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By Eduardo Cano ’20
The 2019 NIC Fall Conference: Investing in Senior Housing & Care Properties was recently held in Chicago, bringing together more than 3,300 attendees including relevant players of the senior living and care sector in the United States. As part of the scholars group invited by NIC, I had the opportunity to attend and represent Columbia Business School to network and learn about a growing and fascinating industry with great opportunities.
NIC brings together decision-makers from the senior living space and creates networking events and thought-provoking sessions where peers brainstorm and discuss the industry’s most relevant issues on financing, operations, and innovation. On the first day, some skilled nursing trends were discussed, as there has been a positive market trend with increasing occupancy levels and more providers owning their own managed care programs. Beth Mace, NIC Chief Economist, held a panel discussing a growing opportunity in the middle market where there are major challenges to be addressed, yet huge opportunities to explore. An interesting “hackathon” was held where groups were formed with professionals from different areas of the industry bringing together capital providers, operators, and service providers to brainstorm on the future of the industry and discuss solutions to current issues. We heard ideas regarding new financing models and rethought facilities and services. In the afternoon, innovation was the key topic, as industry operators discussed technological innovation that has successfully worked in their operations. There was a strong emphasis on how the industry is embracing technology to bridge the gap on certain issues.
The second day was equally exciting as it included more networking space and a general session held by former Chair of the Federal Reserve, Dr. Janet Yellen. This was a great opening for the afternoon luncheon on demographics, consumer behavior, and the longevity economy, discussed by Joseph Coughlin from MIT. The macro perspective touched on the global economy, low interest rate environment and the problem it causes for seniors and their retirement funds. The trade war and the yield curve were all part of the discussion around the expectations for the future. This talk centered on the issues of a growing and aging demographic as people begin to live past 100 and what this means for the economy, business, relationships, care, and unexplored opportunities for entrepreneurs. There are opportunities not only in operations of senior living or real estate financing, but also for service providers and tech development. Who will the players be catering to the senior segment and what products or services will they offer? Will the on-demand or platform economy take advantage of the demographics and target new services to facilitate the lives of seniors? These were all thought-provoking discussions for entrepreneurs. Joseph Coughlin also discussed how more family savings will be needed, the US larger divorce rate and how it relates to care, fewer children to take care of parents, and a more diverse and educated population. How do we rethink our lives and how people will people live after 90 and beyond?
On the third day, there was a talk on innovation and tele-health, showcasing how technology can help improve in-home care. These talks centered on the use of technology and its use to improve the life of seniors and change the way we live and age today. As a major theme through the conference was presented in a panel discussing the opportunity presented in the middle market and how to deliver a model to this “Forgotten Middle” that served their needs and is still economically attractive to investors.
The three-day conference was a great introduction to an industry with enormous opportunities not only for those interested in real estate financing or operations in senior living, but also for entrepreneurs who might create services or products for this growing population. There are many opportunities to build relationships with industry players and participate in conversations about the space, its challenges and future perspectives