For many years, CCRCs were owned by local or regional companies or nonprofits. By some estimates, up to 80% of CCRCs were nonprofits. But, that’s been changing recently. When the housing market crashed, so did a lot of new nonprofit CCRC developments. This caused a wave of acquisitions by for-profit providers between 2009 and today, which has forever altered the landscape of senior housing.
Here are some of the big players in the senior housing industry and a summary of who owns them: (Note that this list is certainly not exhaustive. If there’s a big one that I’ve left off, please let me know.)
- Brookdale Senior Living and Emeritus Corporation. Brookdale is the largest senior housing provider in the country. Though their portfolio spans multiple types of properties (independent living, skilled nursing, assisted living, and memory care), they own a large number of CCRCs in multiple states. The majority shareholder of Brookdale Senior Living is Fortress Investments, which is a large investment management firm. Late this year, Brookdale and Emeritus Corporation plan to merge, which will create a mega-senior housing provider.
- Sunrise Senior Living. Following an accounting scandal in 2007, Sunrise was purchased by Health Care REIT, an investment fund specializing in health care properties, and taken private. Sunrise owns and operates about 300 senior living communities, of which CCRCs are a small portion.
- Erickson Living used to be even bigger, but they went bankrupt in 2009 and had to sell off some of their communities. A hedge fund, Redwood Capital, bought them in 2010 for $365 million. Erickson recently bought Ashbury Ponds and the entire debt of Devonshire at PGA. Management also announced a $1 billion investment in new senior housing over the next five years. Erickson currently owns 19 communities.
- Senior Care Development started as a small owner of nursing homes and other senior housing communities and has grown into a big player in the market. Owner, David Reis, has purchased several communities out of bankruptcy, including old Erickson communities: Monarch Landing and Sedgebrook. Senior Care Development also bought The Clare, a bankrupt CCRC in Chicago.
- ACTS Communities owns about two dozen CCRCs across seven states. They’re a Christian, nonprofit that has been around for about 30 years.
Also, as more and more retirement communities become more professionally-managed, companies have sprung up offering management services. Life Care Services is one of the largest in the country. They manage care for over 28,000 seniors.
Why does this matter for seniors? For the most part, it won’t change life for seniors all that much. But, there are some things to keep in mind:
- Communities that used to be owned by small, local companies are now owned and operated by much larger companies. This doesn’t necessarily make that a bad thing. Rather, it’s a fact that senior should keep in mind when shopping for retirement housing.
- It isn’t always clear who owns what. Olive Garden is owned by Darden Restaurants, but you never really see their name. It’s not that they’re being secretive. It’s just that Darden owns about ten other chains of restaurants. Similarly, Sunrise and Erickson are owned by much larger companies. So, when you go visit the campus, remember that you’re visiting part of a much, much larger company that has service lines in dozens of other aspects of real estate and senior housing.
- Get ready for that “big company” feel. On the one hand, large companies having significant ownership stakes in restaurants, shopping centers, and other facets of American life has worked out well for us. We see a Wal-Mart sign, and we know instinctively what types of things we can buy there. It sets our expectations and helps us to understand the types of services offered in one location. On the other hand, we’ve all had the experience of eating at a restaurant that “got too big.” There will be senior housing chains that fail because they cut costs too much and service gets sloppy. There will be others that people flock to because they offer the best service for the best price.
Seniors housing is undergoing a major change. But, at the end of the day, you’ll still be looking for the same things when shopping for senior housing: good care, professional staff, a history of safety, well-kept facilities, and happy residents.
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