Q: What is HealthTAC and why is it valuable to attend?
A: HealthTAC is an invite-only senior living conference exclusively for developers and providers. It’s a relationship-focused conference in which rather than having an open trade floor, they bring in select consultants, vendors and manufacturers and setup one-on-one meetings over the course of 4-5 hours each day. Interspersed are keynote speakers, panel discussions and interactive activities.
Q: What were your top takeaways from this year’s conference?
A: Technology was constant theme throughout the conference. From Paperless medical records to instructional and informational videos on YouTube to facial recognition and smart units, senior living design and technology need to come together and act as an aid to assist residents and caretakers. One big buzzword was “data gathering” or collecting information to better serve residents, their families and staff. Healthcare spends about 3-5% of their budget on technology, yet senior living only spends about 1%, leaving a lot of untapped potential for this industry. One other takeaway is the adaptive reuse or conversion of non-traditional residential buildings to senior living. With land costs still on the rise and good sites becoming harder to find and develop, an existing property like an office or industrial building in a good location could provide as a use for senior living.
Q: What should designers be looking for moving forward in the senior living industry?
A: How to design towards the younger senior or Baby Boomers. You get the sense that the assisted living segment of the industry is starting to level out. Boomers, who are still 10-15 years away from that segment, are more used to having choices. They’re savvier in their buying power, want the ability to curate their own living space, and are more focused on health and wellness. Design plays a large role in how flexible their living space can be. We need to start focusing more on this demographic as the Boomers are the largest population of seniors and the wave will be coming soon.
Q: What are some challenges for today’s operators and how can design help mitigate those challenges?
A: One of the major challenge for operators is the recruitment and retention of staff including a severe lack of available workforce. Good design can create facilities that staff can be proud to work in and do a better job of caring for the residents. It’s educating young people coming out of college that it is an honorable career to take care of your elders. There are a lot of older people who have a lot of spirit, energy, and a loving lifestyle. Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma about working in a senior living facility and the industry as a whole needs to better promote itself to potential caretakers.
Q: Would you recommend attending HealthTAC to others and why?
A: Yes, I would. They do a nice job of mixing everyone up. With every meal, you are at a table with new and engaging people. The one-on-one meetings are valuable, and the keynote speaker was informative. The entire conference is well organized and I, for one, got a lot out of it. I built new relationships with key stakeholders and decision makers in just two and a half days. Executives also love it because it gives them the ability to meet with service providers who are focused on senior living, all together in a compact setting.