Senior Housing News: Mather, JLL Engage with Universities to Draw Students to Senior Living

With the senior living industry facing a workforce crisis, it’s becoming increasingly urgent to draw talented students to the sector. Two different projects, one involving non-profit provider Mather Lifeways and the other involving commercial real estate firm JLL, showcase the potential payoffs if senior living professionals and residents can engage with college students. The projects also highlight some of the challenges in reaching a critical mass of young people.

Inspiring the next generation has been a major goal of the Future Leaders Council of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). Last year, members of the Council launched a “Connect the Ages” campaign to recruit young talent to the industry. In addition, Council members have set a goal of each speaking at one college every year.

That’s what took Joel Mendes, a senior vice president in JLL’s seniors housing capital markets team, to the Ohio State University last fall. There, Mendes participated in a presentation on senior living to students in the university’s real estate program. About 50 students attended, making it a standing-room only event. A handful of students then decided to make senior living a centerpiece of their submission to the eighth annual Eisenberg Real Estate Challenge.

For the challenge, students had to devise plans for an actual parcel of land on the Lake Michigan shoreline just north of Chicago, in the community of Waukegan, Illinois. The OSU team consisted of five students representing different disciplines, including architecture, real estate and finance. They put together their proposal, received further mentorship from Mendes to help shape it, and in April learned that they had been awarded an honorable mention—essentially taking second place in the competition.

While this is just one example of a senior living professional doing meaningful outreach to students, there are several positive takeaways.

For one, there was the large turn-out for Mendes’ presentation. This reflects that students have a strong interest in learning about senior living, according to Seth Brennoch, who was on the team that submitted to the Eisenberg competition. He recently graduated from OSU with a double major in finance and real estate.

“That was one of our best-attended events,” Brennoch told Senior Housing News. “It does seem likely that it was a topic [students] were interested in.”

This interest likely stems from several factors. One is that OSU’s real estate faculty does a good job of explaining a variety of property types to students, including senior living, said Brennoch. Another reason could be that students are having personal experiences with family members entering senior living, he noted. He himself was familiar with typical rents in senior housing because of a family member in assisted living.

There’s also the fact that senior living is gaining more visibility through case competitions like the Eisenberg; some members of the OSU team themselves had gotten interested in senior living when they saw it included in a case competition at Villanova.

“When we saw that, we saw that the financial aspect of it was interesting, different than what we were used to seeing with other types of properties,” Ray Herrera, a finance and accounting major who was on the Eisenberg team, told SHN. “I kept it in the back of my mind for future use. When Joel came to campus, it solidified.”

Despite the successful outcome of his visit to OSU, Mendes has some concerns about student outreach. While visiting individual colleges is certainly worthwhile, there needs to be a larger-scale, concerted effort to recruit young people to the industry, he believes. And that has proven a tough goal to make progress on.

He and other Council members have done outreach to organizations such as the Department of Labor, Department of Education and national guidance counselor trade associations, but have not been able to get much traction, he said. In part, volunteers in the industry—even highly motivated ones—simply might not have the bandwidth needed to make an impact with these types of groups, he said.

And the industry also needs to think carefully about its ambassadors; he suspects that as an investment banker, he faced an added hurdle in trying to convince people that his outreach was truly motivated by good intentions and was not meant to directly make him or his firm money.

So, he’s encouraged that senior living trade associations are taking a more focused and methodical approach on this front. For instance, Argentum recently hired Brent Weil as vice president of workforce development. LeadingAge launched a Center for Workforce Solutions last year.

And NIC itself may be aiding the effort by carrying out and expanding its mission of gathering and distributing robust data about the senior living industry. This is something that the OSU team craved, according to Herrera.

“Information is not readily available,” he said. “And different projects have different dynamics [than ours], the pro formas are more complicated, [so] I think having resources to give more guidance to figure out the economics behind a senior living development, that would help.”

Aged to Perfection

While JLL was engaging with college students interested in the real estate aspect of senior housing, Mather LifeWays was connecting with students focused on social work.

Mather Lifeways operates one life plan community in Tucson, Arizona and one just north of Chicago in Evanston, Illinois, where the organization is based. The nonprofit also runs the Institute on Aging, a research organization that studies and develops best practices in aging services.

In 2016, the Institute awarded a prize to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which had developed a course called “Aged to Perfection.” That course was held at Saint John’s on the Lake near downtown Milwaukee, and featured residents of that CCRC leading classes on a range of topics related to aging.

The Institute on Aging then decided that Mather LifeWays could replicate the course, providing an opportunity to more formally evaluate how the class influences students’ interest in pursuing a career in aging services, and what unique learning aspects might be occurring with older adults being the course instructors, Senior Research Associate Roscoe Nicholson told SHN.

So, the Institute partnered up with Loyola University in Chicago to offer a version of the Aged to Perfection course. It was offered as an independent study this past spring semester. Residents of The Mather, in Evanston, planned the curriculum along with Marcia Spira, Ph.D., the associate dean for academics in Loyola’s School of Social Work.

“Resident interest in participating was high, we had a waiting list for residents who wanted to participate,” Nicholson told SHN.

Generally, residents led class discussions on topics in which they had some particular interest or expertise—a pastor led the class on spirituality, for example. The students were a mix of undergraduates and graduate students, some of whom were already interested in working with older adults and some who were interested in learning more about aging topics.

Initial feedback indicated that both residents and students found the course rewarding.

“I think on the student side, some of them expressed a bit of surprise at how open and willing the older adult instructors were to sharing, to discussing these topics, to really bring out the depth and nuance to their experience of aging and really share some quite personal … life details as these topics were being discussed,” Nicholson said.

Operationally, it’s a relatively easy proposition for senior living providers to facilitate these courses, Nicholson said. Costs might include transportation for bringing students to the senior living community, but costs in general are minimal, Nicholson said. One challenge is going through the necessary steps with the university to add a course to the official catalog—it’s a goal for The Mather to have this listed as a regular class rather than an independent study in the future, and to grow enrollment.

“In the experience of Milwaukee, the first time they had enrollment around what we had with just under 10 students, and now they’ve got waitlists every time they offer it,” Nicholson said.

A more formal evaluation of the course is underway and will be produced as a report that is shared through senior living industry channels, to encourage other organizations to start organizing these types of classes.

Like JLL’s Mendes, Nicholson believes that more systematized and widespread outreach to students is needed to bolster the senior living industry in the future, and he believes that the Aged to Perfection model is promising in this regard.

“You have so many senior living options in proximity to colleges and universities,” he said. “It’s absolutely scalable and reproducible.”

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Washington Business Journal: Mather LifeWays to Develop Premier 62+ Community in Tysons, VA

Mather Lifeways,Chicago-based organization, is now accepting priority reservations for The Mather, a proposed new Life Plan Community for people 62 and better, in Tysons, Virginia.

Life Plan Communities are lifestyle communities in which people can pursue new passions and priorities, with a plan in place that supports aging well. Life Plan Communities provide an important benefit: a continuum of living options, which enables people to plan ahead to access additional services, including health care, if ever needed. Mather LifeWays operates Life Plan Communities in Illinois and Arizona.

Read the full story

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Senior Housing News: Mather LifeWays Bets on Smart Home Tech in $460 Million High-Rise Community

There’s already demand for Mather LifeWays’ newest high-rise project—and it will prominently feature smart-home technology.

“We’ve already received three priority deposits—and the first depositor desires two units on the top floor of the first tower,” Mather LifeWays President and CEO Mary Leary told Senior Housing News of the planned $460 million life plan community opening in Tysons, Virginia, in 2022.

The new community, called The Mather, will be noticeably more modern than its predecessors.

“At the opening of our last community, we thought it was a big deal to have an electronic key card system,” Leary reminisced. But times have changed.

“People are coming to expect that technology will operate lighting, heat and air conditioning, window shades, and track package deliveries,” Leary said. As a result, Mather is looking to integrate smart home technology, like voice-enabled personal assistants that can control smart home devices, into all of the The Mather’s apartment homes.

It’s believed that voice technology can both collect valuable health care data and help older adults age in place for longer periods of time. This has led some senior housing providers, like Glendale, California-based Front Porch, to pilot’s (Nasdaq: AMZN) Echo device and various “smart home” technologies with residents and staff alike.

Additionally, The Mather will feature an automated parking system, which is essentially a valet “car-stacking system where three cars can be packed in a single parking space,” Leary explained.

“This is unusual not only for senior housing communities, but for residential buildings,” she said.

Evanston, Illinois-based Mather LifeWays currently manages three senior housing properties: a life plan community in Evanston, a life plan community in Tucson, Arizona, and an independent living community in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette. The forthcoming life plan community in Tysons—which is a 50/50 joint venture partnership with Illinois-based real estate investment manager Westminster Capital—will comprise two high-rise towers, one that’s 18 stories tall and one that’s 27 stories tall. The towers will also include more than 18,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

Entrance fees at The Mather will range from $650,000 to upwards of $4 million, Leary said. In addition, the community will offer residents two health care plans: a Type A life care contract and a Type B plan, which will offer residents 90 days of care, after which time they’ll have to pay the market rate for services.

The Mather Tysons is likely not the last community in the works for the nonprofit provider.

“We are looking at a couple of additional opportunities,” Leary said.

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PR Newswire: Mather LifeWays to Develop Premier 62+ Community in Tysons, VA

TYSONS, Va., July 10, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Mather LifeWays, a Chicago-based organization, is now accepting priority reservations for The Mather, a proposed new Life Plan Community for people 62 and better, in Tysons, Virginia.

Life Plan Communities are lifestyle communities in which people can pursue new passions and priorities, with a plan in place that supports aging well. Life Plan Communities provide an important benefit: a continuum of living options, which enables people to plan ahead to access additional services, including health care, if ever needed. Mather LifeWays operates Life Plan Communities in Illinois and Arizona.

Building upon Mather LifeWays 75+ years’ experience and success in developing and providing communities and services for older adults, The Mather will feature:

  • Spacious, modern-living floor plans starting at $650,000, including one- and two-bedroom options, some with dens
  • A variety of dining venues designed to deliver distinct culinary experiences, including al fresco dining
  • A fitness center and day spa, including an exercise studio, cardio/weight training center, swimming pool, whirlpool, and steam showers
  • Inspiring social, educational, and cultural opportunities, such as digital media workshops, live music, art + technology seminars, featured lecturers, and much more
  • Culinary package options, plus housecleaning, maintenance, and landscaping services
  • 24-hour concierge, valet parking, scheduled shuttle transportation, and nearby Metro service
  • Priority access to The Mather Life Centre, which provides a full continuum of living options, including assisted living, memory support, and skilled nursing care suites, with various health plan coverage options

“We are excited about our plan to build a forward-thinking Life Plan Community in Tysons,” said Mary Leary, CEO and President of Mather LifeWays. “Tysons is fast becoming a centrally located lifestyle hub that offers unique residential, cultural, dining, and transportation options. Not only will residents enjoy a vibrant community, but they will also benefit from a NextraordinarySM lifestyle that is uniquely Mather. Our amenities and program offerings center around six dimensions of wellness that are supported by research from Mather LifeWays nationally recognized Institute on Aging.”

In addition to wellness-focused lifestyle programs, The Mather will offer well-appointed apartment homes with Smart Home Technology, amenity-rich community spaces, and lush green space. “The Mather will be luxury of a different kind for leading-edge Boomers who wish to plan ahead to live life to the fullest,” said Leary.

The Mather will provide numerous benefits in the area, including:

  • Increased housing options for older adults who desire maintenance-free living
  • Added retail on Westpark Drive that will activate the streetscape and enhance walkability
  • Significant green space, with all parking and loading below grade
  • An urban park with walking paths, sitting areas, an urban green, a dog park, and a connection to existing neighborhood trails.

The Mather is projected to open in 2022. Pricing will include a one-time entrance fee that is 90% refundable to the resident or resident’s estate, and a monthly service fee. Prices will be dependent upon apartment size, location, service package, and health plan selected.

Priority reservations are currently being accepted. Priority Members will have priority in selecting an apartment home and view, can secure preconstruction prices, and be able to customize apartment home finishes. Interested individuals can become Priority Members by providing a fully refundable $1,000 deposit.

For more information about The Mather, or to become a Priority Member, please visit, call (703) 348-8522, or email

About Mather LifeWays

Mather LifeWays is a unique, non-denominational not-for-profit organization founded more than 75 years ago to enhance the lives of older adults. Dedicated to developing and implementing Ways to Age WellSM, Mather LifeWays creates programs, places, and residences for today’s young-at-heart older adults. These include providing a continuum of living and care; supporting neighborhoods in being better places for older adults to live, work, learn, contribute, and play; and identifying, implementing, and sharing best practices for Ways to Age Well. Mather LifeWays is based in Evanston, Illinois. To learn more about Mather LifeWays senior living residences in Illinois and Arizona, community-based initiatives, and Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, visit

Mather LifeWays is partnering on this development with Westminster Capital LLC, Lake Forest, Illinois.

About Westminster Capital

Westminster Capital manages real estate investment strategies on behalf of private wealth capital through commercial property investments across the United States in Industrial/Distribution, Apartments, Medical Office and Senior Living properties. Founded in 1988, the firm is headquartered in Lake Forest,

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