Fresh out of the Georgia Institute of Technology, after studying building construction, Tim Gary recognized an opportunity in a relatively new type of product: retirement homes.
Gary started his first retirement home project in 1996 and has never looked back. But the industry veteran recently embarked on a new chapter, launching Galerie Living in 2017. With four communities in the Atlanta area, Galerie is poised to bring its luxury brand Corso to the subway. from Washington, DC.
And, Gary has become a tech entrepreneur with a product called Fynn, an integrated technology platform specifically designed for senior residences, which is currently under development.
Despite the hurdles posed by Covid-19 and the intense staffing challenges faced by providers, Gary is optimistic about the future of seniors’ lives – but he believes providers need to gain a better understanding of their basics. consumers, adjust operations and develop products to meet the new generation of seniors.
The Gallery model
Gary’s first retirement home project was located in his hometown of Commerce, Georgia, and the community largely resembled other properties built in the mid to late 1990s.
âThat was our first revelation: ‘Hey, this is what the market is building, but maybe we should be building something a little different,â he told Senior Housing News.
For example, a common practice at the time was to provide common areas behind buildings, primarily to “hide” residents from visitors. Gary observed that this was not conducive to socialization and moved the amenity spaces accordingly.
Gary continued to innovate by creating the Noble Village brand in a family business; when his father retired, Gary went on his own and founded Galerie.
The Galerie portfolio includes three communities under the Village Park brand and one under the Corso brand.
The Village Park brand offers market-rate rents – Gary estimated at around $ 6,000 per month, depending on the market – but communities include innovative approaches to design and operation.
Village Park Milton, for example, won first prize in the Assisted Living category at the 2021 Senior Housing News Architecture & Design Awards. Galerie Living’s in-house design team collaborated with THW Design on concepts, including bungalows. and cottages, and a pocket park that connects with a nearby equestrian park.
The Corso brand offers an even more upscale experience, with monthly rates closer to $ 12,000, Gary said. Corso combines luxurious design elements with high customer service. In fact, the community has an additional layer of management, comprising both an executive director and general managers, and management specifically focused on customer service in various facets of operations.
âWe tapped into the hospitality world to bring that expertise and put that extra layer of management at the top,â Gary said.
Training staff in customer service practices is also essential. Seniors’ service providers typically spend a lot of time training staff on care, but customer service is too often overlooked, according to Gary.
âCovidâ¦ made us realize that we need to put two to three times more effort into the customer service component of opening the doors and giving thanks and thanks,â he said.
The Village Park and Corso communities operate on a rental basis, not entry fees, although they include a continuum of care. While Gary doesn’t think qualified nursing care is a necessity to be included, he does believe consumers increasingly want and expect health care to be available as they age.
This builds on his ongoing investigation into changing consumer needs and preferences, which he sees undergoing a transformation. And Gallery adapts in various ways. For example, the company is turning to post-tensioned concrete and steel construction, which allows greater flexibility by reducing load-bearing interior walls.
âWe hear it from the consumer, ‘I like what you do from a common space perspectiveâ¦ but when I get there, I might want a bigger closet. And if they want a bigger closet and it costs $ 100,000, that customer won’t hesitate to spend the money, âGary said. âSo you have to have a building that has a structure that allows you to be flexible and move the walls. “
He says the demand for luxury senior residences is strong enough and the Corso offering is differentiated enough to be successful even in a market that is seeing an influx of new offerings like Washington, DC.
âWe’re going to open it 40% pre-released, and it will follow the same as all of our other projects – we’ll be 90% right within 12 months,â he said.
A third Corso project is also in preparation and could be announced before the end of 2021.
An integrated technological platform
From the start of his senior career, Gary pursued an integrated model of development, ownership and operation. Although he considered working with a third-party operator, he did not believe that sufficient alignment could be achieved.
âI think it’s improved a lot, but I think we’re still struggling with it,â he said.
The lack of integrated, custom-designed technology to support retirement home operations was, in his view, a major obstacle to achieving the owner-operator alignment. He aims to change that by creating such a technology platform, creating a separate company to build the product, which has been dubbed Fynn.
âEveryone in our company is from one of the biggest tech start-ups or a big existing tech companyâ¦ we have some very talented people on our team,â he said.
Currently, senior housing operators typically work with a variety of tech products that they’ve put together, but that don’t fit seamlessly or produce clean, actionable data.
Having such data will be increasingly essential for a variety of reasons, Gary believes. In terms of strengthening alignment between owners and operators, this information is needed for stronger and more effective reporting, for at-a-glance information on how communities are performing and where gaps are coming from.
Being able to capture health metrics using technologies such as sensors and analytics and artificial intelligence capabilities is also increasingly essential, in order to support more proactive care. Insurers, physician groups and other healthcare organizations are starting to see the role that retirement homes play in the global continuum, and retirement home providers need to reduce their demands for care-related personnel. and increase length of stay to stabilize net operating income.
âIt’s about providing a very predictive healthcare model, which will require a huge amount of data,â Gary said.
Suppliers also need integrated technology to meet consumer health and wellness expectations. Making health data available to residents and families through an app is part of the Fynn model.
âWe’re going to have a more active senior who is ready to be proactive in their health care,â Gary said. âThis consumer today already wears an Apple Watch, he is already aware of being proactiveâ¦ so again, you have to have the physical structure that allows him to be proactive. And then you have to have the technology behind it.
Currently, the Fynn platform is vendor-tested, and Gary expects to have a minimum viable product by the first quarter of 2022, with a full product by the end of next year.
He is not the only senior executive who recognizes the need for an integrated technology platform, and further efforts are being made to create one. Glennis Solutions, for example, originated from Atria Senior Living and now provides the bespoke operating technology created by the large-scale Louisville-based supplier.
Gary predicts that two or three integrated solutions will eventually dominate the market, although he believes the area will get more crowded first and then consolidation will occur.
And he expects healthy demand for Fynn, in part because current industry challenges – including severe labor shortages – should still force owners and operators to invest in technology that can ease the burden on the workforce by supporting smarter staffing models.
From a broader perspective, he repeatedly stresses the need to focus on the future consumer and hopes that the pandemic will not discourage new and innovative developments in the sector.
“I really hope the industry will continue to invest more money in what they develop, thinking about it a lot, because the consumer is there, there is a huge demand – it’s just that consumers want this they want, and we ‘We have to make sure that we respond to what they want,’ he said.