Industry professionals gathered virtually to engage in the ICAA’s 2021 Forum focused on Wellness attracting the Middle Market. While building upon concepts that emerged from the 2020 Forum, attendees were charged to identify consumer persona attributes, discuss the benefits of leveraging the various dimensions of wellness and to strategize on opportunities for meeting the needs and aspirations of prospective residents, family, and staff. During the Plenary session, we were honored to share details surrounding our Wellpoint Community project alongside co-panelists Michael Tompkins of Hutchinson Consulting and Chip Conley of Modern Elder Academy (“MEA”).
Historically, the senior living sector has been slow to adopt new ideas or enabling technology. The wheels of change started to turn more quickly over the past decade due to increased focus on entitlement insolvency, awareness of Age Wave demographics and the regulatory paradigm shift toward value-based care where providers recognized a passive mandate to either Lead or Exit. While there are always outliers returning from the wilderness with bold ideas, meaningful collective progress in the Senior Living Industry has largely been moving at a snail’s pace.
Over the course of two days, it quickly became evident that there is a common journey underway where we all (professionals and consumers alike) are seeking greater meaning and choice from the communities that we design and/or choose to call home. While there is no question that the current emphasis on Wellness Real Estate favors a more affluent market, it seems evident that the systems approach that a true wellness offering demands will naturally preserve and/or reveal opportunities for all age cohorts and income classifications to come together and care for the larger self.
Insights from the Panel
Joseph McCarron – CEO of Wellpoint Community – described the kit-of-parts representing our prototype and business plan. A cornerstone of this strategy is to deliver an expansive menu of personalized program options. The confluence of senior living, integrative medicine, boutique hospitality and residential living on a single site promotes the convenience of access, choice and affordability. These attributes garner intergenerational appeal and create opportunity for the emergence of a genuine community.
Michael Tompkins’ career history and experience qualifications ideally exemplify the exhibiting convergence of healthcare and hospitality – two umbrella keywords that largely treetop the diversity of sectors representing the Global Wellness Economy. Having seeded his career in nursing care, his direct caregiving foundation and executive achievements position him to have a leading influence in combining and aligning these sectors while honoring the valued perspective of guests and staff alike.
Chip Conley has been playing a leadership role on the world stage for decades and the Senior Living Industry is fortunate to have gained his captive interest and ambition. As a repeat industry disrupter, he laid the groundwork for his current focus with the lessons he shared in “Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder.” While ageism in the modern workplace can largely be addressed by honoring the experiential knowledge (wisdom) of elders, the broader detriments of modern culture do not appear to have any modern antidote. As he transitions toward helping to redefine retirement, his emphasis on championing “regeneration” with a biodynamic approach to “Regenerative Community” holds another possible lesson that we wish to amplify after offering some context.
What is Regenerative Agriculture?
Any phrase that is prefixed with “regenerative” can be contextualized by understanding the history of the regenerative agriculture movement. Charles Massey’s 2018 TEDxCanberra Talk provides a token example of the growing sentiment that reconnecting to nature and its wisdom is a prerequisite to healing ourselves. Simply stated, Modern Agriculture and Modern Medicine (Sick Care) are the culprits behind our dis-ease states. Are we sick largely because of the way we eat and the way we farm? What if reclaiming our knowledge and wisdom about nature could also help to reconnect us with our own health and well-being? While we have not yet had the opportunity to confirm the sentiment, it seems clear that Chip and other pioneering minds understand this to be true.
Everything in its Time
When the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) released their “Build Well to Live Well” report in January 2018, they helped to fortify an idea that had been germinating for decades without requisite support or nourishment outside of senior living. Creation and evidence-based promotion of the “Wellness Real Estate” and “Wellness Community” banners empowered them to leap frog competing green building interests and galvanize professional and public support towards recognition that our built-environment is likely the greatest determinant of our health and well-being. More specifically, GWI asserted that up to 80-90% of health outcomes depend upon the external and environmental factors in our “wellness ecosystem.” If you layer on to this groundswell of commercial real estate interest in wellness that “nursing homes” emerged as a crisis center during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no wonder that so many Industry Stakeholders are finally focused on creating healthier spaces and places.
In a time where “wellness washing” is running rampant, we are all being called to under-stand and share the “what” and “why” of our approach so that others can feel the pull and participate in both the programs and their overarching purpose – to pursue higher levels of meaning, engagement, support, and activity together.
Everything in its Place
In their 2012 research article “Designing from Place: A regenerative framework and methodology,” Pamela Mange and Bill Reed offer that “Transitions to new worldviews ‘take hold’ as the new paradigms they give rise to become embedded across disciplines and fields of endeavor, increasingly being manifested as accepted standards, protocols and processes.” In this paper they are referring specifically to the paradigm of regenerative thinking and outline four criteria or gateways through which we must pass in order to complete this shift of thinking and being.
People must take their place again in nature and focus creative and economic activities toward the development of human potential.
A mental shift is required where we bring a “new mind” to the generative thinking that has shaped our buildings historically. In keeping with the natural order of the web-of-life memetic, we should conceive of our site, infrastructure, and inhabitants as dynamic and interconnected flows of energy.
We must cultivate enough eco-literacy to support such attempts at biomimicry.
Work developmentally toward constantly seeking the next level or relative hierarchy.
In a final nod of tribute to the relevancy of this important article, Charles Krone’s Levels of Work Framework is shared to graphically reinforce the sentiment that evolutionary processes (potential) will never be engaged if you are only operating within the explicate order of maintenance and operations.
Whether we are referring to our culture, our industries, our business or even our own cellular structure, we are reminded of the requisite balance between chaos and order that defines all complex adaptive systems (nature). If we want to attract any market to our “Wellness” offerings we should first focus on an organic approach where we lead with authenticity and diversity of choice/offerings.
The Forum proved an engaging event that bred genuine enthusiasm and creative thinking surrounding the change scape represented by the Senior Living Industry.
- Lifestyle offerings that promote enriching lives and active engagement will augment if not supplant the traditional provider focus on ageism and supportive care alone.
- New business models responsive to consumer choice will continue to prove threatening to the traditional senior living communities.
- Flexibility and choice of offerings will foster growing collaboration and convergence of all stakeholders in aging services.
- Emerging from the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 circumstances is a heightened awareness and demand for “living well” at home with catered service offerings. At the same time, opportunities for meaningful social connection (digital and In-Real-Life) are critically important. The Senior Living Industry is ripe for leading a strategic societal redirection given these exhibiting trends and the profoundly changing consumer profile.
- A consumer centric strategy will require more education, integrative thinking, and execution that pioneers a balance between self-care, social wellness and eco-literacy.
- Consumer needs, preferences and expectations mandate a dramatic new approach to real estate development and operational programming that is highly personal, modular, adaptive and cued by progress toward the new “future of medicine.”
We advocate “Redirecting” and “Cultivating Convergence” for the future of aging services – “Where It All Comes Together”. Undoubtedly, dramatic change abounds. If adversity truly breeds opportunity, change agents alert to new directions stemming from “systemic” and “holistic” strategies more aligned with the “natural order of things” are poised for great success.