April 6, 2017

Roundtable finds solutions for future senior housing, care

With the number of older adults predicted to grow dramatically in the coming decades, industries from financial services to residential design are facing unprecedented challenges looming just around the corner.

Cornell recently offered some multidisciplinary solutions.

The second Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures roundtable on hospitality, health management and design for senior housing and care, held March 30-31 at the Statler Hotel, brought together leaders from for-profit and nonprofit service providers, financial services companies, industry associations, consulting firms, design companies, hospitality services firms, and Cornell faculty and students.

“The goal of the roundtable was to bring together a small group of 25 to 30 leaders from across different disciplines in an intimate setting to share ideas and to consider potential new ideas for the field,” said Brooke Hollis, MBA ’78, associate director of the institute and the program’s chair.

The Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures is the world’s first academic program to provide a multidisciplinary platform for integrating hospitality, health policy/management and design, aimed at enhancing service excellence in health care, wellness, senior living and related fields.

Launched in 2015, the institute is a cross-campus collaboration between the School of Hotel Administration, part of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, and the College of Human Ecology.

That multidisciplinary approach will be key to meeting the needs of older adults, Hollis said.

By 2060, the population of those aged 65 and older in the United States is projected to reach 98 million – more than double its current level, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The need for appropriate senior living options means new models must be developed.

The roundtable discussions covered major challenges, including design strategies to promote better resident and staff life and to reuse or update aging infrastructure. Participants also addressed the need for financing services through insurance or alternatives, given the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and designing and branding senior care services for future generations.

One of the session chairs, Tom McInerney, CEO of Genworth Financial, a Fortune 500 insurance holding company and the largest long-term care insurance company in the United States, noted a number of policy issues that must be addressed. He also pointed out innovative insurance designs and potential new opportunities to address long-term care issues in China.

One major hurdle for the industry, discussed at length at the program, is how to recruit and retain younger talent; ensuring the industry has the capable human capital to fill specialized roles is crucial, participants said.

Carly Andrews ’16 wants to help meet that need. Andrews recently graduated from the School of Hotel Administration and is working as a researcher and social media manager at the Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures. “I want to go into senior living operations, and this group has a lot of good ideas to share,” she said.

For Andrews, entering the industry is all about passion. “You get the emotional paycheck as well as the financial paycheck. I know that every day I’ll get to go to work and make a difference in someone’s life,” she said. “However, the field needs to find ways to get these ideas out for other students to consider this field, and it needs to do a better job of providing clearer career paths for young graduates.”

New ideas developed among the discussion groups included a fellowship program similar to those many U.S. health and hospital systems increasingly use.

According to Hollis, “These fellowships could provide a rotational exposure, project work and a mentoring process to help develop a clearer career path for future leaders in the field.”

David Schless, president and CEO of the American Seniors Housing Association, which represents the industry on legislative and regulatory matters, said because successful senior housing and care comprises multidisciplinary components, hearing from smaller group of leaders with different perspectives was valuable.

“The institute assembled a very accomplished group of professionals in a variety of disciplines,” he said.

A summary report on the roundtable will be available at www.healthyfutures.cornell.edu. A third roundtable is being planned for next year.

Stephen D'Angelo is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.