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'Silver Tsunami' Of Aging Seniors To Change Approach To Healthcare, Housing

Healthcare professionals and commercial real estate executives are bracing for the impact baby boomers will have on the future of U.S. healthcare and the housing industry.

Healthcare and commercial real estate officials are preparing for a 'silver tsunami' of aging seniors, a group that is expected to outnumber young people by 2035

A “silver tsunami” is coming and now is the time to prepare, Cuningham Group principal Lee Brennan said.

By 2035, the U.S. Census Bureau projects senior citizens will outnumber youth for the first time in U.S. history. People age 65 and over are expected to reach 78 million, while youth under the age of 18 will number 76.4 million.

“My generation, the baby boomers, are coming at you in a big wave and I guarantee you that they don’t want to live on a golf course looking at older people playing cards or bridge,” Brennan said. “They want to live in the same community that they have always lived in. I think the market is going to expect that."

Creating multigenerational developments, more senior housing in cities and placing ambulatory care services in retail strips are among the ways executives said they are preparing for the crush of seniors expected to hit the market in the coming years. Real estate and healthcare leaders covered these topics at Bisnow's National Healthcare West: The Innovation, Expansion & Impact of Healthcare at the JW Marriott LA Live in downtown Los Angeles.

More than 360 people attended the annual conference, where panelists discussed the impact of innovation in hospitals, healthcare and senior living trends and the future of healthcare facilities.

Allen Matkins' Fernando Villa, Pacific Medical Buildings' Jake Rohe, Trammell Crow's Nancy Moses, Meridian's Mike Conn, Belmont Senior Living's Patricia Will and Cuningham Group's Lee Brennan

The future medical demands of an aging population and the need for more senior or assisted-living facilities and ambulatory services — or care outside of a hospital setting — is going to be great in the coming years

In an effort to meet the demand, healthcare companies have started partnering with firms in other sectors, such as companies that focus on retail or ride-sharing, Dignity Health Senior Vice President Jeff Land said.

“It’s this idea that ‘we are better together,’” Land said. “We don’t believe that we are absolutely best in everything but we think we’re best in a piece of it and bringing it together makes a lot of sense.”

Land said Dignity Health has been successful at creating these partnerships in the past 20 years. He said his company has entered in multiple joint ventures with Lyft, Airstrip, IBM Watson and others. 

“We’re not only focused on patient care and the patient experience but also leveraging and lowering the overall cost of delivering care,” Land said.

Another trend happening in healthcare is the rise in the number of outpatient or ambulatory care developments in retail strips or other areas of the community. 

“What these developments are trying to do is bring commercial — mixed-use retail, senior communities, services, movie theaters — along with your providers that are providing wellness and prevention services as part of this community,” HKS principal, Pacific Region Health Director Joey Kragelund said.

“It’s trying to improve that access,” Kragelund said. “It’s not about going to the hospital anymore. It’s about going to a campus or community and being engaged.”

Attendees at Bisnow’s National Healthcare West at the JW Marriott in downtown Los Angeles

The demand for senior living, assisted living or retirement communities is also expected to rise.

The days of finding land and building out a large retirement community in the suburbs have passed. 

Brennan said seniors want to be part of the community and be close to their children or grandchildren. 

He said one thing missing in the market is multigenerational housing.

Just last year, California relaxed local restrictions on accessory dwelling units, better known as granny or mother-in-law units.

There are some in the market but not a lot. FivePoint Communities has placed an emphasis on creating multigenerational housing with some of its Irvine developments. These homes have a separate or closed-off room inside the house that feature a separate entrance, small kitchen and master bath.

But more is going to be needed when the silver tsunami comes, Brennan said.

"The seniors, the baby boomers, are going to change the landscape," Brennan said. "So people need to get ahead of the curve.”

Check out a slideshow of the event here:

Bisnow National Healthcare West 2018