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Why We Need More Nonprofit Senior Housing

A plea to investors for more affordable housing with quality care


Part of the Transforming Life as We Age Special Report

On the surface, the United States appears to be one of the best places to grow older. After all, we have some of the best hospital facilities, a high standard of living and tons of investors ready to help build a new wave of senior housing to keep our growing aging population safe. So why does America continue to rank behind other developing countries when it comes to the overall well-being of its elderly?

It turns out quality senior housing itself is not enough to solve the problems facing today’s aging — problems including poverty and isolation, which lead to increased risk of death. Providing affordable, quality senior housing is key and it’s this kind of housing that is, sadly, in short supply.

Time to Invest Better in Senior Housing

We need to invest better in senior housing.

When it comes to helping our aging, investors have a responsibility to look beyond just making money with their senior housing investments. They need to research how the community plans to help make residents’ lives better, more meaningful, and affordable. After all, this is an opportunity for a cultural shift in America — one where we look at our aging as people to honor, rather than a challenge to manage or an opportunity to capitalize on.

The following are a few things for investors to keep in mind as they consider an investment in the senior housing space:

Consider a New Model

Is it time to consider a nonprofit senior housing community? Possibly.

Though the number of private-pay, upscale senior housing developments is growing — and many may offer a higher potential return — it’s important to remember many older people can’t afford those communities. So, rather than investing in “a place for Dad,” consider investing in communities that make senior housing more affordable — and less stressful — for impacted families, while still providing high-quality care and services that keep residents healthy and well.

Set a New Standard

We have an opportunity to be a model for other nations facing similar crises in housing for their aging family members. We need to embrace it.

It’s an opportunity not just to build nice communities for our aging, but to be a model for the rest of the world for honoring those who came before us.

Understand the Financial Risk

Just like the real estate bust in 2008, we’re at risk for another bust in the number of aging who can actually afford today’s upscale communities. There may literally come a time when there are too many upscale facilities and not enough older Americans to afford them.

In fact, many are starting to consider aging in places like the Philippines or Thailand, where facilities are not just comparable — they cost less than 25 percent of the price of those in the U.S. ($1,500 per month versus up to $8,000). Investing in more affordable locations here will allow our aging population to stay closer to home.

Learn From Other Cultures

Countries like Sweden and Switzerland have consistently ranked ahead of the United States when it comes to senior health and well-being. Consider researching investment models in other countries to find projects that mirror the same quality of care.

Remember: We’re All ‘The Aging Population’

All of us will get to the point where we need a safe and joyful place to live when we are too old to care for ourselves. Do we want that place to be one that adds great financial stress to our family members or one that provides peace of mind to our children and ourselves?

The choice seems obvious. If we really want to help our aging, we must be willing to do more.

By Jess Stonefield
Jess Stonefield is a contributing writer on aging, technology, senior care, housing and the greater longevity economy for publications such as Forbes.com, Entrepreneur and CNN Money. She is passionate about impact investing and the greater concept of "equitable equity" — spreading wealth to all levels of our society. She is a communications expert for Senior Living Fund.

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