Behind the list with J. Nelson Kling

//April 14, 2009

Behind the list with J. Nelson Kling

//April 14, 2009

Q: How do you think the baby boomers will shape senior care?

A: I think the boomers coming in now are going to start
really ramping up the expectations in the electronics, in the wireless systems
(and) Internet access. I would see a boomer saying: “Why can’t I be here in my
room, hit a few buttons, turn on the Web cam, and see my grandkids who are out
in San Francisco? Why can’t I pick up my laptop and start using Facebook or
Twitter or sending an e-mail to wherever?” Electronic systems are going to be
very much in demand.

On the management side, already President (Barack) Obama has
been very clear about pushing us toward electronic medical records. We have
some mandates and some timelines that we as an industry are going to have to
get ourselves in line with. We’re doing some of that now. We have a system
called Care Tracker (that) allows us to capture all of the different procedures
and processes we do as we interact with residents.

The other thing we will see more and more happening is that
the boomers … are going to be saying: “How do you enhance my life? I’m not just
here to be taken care of. What are some things you’re going to do in terms of
education?” And there’s obviously the whole issue of exercise.  You’ve got to become sort of a one-stop


What kinds of reforms would you like to see, if any, with
long-term care funding?

As a provider, we would say, “Can you give us better
reimbursement for what we’re doing?” In the assisted-living arena, if somebody
is (Supplemental Security Income) — which means they’re on state assistance — I
think we’re (reimbursed) either $31 or $32 a day. So, for $31 or $32 a day we
provide for staffing, we provide for three meals a day, we provide for housing,
laundry, housekeeping, the whole nine yards. We can quickly get to the point of
saying “How are we, as providers, supposed to be able to provide the kind of
service the state mandates … when the reimbursement is so low?”

There’s also quite a bit of concern going forward about the
access to capital. We’re very fortunate that we have this whole (renovation)
project; (for) a little more than $13 million is what we’re spending to do it
(It’s already under way.). I know in the go-forward mode there’s a lot of
concern about how do we access the capital we need to build our buildings and
to renovate our buildings and create improved levels of service for our


What kind of effects, if any, are you seeing from the
economic downturn?

Where we’re seeing the economy affect us the most is people
that want to move into our community but they can’t sell their house. Or
they’re trying to sell their house (but say, “One or two years ago it) was
worth $200,000 or $300,000, and now it’s worth $160,000.”


How are you responding to these effects?

We’re looking very closely at our pricing models. We are
looking at partnering to work with a stager to help our clients to look at ways
they can improve the chances (of selling their home and moving into Mennonite
Homes). Obviously, we’ve got to get ourselves into incentives. We’ve got to get
into discounting, sometimes, our entrance-fee amount. Not unlike the car
dealers, if you want $20,000 (for a car) and you’ve got someone who’s going to
offer you $18,000, you know what, you’ll take it. You can do that within
reason. We’ll give (prospective residents) a credit toward their monthly fee,
toward using it to develop some special things they want to do in their garage
or extra shelving.

For more on Mennonite Home Communities’ ongoing renovations,
please see “Hit or miss,” in this issue.

—Paula Holzman

About J.
Nelson Kling

J. Nelson Kling, 58, is originally from Atmore, Ala. He
holds two bachelor’s degrees — one in psychology from Eastern Mennonite
and the other in business from Lebanon Valley College — and is
earning his master’s degree in business administration online. Kling began
working at Mennonite Home Communities in 1990 and held a variety of positions
there before becoming president in 1997. He lives in Lancaster with his wife,
Marie. They have two grown children, Krystal and Jared. Kling enjoys riding
motorcycles cross-country with his wife and is on the board of the Lancaster
Chamber of Commerce & Industry