Porter Hills targets new market

August 15, 2012
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Armen Oumedian’s eyes were open to a handful of signposts by the time his wife of 67 years, Patricia, died last year.

The first, said the Cascade Township resident, was that she received excellent round-the-clock at-home assistance from the cadre of health care workers at Porter Hills Retirement Communities and Services for the last three-and-a-half years of her life.

The second: This is not the at-home care he wanted for himself.

So when Oumedian, 89, learned Porter Hills recently rolled out a new service that reflects how the majority of people want to live out their retirement years — particularly with the more independent-minded baby boomer generation — he didn’t need to think twice before signing on.

“I saw this as a great opportunity to bet on the future that I’d be taken care of in my home in the manner I’m comfortable with,” said Oumedian, who retired in 2000 as senior vice president of a material handling manufacturer.

Dubbed Avenues by Porter Hills, the program, which requires a one-time membership charge and monthly fee, reflects a lesser-known fact: 89 percent of retirees do not pull up stakes and live their retirement years in a nursing home. Said another way, seniors have an overwhelming desire to remain in their own abodes during their advancing years.

Avenues is intended to be a proactive approach to living healthy and independently, with the understanding that, should a person’s health status change, needed services will be made available in one’s home, according to JoAnn Abraham, vice president of sales and marketing.

Avenues is a response to older adults’ expectations and demands for retirement, concludes a market research study commissioned by Porter Hills and conducted in late summer 2011.

Research company Holleran assessed perceptions of retirement community living and interest among area seniors, which included contacting between July 28 and August 19 of last year 650 people, of whom 250, age 65 and older, agreed to be interviewed, said Abraham. The target market was Porter Hills’ 60-mile radius.

The study determined:

**A majority, across all income and age ranges, plan to stay in their current residence as they continue to age.

**Relating to long-term care, “home care” had the greatest percentage of respondents choosing “very positive” and “somewhat positive” with ratings at 69.9 percent.

**Porter Hills Retirement Community had the highest percentage of “very positive” and “somewhat positive” responses out of the six other communities listed at 76.4 percent.

**Those with annual salaries of $50,000 to $59,999 and $60,000 to $69,999 had the highest percentages of “very appealing” for a “stay at home” program at 51.75 percent and 52.5 percent, respectively.

The study also determined the most in-demand stay-at-home services are: help with housekeeping, cleaning, laundry (45.5 percent); a monitoring system for emergencies (44.6 percent); and one-stop shopping for all these types of services (40.4 percent).

Moreover, Holleran’s research determined at-home services are on older adults’ radar: 54.9 percent said that they might need the services a stay-at-home program provides in five or more years from now, and 60.7 percent indicated the state of the economy and its effect on housing values makes them “more interested” in a stay at home program.

“(Since) 89 percent of American seniors do not move to a retirement community, we’re serving less than 11 percent of the population,” said Abraham. “How do we serve the greater segment of the population who want to remain in their own homes?”

The answer in Porter Hills’ case starts by whittling who qualifies for Avenues, which is healthy, independent adults 50 and older who pay a one-time membership fee based on age starting at $40,000 to $45,000, and a monthly flat fee of $375 regardless of age. Compared to on-site nursing services at Porter Hills averaging $9,000 a month, which increases annually, Avenues is a more affordable option, said Abraham.

Because Oumedian is 89, his membership cost $75,000, but compared to the $120,000-plus he paid annually for his wife’s care, he said he considers Avenues a more cost effective option.

“This program that’s connected with Porter Hills is a meaningful addition to our community,” said Oumedian, a member of the Porter Hills Foundation board.

Services clients receive for their money adapt as their needs change and include a bi-annual in-home safety assessment, home nursing care, a personal relationship with a wellness coordinator who’s available 24/7, homemaker services, live-in companions, delivered meals and adult day care.

It’s a better deal than long-term care insurance, said Abraham. Most long-term care insurance plans only focus on preserving assets, according to a Porter Hills’ press release. The Avenues program is comprehensive because it provides and coordinates services for its members through the development of close relationships between members and a wellness coordinator, and Avenues eliminates long-term care requirements such as elimination periods and other loopholes.

“Long-term care insurance is quite expensive,” said Abraham. “Our program provides you with resources if and when you need long-term care. Long-term care insurance may have restrictions that do not cover everything. Porter Hills gives you services from day one and it’s more comprehensive and proactive.”

Those who apply must be “relatively healthy” said Abraham, meaning they are already living independently and are willing to have their medical records reviewed by a wellness coordinator, who is actually a registered nurse, with final approval given by a medical director.

“The key words are ‘healthy’ and ‘independent,’” said Abraham. “The baby boomers are geared on a different lifestyle and expectations.” Those with “high medical needs” and extreme diagnosis probably do not qualify for Avenues, said Abraham.

Advances has been in the development stage for four years and involved doing on-site visits to 14 at-home programs across the nation. The program was launched in July.

“Our first-year goal is conservative, with two people enrolling per month,” said Abraham. “It’s a longer sales process.”

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