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Meeting the demands of a graying America.

Meeting the DEmands of a Graying America What makes a managing senior housing so different from managing regular apartment communities? As the graying of America accelerates, more and more management companies will have to ponder and respond to this question. They will have to formulate and implement the procedures necessary to manage such properties as owners of senior housing properties turn to management companies.

Senior citizen housing is a continuum of living situations, from independent, to assisted, to dependent living. Communities addressing each or all of these phases are being developed, creating a need for skilled property management companies to oversee the facilities. And as our population continues to gray--by the year 2030, nearly one in five Americans will be over 65 years old--this demand can only continue to grow.

Managing a senior housing facility requires a more active and involved role on the part of the management company. The management team must also become more interested in the needs and interests of the residents, taking into consideration the financial, physical, and social concerns of the senior citizen.

To address the management techniques employed at independent living properties, a management company can divide its responsibilities into three areas: physical, social, and financial.

Physical

The smallest maintenance details in housing for the elderly make a difference between safety and injury. For instance, proper lighting of stairwells, hallways, and entrasnces is essential to prevent residents from falling and to protect them from potential crimes. Inspections for burned out light bulbs should be carried out on a more frequent basis than in regular housing, and the areas should be periodically checked to ensure that enough light exists for safe passage.

All lighting for public areas should not be provided by overhead fluorescent bulbs, however. Some warmer light should be included from lamps to give a more homey atmosphere, thus encouraging socializing between residents.

Another area of safety concern is tripping. Maintenance personnel should be trained to look for seams in the carpet that may be separating, for carpet that i sloose or bubbled, for door sills that may have loosened, for loose carpet tacks or raised flooring nails, and for large cracks in outside walkways. While these items are certainly standard checkpoints, they should be inspected on a more frequent basis to prevent injuries to the elderly from trips and falls.

Hot water heaters should be monitored closely. Installing a safety valve on hot water heaters keeps the temperature below scalding point, protecting residents from burns. This will also prevent bath water from reaching temperatures that are harmful to skin which has become less resilient.

Common areas will likely need to be kept warmer in the winter. Heating and cooling systems must also be monitored closely to control costs.

The resident manager and maintenance personnel are instrumental in keeping the physical structure safe and barrier free. Their constant attention to details will assure residents that their safety is a first priority, giving them a sense of security.

Developing a cheerful atmosphere and tone in the common areas of the building is also an important aspect of the senior housing environment. Using bright colors will not only make common areas more visible, but it will add life to the atmosphere. By encouraging a more vivid tone for common areas, management encourages residents to meet and socialize in this upbeat space. This important occurrence highlights what is likely to be the most unusual aspect of managing senior housing--support and development of social nd education programs.

Social

Program development not only enhances the lifestyle of the residents in senior housing, it offers a necessary service. Property management companies must realize that managing a senior housing property requires more than simply handling daily operations; it means supporting practical health, safety, and entertainment programs. Since the majority of the residents have fixed incomes, programs must be offered for very little or no cost.

Progrms focusing on good health help residents learn more about their health and changing body. This awareness may help residents retain independence and mobility longer. Examples of topics for health programs range from meeting nutritional needs to offering blood pressure checks. Resources for such programs include the local Department of Aging, the Visiting Nurses Association, and local physicians, all of whom may volunteer information or their services.

Protecting the safety of residents can be another informative topic for programs. Of particular concern to many elderly are techniques for protecting monthly social security checks. By warning residents of ty pical tricks employoed by thieves, you teach the elderly how to defend themselves against theft. Again, contacting the local Department of Aging could reveal a ready source, as could the local police precinct or library, which may offer tools for engraving valuables.

Offering social programs may be the most enjoyable part of program development. Social programs can include visits to museums, local shopping malls, and bingo games; concerts from school groups; and performance by fellow residents. Look to the Department on Aging for transportation assistance; look to your residents for those with talent to share; look to local schools and churches willing to perform for small groups; and finally, look around your neighborhood and see what resources abound--parks, museums, shopping centers, theaters.

Many opportunities for free or low-cost programs exist in any metropolitan area. A resident activity director can probably locate many resources and should encourage all residents to participate. Of course, the support and encouragement of the ownership and the management company is necessary to ensure that the resident coordinator can develop an enjoyable, well-rounded, and informative program schedule.

Financial

Financial management of senior citizen properties requires serious study and careful budgeting. Many properties are either partially or wholly funded by federal, state, or local subsidies, while others exist strictly as market rate apartments. In either situation, most residents live on a fixed income that does not regularly account for rising costs.

This relative inability to increase rents is particularly important to note when planning long-term budgets for regular building maintenance and unexpected repairs. Since the operating income will remain relatively steady, unaccounted repairs or modifications can create havoc. Consequently, the property manager should have an excellent knowledge of the means to obtain federal funds, as well as to budget properly for recurring and upcoming repairs.

Conclusion

The traditional responsibilities of property management represent only a portion of the duties for a senior housing property. Fulfilling the fiscal requirements of outside agencies is essential to maintain monetary responsibility in elderly housing. Careful budgetary monitoring and long-range planning are needed to ensure sufficient capital reserves. Maintaining the physical structure for resident protection and offering informative programs should be primary goals for both ownership and the management company.

The final result must be a smoothly functioning, economically sound property with the commitment of owners and managers to fully serve the senior housing community. When this synergy is achieved, a strong and mutually profitable senior apartment property will result.

Connie J. Patterson, CPM[R], is vice president and director of operations of residential property management for Shannon & Luchs Company. She coordinates its acquisition and expansion program for residential management and supervises the management of its mu lti-family properties in the Washington, D.C. area.

Ms. Patterson is a member of the IREM Washington Chapter Executive Council and the IREM national faculty, and was a recipient of the 1983 Leo David Award. She is also president-elect of the Property Management Association and past president of the Prince George's Chapter of the National Society of Professional Resident Managers.
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Title Annotation:includes related article on a case study of a retirement community; retirement housing
Author:Patterson, Connie J.
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Words:1247
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