David Smith and members of The Gatesworth staff recently hosted 12 senior-housing investors and operators from the United Kingdom. Admitting it is decades behind the American model, the group came to gain insight on how they can innovate senior independent-living communities in the U.K.
“After learning of The Gatesworth through their industry trade group, ARCO, these trend-setting executives chose to visit us in St. Louis,” said Smith, who is one of The Gatesworth’s three developers & co-owners.
A New Way to Live
Independent living was a fairly new concept in the United States when Smith, Charlie Deutsch and Bob Leonard came together in the 1980s. At that time, seniors were living in a house, condo, apartment complex or skilled-nursing community. The trio created a market position for a different type of residential experience, and it has seen significant growth over the years.
“This group from the U.K. is probably where we were in the 1980s,” Smith said. “In terms of culture, acceptance and understanding, they are just starting to explore different senior-living models. They wanted to see The Gatesworth because they are looking for premier models they can build.”
Going Through a Great Evolution
Lex Cumber, an England native who was part of the tour group, has a deep background in the space and knows what the industry is currently like back home. The lion’s share of senior housing in the U.K. involves high-acuity care, similar to nursing homes.
Healthcare in the U.K. is free, so many seniors stay home. The cost of healthcare isn’t the same kind of motivator as it is in the U.S.
“They have healthcare packages, but they are struggling to create a residential package,” Smith said. “That’s why they wanted to come here to see what we have done.”
Things are changing in the U.K., but Cumber admitted they still have a great deal of work to do.
“Our senior-living model is going through a great evolution right now,” he said. “We are starting to learn that it is a service opportunity and not just a property transaction. It’s obvious the U.S. is more service-oriented, while the U.K. is more property-oriented.”
According to Cumber, between 5 and 6% of the 65-and-older American population lives in purpose-built accommodations like The Gatesworth. In the U.K., he said it’s less than 1%.
“The free healthcare is certainly part of it, but we aren’t exposed to the product like everyone in America,” Cumber said. “Our senior-living offerings are probably where the U.S. was a couple of decades ago, but we are catching up fast because our population is a little older.”
Changing the Mindset
Retirement-community living is a mindset the U.S. developed decades ago. Seniors throughout the country are either familiar with its benefits or can easily access resources where it is discussed in much more detail. Most adults in the U.S. know someone who currently lives or has previously lived in a senior community.
“If you stop someone on the street in the U.K. and ask them about senior living, they would describe a care home,” Cumber said. “In the U.S., you have these much more active and vibrant arrangements. These people live and live well. That’s the profound difference in my mind.”
“The Answer is Always Yes”
The tour groups Smith hosts are always impressed by the community’s physical nature, but that’s just where everything begins.
“What really differentiates us here is not so much the space, but what happens in the space,” he said. “With approximately 275 employees on the independent-living side, we provide an enormous amount of detail and personalized service.”
The Gatesworth continues to operate with a philosophy that “the answer is always yes.” Its differentiators can be defined through dining options, transportation, personal care, programs, events, beautiful grounds, etc. The senior community’s core values of choice and opportunity lead to independence, well-being and overall satisfaction.
“We are a service-rich environment that happens to have housing,” Smith added. “We are here to create experiences for residents on a personal basis. We are fortunate enough to give our residents many choices because we have the physical space and a large enough staff. We exceed expectations because our team members work hard and have the right attitude.”
More on The Gatesworth
Located in the heart of St. Louis County at Interstate 170 and Delmar Boulevard, The Gatesworth has been the St. Louis region’s premier senior-living community for more than 30 years.
Offering the very best in independent senior living, The Gatesworth features a wide array of spacious retirement rental-community homes, fine-dining options, programs and unparalleled amenities.
Residents live in an elegant space surrounded by beautiful grounds where there are plenty of opportunities to pursue new interests, expand knowledge, embrace independence and build friendships.
Compare the value and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with it. To learn more, please call 314-993-0111.