NIC Chats Podcast with Beth Mace

In this special episode, discover the remarkable experiences and lessons learned from our very own host, NIC Chief Economist, Beth Mace. This time, Chuck Harry, NIC’s Chief Operating Officer, poses the very questions Beth has expertly asked more than 25 other industry leaders over the years.

Drawing from her vast experience, Beth offers wisdom and perspectives that can only come from a true expert in the field. Gain insights into the senior housing sector, including tactics Beth advises to increase resident and staff retention. Join us as we celebrate the invaluable contributions of this industry icon.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a NIC Chats podcast without the “two truths and a lie” that help you get to know industry leaders better. Listen in to hear what draws Beth to France every year, and if she really was the first female ice cream truck driver in the Boston suburbs.



Beth Mace (00:04):

Hello and welcome to the NIC Chats podcast. My name is Beth Mace and I am NIC’s chief Economist. Thank you for joining us. Today’s podcast is going to be a bit different than those in the past. Today I will be the guest instead of the host. The tables will turn and I’ll be answering the questions I have posed to my guests over the last three years, which has included more than 25 interviews. Interviewing me today will be Chuck Harry, my colleague, and friend for more than 13 years. Chuck is NIC’s Chief Operating Officer. The reason for the change in informant is that I am transitioning my role at NIC and will shift from a full-time position as NIC’s chief economist to a consultant and senior advisor to NIC as it relates to the economy and capital markets. It particularly important area to focus on and led to the dramatic increase in interest rates since March of 2022 and the resulting effects. As in the past NIC Chats podcasts, and as you listen, I’m hoping that you’ll find some humor, maybe some insights and inspiration, and maybe what I call an “aha moment.”

 

Beth Mace (01:11):

When something pithy or insightful may be said, maybe a light bulb will go off for you. The structure of today’s event will be like those in the past. I’m gonna tell you three statements about myself and two of those are true. And then throughout the podcast, you’ll learn, which is true and which is false. So first, I was the first female ice cream truck driver in the Boston suburbs. Or I traveled to France every year in a row between 2000 and 2017. Or I hate entertaining and hosting events. Second, there are three standard questions within each podcast. And the first is ways to address staffing challenges in the senior housing and care industry, identifying other challenges facing our industry or what’s one innovative way or idea to strengthen our industry? Now, as I say “On with the show”. So, over to you, Chuck.

 

Chuck Harry (02:08):

Thank you Beth. And it certainly is an honor to be the one turning the tables on you. And I hope to host this with as much grace in professionalism as you have over the past few years.

 

Beth Mace (02:23):

Thank you.

 

Chuck Harry (02:25):

So, Beth, you’ve been to date the industry’s first chief economist in your role at NIC, and frankly, NIC’s first chief economist since I recruited you now nearly nine years ago, back in 2014. Can you tell us about what that job entailed and what your role has been in that capacity?

 

Beth Mace (02:50):

Yes. So let me start by saying thank you for recruiting me because I’ve enjoyed all the time I’ve had at NIC. I was hired to bring additional transparency into the senior housing sector so that investors could better understand senior housing and its investment attributes. The goal really was to lower the cost of capital and bring additional capital into senior housing to create additional housing and care options for seniors, which is effectively the mission of NIC. I was also hired to use my training and background as an economist to add clarity to the external conditions affecting our industry. As time went on, I managed the research and analytics group at NIC, and the goal of the group was to really interpret market trends and the factors affecting both senior housing and the skilled nursing sectors. The goal was to highlight critical factors influencing occupancy patterns, demand and supply trends, as well as broader capital market and economic influences. We also dug deeper into longer-term influences, such as demographic patterns, and tried to provide clarity on the similarities and differences between senior housing and other commercial real estate property.

 

Chuck Harry (03:58):

When you spoke of more affordable capital that’s often referenced as more efficient capital markets. And certainly, during this time period, senior housing in particular has been established as a property type for institutional investors.

 

Beth Mace (04:20):

Yeah, that’s been really fun to watch because I actually started, we’re gonna talk about this, but I actually got involved in senior housing back when I worked at AEW Capital Management. And, in the early days of the senior housing industry, in the sense of institutional investors, there wasn’t a lot of understanding about senior housing and how it could even be in the class of commercial real estate that people would invest in. So it’s been really interesting and fun and exciting to watch how more and more pension funds and other institutional investors are now investing in senior housing today.

 

Chuck Harry (04:52):

Yeah, at the onset of our careers, I was involved with two investment management firms establishing apartments as institutional property types, which the whole thought of institutions owning residential properties was quite novel at the time. So it’s been interesting to see seniors housing through a similar investment cycle.

 

Beth Mace (05:16):

Yeah. And a lot of that was related to headline risk because institutions are afraid that their names would go on the, you know, the front page of a paper that something had gone wrong with one of their investments or a specific tenant in a building. And it turns out, especially in the case of senior housing, that really hasn’t happened very often.

 

Chuck Harry (05:31):

Absolutely. So you also referenced the mission of NIC, so maybe you could speak more specifically to NIC’s mission, which honestly has been tweaked a few times during our time together, and how you have supported that mission.

 

Beth Mace (05:49):

Yeah, so the mission of NIC, well, first of all, NIC is a 501C3, which wasn’t always recognized or known that it was a not-for-profit organization. We really worked to enable access and choice of senior housing and care options, we do that by providing data analytics and connections that bring together investors and providers. So our conferences are pretty well known and it’s almost like if you wanna be in senior housing, you have to go to our conferences. It’s efficient and everybody who’s a who’s who is there. We were the first ones to really create a database on market fundamentals for senior housing, and I was involved with that. And then the analytics has been really fun to watch and grow that and develop that while at NIC. So I’ve had a hand in all of those to some degree. So it’s been really satisfying to watch that.

 

Chuck Harry (06:44):

Absolutely. During your tenure, you’ve also been the head of our Research and Analytics group. If you could tell our listeners more about that research and analytics group, which has certainly expanded during your tenure with us.

 

Beth Mace (07:03):

Yeah, it’s been really exciting to watch the NIC Research and Analytics group grow and to mature into what it is today. I think it’s a pretty well-respected group. People go to listen to people in our group. You can get information about what we’re doing if you go on our website and you can see the articles that you write for the NIC Insider newsletter or for the podcasts that we do, like we’re doing now or for the NIC Notes blogs. So right now we have three senior principals in our group and then we just hired two data analysts. So while I’m talking about sort of shifting back away from some of my responsibilities, the Research and Analytics group is actually getting beefed up with additional high powered pretty freshly educated analysts that really understand the new data and analytics techniques that sort of beyond what I learned back when I was in school.

 

Beth Mace (08:00):

And we have a really strong team with three principals. We have Caroline Clapp, we have Ryan Brooks, and we have Bill Kaufman who had been at NIC for, well, Ryan and Bill for a long time, and Omar Zuri. And he’s really strong on the analysis side. So we have a pretty strong team. And effectively, NIC has recently adopted a new five-year strategic plan, and we’ll talk about more of that in a minute. But each of our principles in our group is aligned with those areas as subject matter experts. So that’s exciting to see sort of the focus of these individuals going forward and how that explains how the group is gonna grow as well as on the analytics side.

 

Chuck Harry (08:40):

Yeah. And the diversity of perspectives we bring, and likewise the transparency that the group is helping to afford. So prior to joining the NIC staff, you had already been very involved with NIC as the organization, as both a board member and you had actually chaired our Research Committee. That’s a long-time commitment to a singular organization, so I’m curious as to what the motivations were that you spent so much of your career at our not-for-profit and albeit a relatively small organization, does seem to have a pretty darn broad reach.

 

Beth Mace (09:23):

Well, it’s pretty simple. I love NIC. I love the mission of NIC. I love the idea that working at NIC, you do good by doing well. I love senior housing. I love that I could be part of an industry that had such a good “raison d’être” a reason to be. And you know, I also talk about NIC as a little engine that could, we’re a small group, pretty small in my experience, but we’re sort of the engine that could, so we do monumental things. We try to provide evidence of that through our conferences. We try to be thought leaders, leading the industry forward. Certainly, we were one of the first people who were talking about healthcare collaboration in senior housing. We’ve brought a lot of spotlight on the middle market or the “forgotten middle” cohort. We just put out a pretty good white paper that you were involved with on active adult. So we try to be sort of a little bit ahead of the curve and we try to provide data-driven insights to allow actionable results as you read and you’ll interpret our data. So, it’s been really fun to be part of that. And yeah, so it’s pretty simple. I just love what our mission is.

 

Chuck Harry (10:35):

Yeah, and I would add Beth although yes, the staff may not be large in numbers I think so much the effectiveness of the organization is how what we refer to as our volunteer leaders or leadership engages in order for us to be effective in delivering on a number of initiatives. Many of which you have enumerated. So during this time at NIC which really now spans nearly two decades, nine years as a volunteer leader, nine years on staff, what is it you’re most proud of?

 

Beth Mace (11:16):

I think more broadly it’s the important role that NIC has had in the industry in fulfilling its mission. NIC in general has a lot of respect in the world of senior housing. Certainly, the research team has a lot of respect. I like the idea as I mentioned, that we’ve been able to bring new ideas to move the industry forward. And while I won’t be as intimately involved going forward, you know, we’re just at the cusp of amazing things in the industry. Finally, we’re almost at the Baby Boomers that would be ready to be our customers and that’s gonna provide a lot of opportunities. There’s just so much growth in the sector, so many ideas. I think the dedication of people involved in senior housing was never more clear than during Covid in terms of both, not just at the operation level and the frontline staff, although, you know, we’re calling those people heroes really for what they had to go through during Covid. But also the partnerships that became quite evident in terms of the equity groups and the operator and the debt providers and the operators and the capital.

 

Beth Mace (12:24):

They were all working together to pull us through one of the most, probably the biggest, hopefully, the worst crisis the industry will oversee during Covid. And I was proud to be part of that. NIC actually played a role in that early on, doing leadership huddles, talking about what we knew trying to get the message out as best we could, talking to the media, and making sure that there was a distinction in the media to understand what the difference was between skilled nursing and senior housing. We inaugurated a lot of great new research with NORC at the University of Chicago. So there’s a whole host of things that we’re doing and we continue to focus now on middle market with some studies we’re doing with the Milken Institute and with the Joint Center of Housing at Harvard. And this is just, you know, this continues to be some really awesome things that NIC will be doing going forward.

 

Chuck Harry (13:14):

Yeah, absolutely. Plenty of opportunity. And speaking in terms of opportunity now that you are transitioning your position at NIC to become what we’re referring to as consultant and special advisor, I would suggest Barry’s special advisor. Can you explain the impetus behind that for you?

 

Beth Mace (13:39):

Yes, for sure. So my husband’s retired. He’s a great guy. We’ve been married 40 years this summer. I wanna spend more time with him, with my sons, Tim and Jonathan, and with family members and friends. I have a lot of other interests, believe it or not than just senior housing. So I want to have some time to focus on that. But again, I’m not going away entirely. I’m still gonna be involved in sort of the special advisor, senior advisor role doing what I really love and that I’m passionate about, which is looking at the economy, looking at capital markets, and figuring out how that affects our industry. And then taking that understanding and sharing that with others —our stakeholders — to get a better sense of really what’s going on. So I’m pulling back, but I’m still gonna be involved doing the stuff that I really love and I’ll still get to work with, of course, the NIC staff and the volunteers to some degree as well.

 

Chuck Harry (14:31):

Yeah. So very, very fitting for a chief economist like yourself. What are some of the things that you’re most excited about as you look into the future of NIC?

 

Beth Mace (14:46):

Well, for me specifically, I’m gonna continue to do what I have done for NIC since I was hired. And that’s monitoring the economy, monitoring the markets, and again, trying to inform NIC’s stakeholders. As you know, I really love tracking current trends, listening to others, processing that information in a way that makes sense, and then sharing that out with folks. In terms of things that I’m excited about going forward, you know, there is the new five-year strategic plan that you and I and many others were involved with for quite a long time. And now it’s been adopted and it’s gonna be executed and there’s gonna be a focus on middle market, which has been a passion of mine for a long time, and active adults, which has been a passion of mine for a long time and we’ve been talking about both those concepts at conferences for, gosh, 12 or 14 years I think. We’re also gonna be focusing on partnering for health, capital for operations, and age tech. So I think all of that’s gonna provide a really great foundation and really new research and ways that NIC can bring the industry forward.

 

Chuck Harry (15:51):

Absolutely. So, shifting gears a sec before we look at the broader industry perspective. We were just talking about looking forward, let’s look back for a little bit back to the beginnings of your work life. I don’t know if it was exactly a career at that point, but maybe you could explain a little bit about you having been the first female ice cream truck driver in the Boston “burbs”.

 

Beth Mace (16:20):

I know that’s funny, right? Well, one of my brothers started the business of driving an ice cream truck. And then I got recruited and I was young, I was 16, I don’t think I was supposed to have been 16 doing it, but I was 16 when I was doing it. And I was absolutely the only ice cream man girl or the only female ice cream truck driver at that time. And you know, it was interesting. You know, you think, oh, isn’t that all fun and everything? Well, it was not quite as friendly a business as you might think. It was a very competitive landscape with other franchise operators very aggressively trying to drive me out of their self-perceived ice cream truck territory. And you know, I have to say that the good part was I was outside all the time.

 

Beth Mace (17:03):

But I did learn a lot at a very young age about business, about the nature of competition, about the hustle, the earlier you went out, the more money you could bring in, how to cover your margins, how to figure out what your operating expenses are. And bottom line, just simply hard work. So I did it for three years at the time, it paid a lot of money, I was saving money for college and it really helped support me when I went to college in the years gone by. But it was fun, but, there was an edge to it as well, so wasn’t all fun and games.

 

Chuck Harry (17:34):

As a real entrepreneur yeah.

 

Chuck Harry (17:38):

Okay, so let’s, let’s take a look at that broader industry perspective and we’re in really interesting times. It’s been a phenomenal few years, but can you speak to your view on the current senior housing market?

 

Beth Mace (17:56):

Yeah, it’s interesting. I think the bottom line is that I think the senior housing market fundamentals continue to improve. If you look at occupancy trends, they’re improving, demand is quite strong and supply is still existing and still coming online, but less so than it was. Unfortunately, the industry first went through Covid. We’ve been talking about sort of Covid as the earthquake and then all the secondary effects after that. And labor shortages were sort of pronounced even before Covid, but they became even more pronounced during Covid. So the industry sort of had to fight with labor challenges. Then we’ve had the capital market disruptions that have happened really since March of 2022. And that’s when the Fed in response to inflation, which was another effect of Covid, a side effect of Covid started to increase interest rates.

 

Beth Mace (18:48):

And it’s been difficult since then because the cost of capital has gone up quite dramatically. So when I think about it you know, if I think about the broader senior housing ecosystem, I would say, you know, in the fundamentals we’re improving labor availability is starting to improve. It’s still tight for sure, but the use of agency help is, is greatly reduced. Jobs are actually back beyond their pre-Covid levels again for assisted living. And I think we’re seeing a little bit of improvement in operator margins. So those are all good. But on the less positive side, I think that we’re likely to see a slowing economy. It seems like the Fed is not done increasing interest rates based on the meeting that we had last week. There might be another 25 and 50 basis point increase in July or later on this year. I think the credit availability is difficult to get and that’s causing a lot of challenges for operators, especially because their margins, while they might be improving, they’re still reduced. And I’m afraid that we’re gonna see valuations declining and interest increasing. So it’s sort of a mixed bag right now until we get beyond probably the next 12 to 18 months. And then I think there’s a lot of positive long-term compelling considerations.

 

Chuck Harry (20:08):

So then you just mentioned the next 12 to 18 months. What are some of the factors influencing both the near term and then the longer-term prospects for the sector?

 

Beth Mace (20:19):

Well, near term, we have for example a lot of debt that’s maturing in the senior housing industry, not just for senior housing, but across commercial real estate. Office for sure, multifamily for sure. And that’s gonna be hard to refinance right now because in most instances that maturing debt is maturing from low interest rates to higher interest rates today, especially if there are adjustable rate mortgages that were initially taken out on those debts. And most organizations, most banks in lending, they’re forcing people to reduce their principal balance. So it’s hard to do in a world of already tight margins. And I think we’re gonna see some valuation adjustments and for valuation adjustments, there’s a lot of pain for those people who own those properties. Of course. It might ultimately lead to an opportunity for others, but at the immediate term, it’s gonna be pretty painful, I think for a lot of operators and banks and the equity partners as well.

 

Beth Mace (21:20):

Longer term, you know, I think that we are already seeing improving market fundamentals. I think that we’re gonna see increased ability to do healthcare coordination, which is something that NIC’s been talking about for quite a long time. And I think that’s gonna result in some revenue opportunities and efficiencies and savings. I think the forgotten middle is getting a lot of attention, and that’s a huge opportunity if we can sort of crack this code on how to actually provide housing and care options in an affordable way for middle-income seniors. And of course, the demographics, I’m almost scared to talk about, but of course, if you build it, will they come? So we have to make sure that we’re building a property type that is providing the services and offerings that people actually want.

 

Chuck Harry (22:05):

Yeah, it’s fascinating as an adult child myself and at the tail end of the baby boomers we in fact have been consumers, but on behalf for the most part of our parents, in some cases, grandparents. So as to what the Boomers may be seeking in terms of being a resident within the properties. So speaking in terms of the residents, they’re one of the numerous stakeholders in the space. So I’m curious about your perspective of the value proposition for the residents and investors, operators, developers, lenders, to get started. And I can prompt you as to others of the stakeholders.

 

Beth Mace (22:52):

Yeah, I mean, I think the value proposition for residents has always been, you know, care and housing. You know, they have a roof over their head, they have food, they have good, you know, good activities of daily living, you have someone to help you with that, you know, it’s a pretty easy way of life if you’re in independent living, you don’t have to take care of a yard anymore. So I think it’s very attractive from that. I think it’s changing to some degree too because I think that the client base of senior housing is changing and as we shift to more of the Baby Boomers, that’s the cohort that’s never done anything like their parents. There’s lots of jokes about that and they always want, I think, high quality of life and increasingly they want purpose.

 

Beth Mace (23:33):

And you’re seeing operators address that now in terms of the types of things that they’re offering in terms of ancillary services and benefits. But purpose I think is really important. And we’re seeing more of that being offered in terms of investors. You know, I’ve watched the investor growth in the industry and you know, in some funds, senior housing is actually considered in the core fund category. So, that’s exciting to see. And it is also, you know, the value add bucket as well for investors. And, you know, as I said, there’s some near-term challenges that we have to get through largely related to capital markets, but the fundamentals of senior housing are still quite strong. So there’s a secular component to that that I think investors really like and are compelled to go after. For operators, you know, I think we’ve talked about this a little bit, I’ve talked about a lot in terms of staff is challenging to get and to keep staff. But once you get staff, the idea of doing well by doing good and actually providing a service that has impact and meaning, and you’re really making a difference in people’s lives, I think is a compelling value proposition for operators and for developers.

 

Beth Mace (24:45):

You know, endless growth opportunities, quite honestly, especially if you can find the product that people really want.

 

Chuck Harry (24:52):

Thanks. So that’s the upside. What are you most concerned about, Beth?

 

Beth Mace (24:57):

Well, I think it’s just near term and that’s related to the capital markets and interest rates and the impact that that’s having on our industry as we just discussed.

 

Chuck Harry (25:08):

Okay. And then let’s end this section on an upbeat note. What are you most optimistic about?

 

Beth Mace (25:16):

Well, I think there’s endless opportunities to be able to continue to grow the industry, continue to create new product offerings that people really want and feel really good about. I think the ability of operators to really focus in on social determinants of health providing sort of a WellCare option for a lot of older adults. It would be really compelling going forward.

 

Chuck Harry (25:44):

Absolutely. Speaking of optimism, I’m a little envious that you had the opportunity to travel to France every year in a row for, I don’t know, 17 or 18 years counting from 2000 to 2017. What’s  the story there?

 

Beth Mace (26:06):

Yes. So that was my pre-NIC days. But, I did travel to France, that was true every year in a row between the year 2000 and the year 2017. And honestly, I was drawn to something called a labyrinth, which you can think of as a maze, but you don’t have to make decisions, you don’t get lost. It’s one path, a circular path into the center. And there is a labyrinth built into the floor of a cathedral just outside Paris, Chartres Cathedral, which was built in 1252. And that labyrinth was part of that cathedral. And it was, as I said, built into the floor. And you can think of a labyrinth as a sort of walking path used for meditation and guidance. And I walked that labyrinth and it had a powerful impact on me.

 

Beth Mace (26:52):

And based on my experience, I then co-founded a not-for-profit group called the Labyrinth Guild of New England. And over the years I have helped facilitate guided walks on labyrinths in hospitals, schools, and prisons. In fact, I built a labyrinth at a prison, a women’s prison here in Massachusetts. I’ve hosted events for cancer patients, hospice workers, young children, young adults, and the whole spectrum. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very good at keeping up with the paperwork. So the official Labyrinth Guild of New England is extinct at the moment, but it’s a matter of just renewing that paperwork and that might be one of the things I do going forward.

 

Chuck Harry (27:29):

Ah, so it might be revived!

 

Beth Mace (27:30):

It could be revived.

 

Chuck Harry (27:32):

That is exciting. Okay. So let’s dig deeper into your personal story as an economist. How did you as an economist find your way to senior housing? And what do you consider to be rewards of the space?

 

Beth Mace (27:50):

Well, I loved economics, so I was an economics major. I loved macroeconomics courses in college. I was actually a double major in college biology and economics. So I did environmental economics for a while. But I’ve actually had a job as an economist. So I had a wide range of industries that I was associated with from a think tank, I worked at the Brookings Institution for a while to up on Capitol Hill. I worked for Congressional Commission, I worked for public utility, I’ve worked for a bank, I’ve worked for consulting firms. And then now I’ve been in senior housing, but I’ve worked for a lot of different industries and essentially it’s all about supply and demand. But it’s a matter of learning the language and the terminology and the acronyms associated with that specific industry, then being able to apply those same skillsets.

 

Beth Mace (28:40):

So, my degree is actually in applied economics. So I was never into the theories of why such and such happened, but more into the, the how and the why. So I’ve been able to take that skillset and then apply it to different industries. And it has been really fun to do and to learn about different industries. But I did settle in on senior housing ultimately, and that came from working at AEW Capital Management in Boston where I lived for 17 years. And I was in the research group there. And one of the product types that I was involved with was something called senior housing. And it was not an investible institutional acceptable asset class back then. But I helped present some of the first investment cases for senior housing and some of the institutional funds. And eventually, it stuck which then got me eventually involved with NIC and then from NIC was on the board, I was asked to join the staff. You were involved with that, and here I am today.

 

Chuck Harry (29:41):

So when you made those first presentations given how critically important data is, did you actually have data to present those investment cases?

 

Beth Mace (29:51):

Oh, you know, we didn’t keep everything on computers back then. I wish I had, cause I’d like to come back to read what I wrote. So I think it was probably more based on the investing case, on the bigger demographic trends, which of course we would’ve had data on, but we didn’t have information on, certainly supply and demand. And that’s why in 2004 NIC said, “Oh, well you know what? To really get this to be an institutional asset type, we really need to get supply and demand market fundamentals.” Kathy Sweeney my colleague at the time of AEW and also a chair of NIC and Ray Braun, our current chair, were involved in thinking about how we get this to be like other commercial real estate sectors by creating a market fundamentals database. So I was involved in that early, early, early on when it was just an idea. And now, you know, now it’s exciting. We have data, you know, we’ve seen now we have cycles that we can see and we can look back and see what happened in different periods of time to supply and demand and how it relates to different economic conditions.

 

Chuck Harry (30:51):

Yeah, absolutely. World of difference. What has surprised you in the senior housing space?

 

Beth Mace (31:02):

Oh, what has surprised me? Compared to other commercial real estate asset types that I was involved with is the passion. And most operators that I know are just really passionate about what they do. They really are trying to help people differently than the office sector or, you know, mall sector where you, you know, your motivations are probably different. So it’s a passion that really has probably surprised me most.

 

Chuck Harry (31:30):

Are there any lessons that you’ve learned this far in your career that you like to share with some of the maybe younger audience listening?

 

Beth Mace (31:38):

Sure. So, I was really pretty much honored last year. NIC had its first woman’s leadership meeting at NIC. It was in the fall of ‘22 if I remember right. And I got to speak at that. And so I spent a lot of time on that. And I’ve had a pretty long career path here, what have I learned along the way? So I’m just gonna briefly talk about some of those concepts that I talked about. You know, what are the most important things? Well, health, you know, it’s true what they say. If you have your health, you pretty much do have everything, so that’s something that needs to be appreciated. I think balance would be another important thing that, especially for women, balance is key in prioritizing and saying “no” to certain things.

 

Beth Mace (32:26):

It’s okay to do. And especially if you’re a mom, you try to do that without having guilt. You don’t wanna have mom guilt or spouse guilt. That’s easier said than done. But you do have to try to have balance. Importantly, I think you really realize that life isn’t a dress rehearsal. You know, you have to be the best version of yourself while you’re actually in yourself at the moment. You have to be open to change and flexible because Lord knows that when you start out with a plan of how things are gonna execute in your life or how they’re gonna happen, it doesn’t happen that way. I think that attitude really matters. My mom used to always say, “Carry no chips on your shoulder” and she really meant that. Cause, if we carry a grudge or carry anger, doesn’t really do any good for anyone except it harms yourself.

 

Beth Mace (33:10):

So, do that. And have self-confidence. Again, this is one for women in particular to be confident in choices you make and be confident in the way you present yourself. I think passion is fantastic. Try to have passion with whatever you do for your job or your career and find something that energizes you and doesn’t deplete you because that will continue to reinvigorate you. That it really does take a village and that you need help along the way and take that help graciously when you can from your family or friends. And the last few others I would say are self-care is really important and learn how to de-stress and learn how to compartmentalize yourself or your life. Be a student of learning. And last two things would be find beauty in your life because it will always renew your spirit -that relates to my labyrinth story that I was telling you. And have fun! Laugh, engage, and party on.

 

Chuck Harry (34:11):

Well Beth, you and I have certainly had fun over the years and you are a fantastic leader in this space and I’m sure will continue to be so a true industry icon. So now I’d like to shift to our standard questions for the NIC Chats podcast. The first being staffing shortages have long existed within the senior housing industry. From your viewpoint, what is one way to effectively grow staff?

 

Beth Mace (34:40):

I’ve talked to a lot of operators as part of my job. I think culture and communication are key. During Covid the ongoing communication with staff was really important to build loyalty within your staff and to have a culture where people want to work. I think you need to understand that most people, not all, but most people wanna have a path of growth and wanna have a path of opportunity. So within that culture, create a path of growth for those individuals and make sure that your staff understands that they’re part of something bigger and they’re part of making a difference in people’s lives. And at the end of the day, you’re gonna go home at night and feel really good if you can say, “Did I do something that changed the world a little bit?” And if that change in the world is changing the life of one individual who you were kind to. Senior Housing presents that brilliantly.

 

Chuck Harry (35:37):

Absolutely. Our next question is, in your view, what is the largest challenge facing the industry? And there’s a multitude, I know there’s a multitude of challenges, but what would you name as the most?

 

Beth Mace (35:52):

Well, you know, it’s interesting. I think capital markets for sure as we talked about. That’s a near-term issue. I think staffing is probably a big one regardless if you just look at the demographics, it’s gonna continue to be somewhat of a challenge. I think that we need to change legal immigration policy in the United States. That’s having impacts on lack of workers as well as ultimately having an impact on the ability to pay out social security. It has a lot of ramifications and just by the sheer demographics with the number of people that are retiring, we need to figure out a way to address labor. And one of the best ways to do that if we don’t increase our birth rates a lot, which doesn’t look like we’re going to, then really is to consider immigration policy.

 

Chuck Harry (36:37):

And finally, in terms of our closing question, what’s one innovative idea on how to strengthen our industry?

 

Beth Mace (36:46):

I think that it comes down to respect. And when I say respect, I’m talking about respect from the management team to the staff, respect from the staff to the residents, respect from the residents to the staff as well. I think we need to know and learn about one another and if we respect one another, we’ll understand the time commitments that a lot of staff have, the difficulties that a lot of staff have coming into work in terms of multiple buses or different ways that they have to get to some of the challenges that are there. And I think that you know, there are some operators I know that are actually working with their staff who are often legal immigrants and helping them find a path to citizenship. And that’s been a hallmark of a couple operators that I know of that’s kept the loyalty of their staff coming back into working for that organization and for them to continue to have people who are actively trying to apply to the organization.

 

Beth Mace (37:43):

But the respect piece I think is really important because that will address staffing as well. And one example of that would be to teach your staff about the residents. So the residents these days most of the residents were born in the 1930s. They had their children in the 1950s, 1960s. Explain to your staff these were the cultural icons, these were the cultural things that were going on. The flip side, which isn’t done as much, is to educate your residents about who the staff are and to teach them who they are to get to create a caring relationship that goes both ways. And I think that speaks to culture in the organization and that speaks to longevity of your staff. And if you can keep a staff a long time more than a six-month to a 12-month period, you can create happier residents. Happier residents create longer length of stay. Longer length of stay creates greater word of mouth, which ultimately affects the bottom line. So it all comes down to it’s a human business that we’re in with senior housing. It’s all people. It’s all people. And we sometimes forget that. And I think it’s important to nourish relationships and respect each other.

 

Chuck Harry (38:52):

So now we’ve come to the moment of truth that among the three things you mentioned up front, one of them was a lie. And the lie being that you Beth hate entertaining and hosting events.

 

Beth Mace (39:07):

Well, that’s a complete lie cause I love entertaining and I’m up for hosting celebrations and having fun. So if anybody listening wants me to host something or wants to invite me to something fun, I’m always game for having a good time.

 

Chuck Harry (39:25):

So many good times. Beth, thanks for the huge difference that you have made for this sector. Having advanced the transparency. I know your work is not done, you’re simply transitioning. So there’s more transparency to be had. But you are truly an industry icon and it is a pleasure to have worked with you over so many years and look forward to the continuation.

 

Beth Mace (39:55):

Thank you, Chuck. And thank you everybody for listening today and thank you for listening to the last many podcasts that we’ve had. And I would like to really say how much I’ve enjoyed hosting these NIC chats and bringing you ideas and inspiration from many, many leaders. You can find them all on our website www.NIC.org. And I want to thank all the people that I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to interview as well. And as I said, thank you listeners for spending time with us today, and stay tuned for future episodes and NIC Chats, which we will be getting later on this year. And with that, thanks very much, Chuck. Always a pleasure.

 

Chuck Harry (40:32):

You’re the best Beth.

 

Beth Mace (40:33):

Talk to you later. Thanks, everyone. Bye.

 

 



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