I received a flyer recently about an elder care educational opportunity in Atlanta. The speakers included Eloy Van Hal, Founder of the Hodeweyk (Dementia Village), The Netherlands and Scott Tarde, CEO of the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers in California. On the flyer he is also billed as the “the innovator behind The Glenner Town Square featured in the Wall Street Journal and on ABC’s Nightline.”
The Hogeweyk (Dementia Village) in The Netherlands has received a great deal of attention. It is a residential facility serving dementia patients. The innovative part is that the facility is built as a town and residents have significant freedom to explore the environment. The videos are fascinating.
I have heard of Hodeweyk before but not the Town Square program. So, I googled it. I learned that Glenner is primarily an adult day center provider with four centers in California. They have four centers. Three appear to be fairly traditional center, but the fourth they have branded as Town Center. The concept is loosely modeled after the Hodeweyk Dementia Village in the sense that everything is geared to reminiscence therapy. In this case, the center is modeled on 50s or 60s small town America. There’s a diner, a post office, pool hall, theatre, and other attractions. It does look pretty neat. The theme is geared towards today’s seniors who were teenagers in the 50s and 60s.
The other thing I learned is that Glenner is in partnership with Senior Helpers to franchise the concept. Senior Helpers is a large successful home care franchise system. In addition to being an interesting new concept in the industry, it has the backing of a well-financed franchise system. There have been several attempts at franchising adult day centers. But, nothing has been a runaway success. SarahCare is the only franchise concept that remains, but several other concepts have failed. Even so, the number of SarahCare units topped out in the mid-twenties, so by franchising standards it hasn’t been a massive success on the scale of the most successful home care franchise systems such as Bright Star, Senior Helpers, or Comfort Keepers.
The Glenner Town Center has gotten me thinking about strategy, competition, and growth opportunities:
- Understand what the conference speaker is selling. The event looks very interesting and informative. It looks like I’m going to learn a lot. Upon, a closer look, I’m sure that Senior Helpers is funding the speakers to promote the sales of franchise opportunities. I’m not adverse to sales and marketing, but I like to know when I’m being sold to. I’m more than a bit cynical about this learning opportunity.
- Is this a good business opportunity? Franchising does not have a great history in the adult day services industry. It initially appears to be a simple business, but really, it is complicated. It doesn’t lend itself to easily replicable systems and processes. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. The largest company in the space is Active Day. They have approximately 100 centers. If it were easy, they would have significantly more.
- Is the market opportunity there? It is easy to share statistics that demonstrate the amazing opportunity that is senior care. Yet, it is also a very local business. How big is the territory around a center? Is it possible to recruit the number of seniors needing care to the center? Sales and marketing is difficult. In this space, it is also highly competitive. There aren’t many adult day programs, but by the time we look at home care, home health, assisted living, nursing homes, and other senior facing programs, the space is crowded.
- How sustainable is the focus underlying concept? I’m impressed by the concept, but I can’t tell if it is something that is sustainable over the long haul or if it is gimmicky and the initial novelty will wear off? The initial marketing appears to be focused on reminiscence therapy. Presumably there will be other activities services offered, the focus might be a bit narrow. It might be a good way to get families in the door though.
- What do I need to do to increase my competitive standing in the marketplace? This is a future competitive threat. It will be several years at least until there is a significant presence in Atlanta. Yet, the opportunity to improve is great. How do we present ourselves to our prospective customers? How important are the visual cues to families when they come to visit? How important is it to make an immediate emotional connection with the caregiving family? Clearly, there is an evolving standard.
I certainly appreciate the innovation in center design. It presents well. I can’t tell from the video on the Web site if the concept really works well for the long term allowing for hyper focus on the individual needs and desires.
What do you think about this concept? Take a look and let me know? For my next article, I’ll do a back of the napkin analysis of this as a business opportunity.