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Baby Boomers, Here We Come

December 1, 2006
by root
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Second of a four-part series on preparing for the boomer boom by Claudia Blumenstock
BY CLAUDIA BLUMENSTOCK Baby boomers, here we come
Enhancing your current community: How to keep up with your new customers While in a Brookstone store during a recent trip to Boston, I came upon an interesting line of products, items that I would term fun and functional. They included an oversize calculator and TV remote, handheld Sudoku and solitaire games with easy-to-use controls and large LCD screens, and a talking blood pressure monitor. The brilliant design and marketing team at Brookstone has created products that are great fun for the age-sensitive baby boomer while subtly providing assistive devices. What if healthcare facilities created unique settings, alluring to baby boomers, that packaged care and assistance in a way that supported the patient while minimizing the emphasis on illness? Crazy, maybe, but worth considering as you contemplate serving this next generation of elders.

Perhaps you are thinking, "When do I have time and why would I create an alluring environment? I run a healthcare facility, not a spa!" Realistically, much of your time is spent focused on the myriad of day-to-day problems that now include rightsizing. In fact, most states are focused on reconstructing the healthcare provision system to appropriately meet the needs of consumers. In New York State, the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century is undertaking a rational, independent review of healthcare capacity and resources. It was created to ensure that the regional and local supply of hospital and nursing home facilities was best configured to appropriately respond to community need for high-quality, affordable, and accessible care, with meaningful efficiencies in delivery and financing that promote infrastructure stability. The Commission will have made final recommendations on rightsizing New York State's hospitals and nursing homes by December 1, 2006. These recommendations include possible consolidation, closure, conversion, and restructuring of institutions, and reallocation of local and statewide resources. If approved by the governor and legislature, these recommendations become law. (For more information, visit the Commission's Web site at www.nyhealthcarecommission.org.)

Given these initiatives in New York and elsewhere around the country, many providers are worried. There is a realization that substantial change is evolving in the marketplace as the age wave is being realized, which is prompting conversation about the way in which care will be delivered. Providers are assessing what the future holds and where they are going to be in 5 to 15 years.

Some New York State providers are seizing the opportunity rather than viewing the change as problematic. Richard Herrick, president of the New York State Health Facilities Association (NYSHFA) calls it a "reshuffling of the deck." What happens if hospitals downsize and people need rehabilitation services? "This creates demand," says Herrick, "and a pushing and shoving occurs between expectations and the delivery of services." As an example, people need time to recuperate or rehabilitate from a hospital stay-as few as four days and as many as thirty. This short-term demand pushes the long-term care provider to change admission policies and decrease the response times to offer a bed. Admission committees and lengthy evaluation processes are disappearing, making way for the "push"-that is, the change necessary to accommodate the delivery of services to this new client.

With a concierge mentality, some providers are reaching out to their prospective customers by becoming part of the presurgical process for short-stay patients in hospitals. Tours of their facilities are provided before a planned surgical procedure so that there are fewer mysteries when the transfer to a short-stay environment occurs after surgery. Responsiveness to the needs of the customer includes offering Internet, television, and newspaper accoutrements; meal preferences; and facility tours.

Other companies directly influence the senior marketplace by offering new perspectives on the delivery of services geared toward baby boomers. Living Communities, LLC, a senior housing developer in Rochester, New York, sees great opportunity as the age wave swells. With more than 100 years of collective experience in the healthcare arena, its team includes doctors, nursing home administrators, independent living directors, developers, construction managers, marketing coordinators, and lawyers specializing in healthcare. The company's mission is to provide niche market products, geared toward baby boomers, that offer interesting and stimulating environments with supportive services. Many members of the team are boomers, offering unique perspectives about the products their peers seek. One of the organization's goals is to stimulate the creation of new healthcare environments by developing these niche products and encouraging vision in the healthcare marketplace as providers consider new ideas, approaches, and products for the next 5 to 15 years. With this in mind, Living Communities is developing Rivers Run, LLC, an active adult community that collaborates with the Rochester Institute of Technology to provide stimulating and thought-provoking academic, social, and cultural opportunities for its community members. (For more information, visit the Rivers Run Web site at www.riversrunliving.com.)

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