Three Days of Networking, Educational Opportunities & Thought-Provoking Conversations
With a record number of 3,000 attendees, the 2017 NIC Fall Conference kicked off in Chicago with a pre-event boot camp for about 100 industry newcomers. The popular session, returning to the conference for the third year, walked participants through a case study of whether or not to invest in, or develop a particular property.
Two educational sessions were held in the afternoon.
The first day wrapped up with a welcome reception for all conference attendees. Martin Brady of First Merchants Bank, Columbus, Ohio, noted that this is his 6th year attending the conference. “We love seniors housing,” he said, explaining that his bank specializes in construction lending. Though cautious about some markets, he believes the long-term opportunities for the industry are quite favorable.
*Kurt Read of RSF Partners and Larry Rouvelas of Senior Housing Analytics presented an analysis of why certain properties lease-up quickly and others do not. Surprisingly, when deciding whether or not to develop a new project, markets are not always what they seem. The process of underwriting risk should include a nuanced look at absorption, demographics and competition. “Not one single variable determines whether you will lease a property faster or slower,” said Rouvelas.
*In a session on assessing infrastructure and utilizing market data to grow wisely, David Boitano, senior investment officer for Ventas, Inc., led a discussion on how to cultivate and maintain a high quality workforce in today’s rapidly changing environment. Beth Burnham Mace, NIC’s chief economist and director of outreach, demonstrated the benefits of NIC MAP’s localized data for operators who are exploring new markets, or considering expanding in markets in which they currently operate already.
The 700 newcomers at the conference were invited to attend a first-time attendee power hour networking reception. NIC CEO and President Brian Jurutka, welcomed the group highlighting the opportunity the conference provides to meet with industry leaders, and access a number of resources and educational sessions.
Cassidy Clark, one of a handful of college students attending the conference on a scholarship, said she hopes to learn about the financial aspects of the business. She is a college student at Washington State University and has already been introduced to the operational aspects of the business at the school’s hospitality management program. “I’m getting a well-rounded education at the NIC conference,” she said.
The opening session—“The Impact of the Trump Administration’s Policies on Economic Growth: A Debate”—spotlighted two high-profile influential figures, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers. They offered divergent opinions on the current political environment and its effect on healthcare and taxes. Gingrich is optimistic that tax reform, or more likely a cut, will be enacted. Summers doesn’t foresee major reforms. They agreed partisanship will likely continue, though there are areas where both Republicans and Democrats can legislate together.
NIC Talks, the popular and provocative speaker series, returned for the third year. Five thought leaders highlighted the theme, “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know About Aging,” tackling issues such as ageism, the longevity bonus, and environments that promote a long and happy life. Speaker Kim Campbell, wife of singer Glen Campbell who recently died of Alzheimer’s disease, shared moving insights on the difficult role of the caregiver.
Other session highlights included:
- “Making the Case for Investments in Operations” focused on how investors and operators can collaborate and make a difference in property performance, and employee and customer satisfaction. Panelist Michael Schonbrun, Balfour Senior Living, observed, “The industry needs to do a better job of training.”
- During “Innovations in Seniors Housing Around the Globe,” moderator Dan Hutson led a conversation on the sometimes surprising, but always unique developments in seniors housing from the theme-park inspired communities of Florida, to an insular town that specializes in memory care in Europe.
- In a “Deep Dive” following his NIC Talks presentation, Dan Buettner built on his theme of longevity not as a goal pursued by blue zones—global pockets where residents live longer lives than elsewhere in the world—but as a trait that ensues based on the life patterns of those within blue zones. He shared some of his work with American communities across the country to build these traits into the environment, making it easier to choose to eat healthier, maintain a physical lifestyle, and develop meaningful social connections.
“Want to know the best way to assure someone won’t order an entree? Call it the healthy choice. No one wants the healthy choice.” Dan Buettner, National Geographic Fellow and Author of The Blue Zones.
- Today’s luncheon began with a tribute to Bob Kramer’s 27 years as NIC’s president and CEO, and a look back at how far he has taken the industry. Paul Irving, Chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging, followed with a keynote speech on The Upsides of Aging, from finding meaning in your day as you age, to how seniors housing shouldn’t rely on homogenous approaches to serving their varied residents.
- The day ended with a discussion on “The Future Demand for Alzheimer’s Care: What Current Research Reveals,” in which Jack Callison led a conversation on the latest findings including genetic markers that signify increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, to current spending trends and the potential for medications to slow the progression of the disease in the future.
The last day of the conference included networking time and special programming.
Educational sessions examined trends shaping the senior housing and skilled nursing industry, whether or not to redevelop a property, and how to scale up operations. Attendees also previewed the documentary “I’ll Be Me” on Glen Campbell’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Construction activity is concentrated in certain markets which has kept fears of widespread overbuilding in check.” Lana Peck, NIC
“In seniors housing there is not a uniform way of doing things as it relates to acuity and care management.” John Moore, Atria
The conference wrapped up with NIC Talks. Four thought leaders presented innovative approaches to technology, and how smart buildings and artificial intelligence will radically change how we age.
“Using the internet of things, we can understand the individual and dole out a personalized solution to help an elder thrive in place.” Susann Keohane, IBM
“The biggest challenge we have is not enough care givers at the right cost. We need a smart building to care for people 24/7.” Bob Hillis, Direct Supply
NIC’s Bob Kramer closed the conference with a challenge to the industry:
“Remember in our field, we will be the disruptors or we will be disrupted.”