This article is sponsored by ERDMAN. In this Voices Interview, Senior Housing News sits down with Greg Markvluwer, VP, Real Estate Development, ERDMAN, to talk about the need for Quality Senior Living options and the compelling reasons adults (Adult children and their parents) should consider a Senior Living Community (SLC). He discusses some of the key challenges and opportunities facing senior living operators today, and he also explains what industry leaders can do to help collectively change the stigma around senior living as demand increases.
Senior Housing News: What career experiences do you most draw from in your role today?
Greg Markvluwer: I draw from both personal and professional experiences in senior living. Having had relatives in senior living communities, I’ve witnessed the decades of evolution. Today’s developers and operators offer environments that lean more towards hospitality and activity-based models, and seeing residents thrive in these communities is truly rewarding — I wish more could witness this transformation.
What was your initial experience of senior living communities?
My initial encounter with senior living was far from positive. My great-aunt had neither children nor abundant financial resources and was placed in an unsatisfactory facility when she was over 90. When we visited her shared room, it always felt like we were intruding on the space of a stranger, making visits awkward. The building had a distinct odor, and the primary activity seemed to be lining the residents in hallways, reminiscent of a parade. Their longing eyes always searching for a familiar face was heart-wrenching.
Witnessing such conditions, I erroneously believed that all senior living communities operated this way. This misconception persisted for years, as I had no other family in similar situations. This unfortunate initial impression, which others might share, likely contributes to the negative perception surrounding senior living, especially among older generations. This narrative desperately needs a shift.
How did you get involved in senior living development?
Approximately 15 years ago, I began my journey in senior living development when a senior living operator approached us, seeking capital to launch a new community. Their business plan and market study provided a clear picture of the vast demand for senior living nationwide and the vitality of the industry. I was drawn to the potential these top-tier operators brought, not just in terms of business viability but also for the enriching environments they created for residents.
At first, my interest was piqued by the sheer demand, but I soon became engrossed in understanding the business model and its financial appeal. Above all, I was moved by the positive impact these communities had on people’s lives. The dedication of that first operator, even to the extent of staying in the units to understand the environment and operations firsthand, epitomized a top-tier approach. Their commitment continues to this day, as they open more communities and shine a positive light on the industry.
If you could change one thing about the senior living industry, what would that be, and why?
The one thing I’d change is the stigma. I believe a significant number of individuals still harbor that outdated image from decades ago. If only they could step into a modern community and witness the positive atmosphere firsthand. Interestingly, a recent survey revealed that over 60% of participants expressed openness to the idea of moving into a senior living facility. Remarkably, 69% said they’d consider including such a community in their search. However, when push came to shove, merely 31% confirmed a direct preference toward residing in a senior housing establishment.
This discrepancy underscores the vital transformation needed in the industry’s public image. Too many still default to an unfavorable view of senior living, potentially based on outdated experiences from long ago. This lingering stereotype is precisely what we must overturn. Adjusting this perception is crucial to unlocking the full potential of the senior living sector.
How do we change that stigma about senior living?
We must showcase the communities and emphasize their potential positive effects on individuals and promote environments that are steeped in activity and hospitality. It’s essential to reframe senior living as akin to a perpetual vacation, which I always compare to a cruise. Cruises are popular because they offer an array of activities and unique experiences each week. Every day, there are sumptuous meals to savor, with the freedom to dine with different companions each time if one chooses.
Our narrative should pivot to highlight the vibrant social environment these communities provide. Further, it’s key to underscore the tangible benefits of such social interactions like improved quality of life, and often, a prolonged life span.
Roughly eighteen months ago, my son-in-law’s grandmother transitioned to a senior community with a fair amount of hesitation. Initially, she might have been among that 31% who were less enthusiastic. Yet, after living there for a while, she’s grown to cherish the experience.
She now regrets not making the move sooner. With many new friends and a host of engaging activities, she’s rediscovered the joys of socialization. For many, it’s reminiscent of their college days — days filled with lively social interactions and some of the most memorable moments of their lives. This is the narrative we must champion in order to show people how moving to a senior community is a delightful opportunity, not a reluctant obligation.
What do you believe is the biggest benefit of living in a senior living community?
Again, the greatest benefits are enhanced health, enriched life quality, and a sense of community. Many prospects have reservations about senior living communities due to preconceived notions. However, once they immerse themselves, their perspective often changes.
My daughter-in-law’s grandmother was also resistant to the idea — especially after the passing of her husband — and she was very apprehensive about the transition, but she later found a new lease on life in the community. Her family was initially concerned about how socially engaged she would be, yet she thrived, breaking free from her inhibitions, and witnessing notable health improvements.
Observing the profound, positive influence a community setting can have during one’s twilight years would undoubtedly convince more individuals to strive for that experience in their own family members’ lives.
In a couple of words, finish this sentence: “In 2023, the senior living industry has been defined by…”
Increased interest rates, a decline in new construction funding and new development starts. However, demand for senior housing continues to increase along with positive rent growth. I believe the market pendulum will turn in the next 12-18 months. Long-term, the industry will thrive as more people understand the positive impact communities can have on both the individual living in the community and their extended family.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity
ERDMAN is a national leader in Senior Living and Healthcare development, strategy, design, and construction. Within this highly competitive and rapidly growing market, thoughtful planning is essential. Today, it is more important than ever to establish a team that understands the multidimensional challenges facing the senior living industry. From real estate development to architecture, engineering and construction, efforts must consider the needs of future residents while weighing the challenges of increased labor and construction costs. To learn more about ERDMAN, visit Healthcare & Senior Living Architecture and Engineering Firm | ERDMAN.
The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format. For more information on Voices, please contact email@example.com.
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