NIC Notes

Insights in Seniors Housing & Care

By: NIC  |  July 08, 2021

Experienced Operator Kai Hsiao: “Senior Housing Tourists Are Just Visiting”

Ideas and Discussion  |  NIC Fall Conference  |  Seniors Housing  |  Skilled Nursing

KaiHsao-HeadshotEver heard of senior housing tourists?

No, they’re not busloads of elderly travelers crisscrossing the country to visit assisted living communities. They’re not mature sightseers either, snapping photos of the latest amenity spaces.

Instead, senior housing tourists are how Kai Hsiao describes newbie investors, developers, and operators in the senior housing industry, many of whom have failed to appreciate the healthcare aspects of the business. “If there was ever a debate about whether we are hospitality or healthcare, COVID has made people realize we are part of the healthcare continuum,” said Hsiao. He explains that some pop-up developers and operators are discovering that the business is no vacation. “Senior housing tourists are just visiting,” he said.

“If there was ever a debate about whether we are hospitality or healthcare, COVID has made people realize we are part of the healthcare continuum.”

As CEO of Eclipse Senior Living, Hsiao has a lot of insights into the future of operations. Portland, Oregon-based Eclipse is a third-party manager with 106 communities in 27 states, offering independent and assisted living, and memory care. The company has three brands that cover the continuum of care at various price ranges: Elmcroft, Embark and Evoke.

Hsiao is among the thought leaders looking forward to attending the 2021 NIC Fall Conference in Houston. The Conference is NIC’s first in-person convening of leaders in seniors housing and care since the pandemic began. Many industry leaders will seize the chance to share ideas with others weathering the same challenges, while simultaneously building the relationships that will help them succeed in the future.

Financial Focus

While 2020 was a year when operators struggled to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, Hsiao thinks 2021 is the year when operators will struggle to combat the financial impacts of the outbreak. Lower occupancies and higher expenses incurred in 2020 are having a big impact today. Also, many of the financial programs set up to help operators during the pandemic like rent and debt deferrals are ending. Finally, another round of government aid hasn’t been allocated yet. Lacking experience, and strong, well-established relationships in the industry, senior housing tourists could have the roughest road ahead.

Workforce pressures are adding to industry woes. The labor pool is thin. Wages are rising. But Hsiao doesn’t believe higher wages alone are the answer. “Think like a staffing agency,” he advised. “If we can’t staff, we can’t provide services.” The idea at Eclipse is to treat the hiring pipeline like a sales pipeline. The company hired more recruiters which means more applications, more interviews and more hires. Some administrative work is centralized. If a property can’t conduct an interview within 48 hours, the central office conducts the interview. “It speeds the flow of the process,” said Hsiao.

Reflecting on the past year, Hsiao thinks the industry will definitely survive the COVID catastrophe. Occupancies are rising. The aging population that will need housing and care is growing

In the near term, Hsiao expects more industry consolidation. “COVID has proven that scale matters. The bigger a company is, the easier it is to procure goods and services, and have the resources necessary to handle challenges like a pandemic” he said. “It will be an interesting year.”

About NIC

The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to support access and choice for America’s seniors by providing data, analytics, and connections that bring together investors and providers.

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