The problems of the pandemic have prompted many non-profit operators working with the elderly to think about joining forces. The latest example of this trend is in New Jersey, where three communities are merging into one.
Friends Village in Woodstown, Good Shepherd House in Hacketstown, and Pines Village in Whiting, NJ, come together under the banner of FellowshipLife. Once the ink dries, the new organization will cover 888 independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled care units.
Organizations are teaming up not only to scale, but to cope with the new and challenging environment for non-profit senior housing operators with one site. By joining, the united organization will have more resources and stability to get through difficult times.
According to Brian Lawrence, who is leading the new organization as CEO, Basking Ridge, New Jersey-based FellowshipLife brings the three communities under one banner, but they won’t be rebranding to reflect affiliation.
“We believe that every affiliated community should be self-reliant,” Lawrence told Senior Housing News. “Just like in your own family, every child is unique. You want to honor and respect this uniqueness; so for us, all these communities are part of our family, but we honor this uniqueness.”
Problems breed renewal
The trend towards non-profit memberships for seniors began to heat up in the midst of the pandemic, with life planning communities tackling issues like safety, staffing, and working in the black.
“We turn on the news every day and there are a lot of mergers and acquisitions going on,” Lawrence said. He noted that the life of the elderly may be a little overdue, as “hospitals have been joining and merging for a number of years before [senior living],” He said.
Recent examples of this trend in action are the operators of the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society and Ebenezer, whose parent health organizations are seeking to join forces. Ohio Living and Brio Living Services announced in January that they were seeking to join due to “rapid changes in post-Covid seniors living and services,” according to a potential affiliation announcement.
For Fellowship Life, the idea of an appropriate affiliation is similar.
Lawrence understands that while the Covid-19 pandemic was a unique scenario, the economic hardship in older people’s lives is cyclical, often resulting in a whirlwind of deals. “It’s always for the same reasons,” he said, whether it’s the pandemic, regulatory hurdles, or economic issues.
“When you have scale and, I would say, concentrated experience and support, you can weather these storms much more easily than a single site community,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence believes that by coming together under one roof, Fellowship Life will be better able to handle the challenges of today’s economy, such as recruiting, IT infrastructure upgrades, marketing, and compliance.
“Change and new connections will help bring stability to all communities,” Lawrence told SHN.
One of the benefits he expects from membership will be to improve his presence in the labor market by creating opportunities for employees to move up the career ladder.
“Growth helps us hire and retain talented people who would otherwise go further if we didn’t have a career path for them,” Lawrence added.
FellowshipLife launched its new website last week and the company is already gearing up for the next chapter by updating some of the communities.
The organization is adding 107 residential apartments for the elderly, multiple dining facilities, a swimming pool and a fitness center as part of the new Fellowship Village campus in Woodstown. In addition, the organization is adding a “medical spa” that will offer services such as intravenous vitamins, Botox fillers, laser treatments, and cool sculpting.
In fact, healthcare services is one area where the combined organization would like to grow. The organization recently named Laura Sharp to the position of Vice President of Clinical Services.
“We have created a state-of-the-art medical practice with a beautiful waiting room and examination rooms, and we are going to open it up to the wider public as well,” Lawrence said.