STEVE KRAMER: Everyone knows that people over 65 in the next 5, 10 years is going to explode. And, unfortunately for our industry, it's not only our clientele that are aging, but it's also our leadership. Our management and our staff are also reaching that retirement age. And it's going to form a very large vacuum in the industry. So as the needs for the industry are growing, the people to be part of providing services and helping to provide the care and the housing that is needed are also not going to be there. So that's, I believe, one of the biggest challenges.
The evolution of health care in our country is also something that it's hard to plan for. Because no one knows next year what it's going to be. And what was appropriate even three years ago is no longer appropriate today. And what's appropriate today isn't going to be what we have three years from now. So staying in front of that and being thoughtful of how you put programs and things in place, you really have to be forward-thinking, and be able to break out of what you know, and take a risk at what you think might happen.
I also think that the economic challenges for the coming group of seniors right now, the seniors that are in senior living facilities and in senior care, are really that greatest generation. And they saved, they planned, they were ready for what was going to come their way, at least the majority of them.
The up-and-coming seniors haven't done that. Whether they had the means to or not, they still are looking at I'm not going to need that, I'm not going to get old, I'm not going to get sick. So when it happens, they're just not prepared. And how we are going to bring them into the senior living and senior care industry with the limited economic abilities and the changes in our payment systems of Medicare and third party insurers is going to be challenging for us to figure out how to make it work.
I don't believe it's the government's responsibility to have to foot the bill for those things. There are programs in place that are very helpful for people who need that. I think that we need to be educating people who are approaching that age. People even that are middle-aged, like myself, need to be thinking about what they're going to do in 20 years and need to be planning for that.
And there's not a there's not a big push out there. I think people try. But it's not something people want to think about.
And when you talk about in our country-- we have a real problem talking about aging, and dying, and needs of health care and long-term care. So to talk about planning for that and putting money aside for that is not something that I'm-- even myself, I don't really think about it either. So we need to educate people more.
I think as providers we need to find ways of providing those services more effectively and more efficiently so that the costs aren't as astronomical for people as they're turning into needing those services. And we need to be more creative and innovative in what we do.
I run a senior living community that is bound by our walls. So we are self-contained, and that's the service we provide. Facilities like myself need to be looking at how do we take our services and providing the people in the community who are staying in their homes who either don't have the means to move out of their homes into a community or really just don't want to but need those additional services. So the more we can break out of our modus operandi and do things differently and provide services differently, then I think we can mitigate that financial issue. But people really do need to be thinking about it and planning for it.
What I see in the future is that the old perception of senior care and senior living is the retirement home and it's the long-term care and skilled nursing. And actually today that's not what it is, but that's what people believe.
But we're going to see a shift more to active lifestyles, active living, a broader sense of community. And health care will be a component of that. But it's not going to be the driving force of that. It's going to be more about I'm moving out of my home so that I can have more freedom, so that I can have the time and ability to do what I want when I want and not worry about all the trappings of having a house and having to maintain it. And by the way, if something happens to me and I need health care, I've got it right here.
But we as providers need to put programs into place so that people can have that active lifestyle in a community such as the one I operate. And there is this fear of being around old people. And if we can get past that perception and past that barrier, I think people will find that the lifestyle, many of those things are already in place and communities around the country. But that perception is still there. And it's harder to get them past it.
But if we can be more inventive with how we bring people into communities, how we involve them in the programming and the gardening-- and I think you're going to see a shift to more holistic, and environmentally friendly, and those type of things that people are going to want, and out of the old long hallway apartment building, and into small little homes for skilled nursing, getting away from that sterile, institutional feel, and more towards the neighborhood concept, and having it be as much like being at home as possible with the small clusters.
Obviously, there's many operations out there that still have two beds in a room and all these kinds of things. We have to get away from that and make it more like a little efficiency apartment for them.
The whole industry is changing and skilled nursing really is going to, I believe, be whittled away. You're going to see more in-home care. You're going to see more of the skilled nursing being more like assisted living and memory care and a lot more happen in the independent living areas with people being able to get the services they need at home. And you're going to see the services needed be dwindled because people are going to be healthier.
And you can already see that happening. People are more active into their seniors. And I think a community like mine keeps people healthier. People live longer and more active lives because they have that ability to do so. And we provide that to them. And that's what I think you'll see more into the future.
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Steve Kramer, President and CEO, Mayflower Retirement Community, looks ahead to the challenges of an exploding elderly population over the next 5-10 years. He also discusses the evolution of health care and the societal views of aging and senior living.