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July 12, 2016 Article 2 min read
In response to changing demographics and needs, a 40-year-old nursing home once again realizes its original vision: to meet seniors’ needs for decades to come.

When their longtime maintenance worker fell ill, the Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery recognized a dire need. There was no nursing home in their community of Villa Hills, Ky.

So they built one.

In 1964, the sisters opened Madonna Manor, a 30-bed nursing home that also offered independent cottages and personal care apartments. (Personal care is a unique level of health care in Kentucky.)

Fast-forward 40 years: as the world of health care evolved, the sisters no longer felt equipped to run the nursing home. They reasoned that a professional management company could realize their vision of a modern facility to meet seniors’ needs for decades to come.

The sisters found their ideal partner in Franciscan Living Communities (FLC). In 2006, they donated the facility and 28-acre property to the Catholic, not-for-profit elder care organization. At that point, FLC faced a decision: renovate, or build new?

The journey: Discovering the needs of seniors, today and tomorrow

Through its market study, FLC discovered that seniors were looking for more lifestyle amenities, space for social interaction, assisted living, and memory care support — needs the 1960s-era building couldn’t meet, says Mark Mullahy, who became executive director of Madonna Manor soon after FLC acquired it.

Demographics had also changed in the Cincinnati suburb, which sits on the Ohio River. Higher home values meant that seniors had the equity to purchase a different level of health care than their parents. And a large population of professional 45- to 64-year-olds had the means to move their parents nearby.

FLC engaged Plante Moran Living Forward™ (PMLF) to conduct a financial feasibility study, which revealed that Madonna Manor could support higher rents that were more in line with other full-service continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). “That meant we could develop amenities that people value, such as common space, and specialized services like memory care,” says Patrick McCormick, PMLF president.

The solution: Moving upmarket

The new Madonna Manor opened in June 2011, transforming into “this beautiful complex with 60 skilled nursing beds, 40 assisted living apartments, and a 24-bed personal care and memory care program,” Mullahy says.

Although most rooms are private, the facility has plenty of common space where residents can socialize and do the things they love.

In January 2016, Madonna Manor launched a state-of-the-art wellness center with fitness equipment, a spa and therapy area, a dining room, and a community gathering space.

This will allow Madonna Manor to attract residents for its next phase — independent living units. Another market study will determine which unit types (apartments, condos, or a combination) will attract area seniors.

The result: Happy return customers

Today, Madonna Manor is at maximum capacity and has a waiting list. Many of its residents are return customers, Mullahy says. “We have people who start at one level of care and come back for a different level.”

Such strong demand means Madonna Manor can keep reinvesting in the community through new capital projects.

Such strong demand means Madonna Manor can keep reinvesting in the community through new capital projects. Madonna Manor has paid down debt from the first phase of construction and built cash reserves that, in combination with some leftover bond money and a gift from FLC’s foundation, allowed it to build the wellness center without taking on new debt.

Mullahy and McCormick encourage senior-living leaders to build a platform that can grow as the needs of seniors change.

“The CEO of Franciscan Living Communities thinks about how to keep this ministry going for the next 40 years,” McCormick says. “Not all leaders do.”