What a Difference a Decade Makes
Senior housing and healthcare industry veteran Glenn Barclay talks about how expectations have changed, what his properties are bringing to Louisiana and why we’ve seen a surge in senior living options in the state in recent years.
Glenn Barclay is the co-founder of Blake Management Group, a privately held senior living operator formed in 2007 that currently manages 13 properties in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. BMG will open two more properties (expanding into Tennessee and Virginia) and start construction on four more all by the end of this year.
The company’s properties in Louisiana include The Blake at Lafayette, The Blake at the Grove (Baton Rouge) and The Blake at Bossier City, which just opened in July. Next fall, BMG will open its first property in the New Orleans area, The Blake at Colonial Club in Harahan, which will include 70 assisted living and 48 memory-care apartments.
A native of Shreveport with 20 years of experience in the healthcare and senior housing industries under his belt, Barclay spoke with Biz New Orleans recently about the trends he sees in his industry.
Biz: On BMG’s website you talk about how the needs of seniors today are evolving. Could you elaborate on the changes you’ve seen since entering the marketplace?
Glenn Barclay: Things are changing almost faster than we can keep up with. For example, when we launched our first development 10 years ago, something like internet speed was not something people asked about. We would have classes for our residents on things like how to set up a Facebook page, but now people are coming in wanting to know who our provider is and what our speed is.
This is a group now that doesn’t want to have to give anything up, including living space. For example, in 2008 we offered studio apartments and we didn’t even have two-bedrooms. Now the studios are all phased out and we have two bedrooms, plus balconies and porches.
Biz: Baby boomers seem to be looking not just for a place to live, but a lifestyle. What kinds of things are really in demand right now?
GB: Boomers are looking at places both for their parents and also for themselves, and the focus here is really on the experience. The residents aren’t our only clients, it’s the families too.
Our focus has been on providing more of a resort-level experience. We focus not on what they’re giving up, but what they’re getting, and that is a housekeeping- and maintenance-free environment, plus transportation services if they’d like, and an activity program that is full-time, seven days a week. Today’s seniors like to stay busy and active so we offer trips to the ballet, the symphony, restaurants, dancing, casinos. We still offer things like bingo and crafts, but that’s not the core anymore. Just like you’d expect at a high-end resort, we also offer amenities like an on-site theater, spa and salon. It’s all about lifestyle.
It’s great, actually, because we see residents really thriving in a more social, active environment — things like decreases in depression and memory care. The routine, the opportunities for therapy and the better nutrition, it all helps.
One of the biggest things we have seen, though, is the demand for quality culinary options. We offer multiple different kinds of dining options — from bars and lounges to restaurants with dedicated servers. People want choices and they want quality and creativity. I’m really proud of our culinary team. What we’re doing in this arena is really setting us apart.
Biz: What would you say is the biggest challenge facing your industry right now?
GB: It’s definitely finding and retaining good people. Unemployment is low right now plus we’re in the middle of a healthcare shortage. Of course, staffing has always been an issue in this industry. Fifteen years ago, I’d sit in on seminars at senior living conferences where they’d talk about the problem but there were never really any solutions that came up. I think now we’re at the point that we need to start thinking outside of our industry, more to hospitality and even companies, say, like Chick-fil-A. It sounds funny, but that’s a company that has been able to duplicate the same level of service regardless of the location.
As a company, we’re really focused on culture and recruitment. We’ve developed a mission plan that I think includes two very unique values: joy and fun. You don’t see that a lot in this industry. We measure our retention and turnover every month and we sit down frequently and talk about how we can do better. It’s a constant effort.
Biz: Louisiana has seen a bit of a boom in senior living options over the past few years, and of course BMG has been a part of that. You just opened one community this year and are opening another next year. What’s the sudden draw?
GB: Well I grew up in Louisiana and my family is still here, so I have a real love for this area, but I’ll also tell you that the regulations changing about three years ago made a real difference. Up until then, assisted living facilities were required to use a third-party provider to distribute medications. It was not an ideal situation for residents or their families because you couldn’t just receive a medication whenever you needed it. Since that regulation changed, we can now have nurses that are on-site all the time administer medications. There’s no waiting. This is how it already was in most other states. As a senior living provider, it meant that now we could go and provide the same level of care as we do in our other properties.
Biz: It sounds like BMG is on the higher end of senior living options. Are you focused on the high-end customer?
GB: Actually, our rates are as competitive as anyone else in our marketplaces, thanks to economies of scale. People are realizing this and there’s been a huge response. We have over 50 people on our waiting list in Lafayette — we had 30 to 40 when we opened. I can tell you that is not the industry standard. I think the Gulf Coast is a niche for us. We live here, and we know the people and the culture. Our model fits here.
DID YOU KNOW?
Approximately 47 million seniors live in the United States.
A 2014 census estimates that about 14.5 percent of Americans are age 65 or older.
By 2060, the senior population is expected to double, reaching nearly 100 million Americans.
People who reach the age of 80 live an average of another 8 to 10 years according to the CDC.
The leading cause of senior death is injuries and falling down.
North Dakota has the highest number percentage of residents over the age of 100.
According to the AARP, the average baby boomer takes 4 or 5 trips a year.
About 12 percent of seniors use dating apps or dating websites.