includes a fitness center, art studio, interfaith chapel, meditation room, casual dining café and a saltwater pool natatorium.”
Poydras Home, a continuing care retirement community, offers a unique program called “Soul Strings For Seniors: Musical Memories.” It’s an expansion of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra’s successful “Soul Strings” music therapy-informed program, which serves students and adults with developmental disabilities.
“This program is designed to engage residents who have an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis,” said Erin Kolb, Poydras Home’s vice president of resident affairs. “The LPO musicians are working with a licensed music therapist in sessions that complement and reinforce therapy goals such as improving communication, memory and attention skills. The intimate setting with small groups of our residents allows the LPO musicians to extend their talents into a new direction impacting wellness as they reach members of our resident population who can find traditional modes of communication to be difficult.”
Program participants from Poydras Home are also invited to attend a number of open rehearsals of the full Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Poydras Home has also partnered with the New Orleans Museum of Art in the pilot program, “Artful Minds.” It offers guided museum tours for individuals with dementia.
Tours and Transitions
Clients should tour a variety of communities before making a decision.
“It allows us to get to know our potential client in person, and better yet, it allows the prospect to see, feel, and touch what we are offering,” said Daniel J. Ritter, executive director of Inspired Living at Kenner. “Be sure to ask about hidden fees. I personally always recommend and encourage our potential residents to tour the competition, and show up unannounced if they can. This can give the prospect a real-time snapshot of how the community is probably run.”
It’s also important to plan the transition into the community of one’s choice.
“We work with financial planners, families and contractors to ensure the move is seamless,” said Lambeth House COO, Jere Hales. “With any big move, there is, of course, anxiety. We partner with our prospective resident to alleviate and reduce any stressors that might cause uneasy feelings.”