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With boomers looming, nursing homes prepare for influx of residents

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Exterior of the Masonic Village at Burlington.
Exterior of the Masonic Village at Burlington. - ()

A growing aging population continues to enter the health care system and, despite warnings in recent years of a “silver tsunami” as the baby boomers seek care, there hasn't been a new nursing home built in the state in more than a decade.

But there has been some expansion.

Take, for example, the Masonic Village at Burlington. It was previously known as the Masonic Homes, but after the parent company began to see a demand for growth in retirement and active senior living, the organization sought a rebrand.

Len Weiser Jr., executive director of the Masonic Charity Foundation of New Jersey, said the village is a large employer in Burlington Township, with roughly 500 team members, and is the fifth-largest land owner in the area.

“We continue to have high occupancy for our nursing homes,” Weiser said. “But as we are about to start on a project of building more retirement living units, hopefully in the spring of this year, we have seen an increase in interest.”

The project includes 60 new apartments and 68 new cottage homes on the Masonic Village campus.

It’s all part of the movement in the country, Weiser said.

Uncertainty over the future of the Affordable Care Act, and a shift of costs by consumers, means seeking lower-priced care by staying at home and having monitoring or home health aide services.

The goal of adding the apartments and cottages is to have the continuum of care all in one place, Weiser said.

It’s a similar but different story for Little Falls-based Atrium Health & Senior Living, which has four locations in the state in addition to post-acute care centers and senior living communities in Wisconsin and Michigan.

“There isn’t an increase demand right now for services,” said Jason Hutchens, senior vice president of marketing and business development. “The demand we are seeing is for quality of care. There is definitely an increase in scrutiny regarding quality.”

Especially with the changes in value-based reimbursement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, nursing homes and senior care services are under the microscope for their role in helping to avoid readmissions to hospitals.

Technology has helped with the scrutiny by offering a variety of ratings sites, like Yelp, which rate the senior care facilities, Hutches said. But technology has also been the key to helping streamline care with the transition to electronic medical records.

This is also helping prepare the organization to seek partnerships with ancillary services such as home health aides and pharmacies, and possibly even bring them on board as part of the company, Hutchens said.

Broadening services is now the name of the game for senior care.

“We are more than just a nursing home,” Weiser said. “We have to evolve and constantly be aware. We have to be nimble. Ten years from now we are going back to the drawing board and say, ‘What do we need to serve our residents?’ If we get stuck in the past we won’t be able to meet current needs.”

E-mail to: anjaleek@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @anjkhem

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