4 Memory Care Operators to Watch in 2024

4 Memory Care Operators to Watch in 2024

High acuity senior living could continue to see strong demand based on favorable demographic shifts, and operators will keep evolving to meet the changing consumer dynamic in the years ahead. 

From building outwards with future growth via acquisition or through ground-up development, organizations are moving forward on a range of higher-acuity senior living models.

What follows is a list of senior living memory care operators worth keeping an eye on in 2024:

The Aspenwood Company 

The Aspenwood Company is currently engaged in a growth spurt, with a strategy of “explosive” growth through acquisitions.

But central to Aspenwood’s growth and evolution is a memory care program called Soar, launched in 2023. The research-based program was brought about through a partnership with Rice University’s Neuroscience of Memory, Mood and Aging Lab and David Troxel, co-creator of the Best Friends Approach.

“We recognize that while memory care is one of the smallest areas that we serve, as far as our portfolio goes, those are the residents who need us to speak up the loudest for them, because they may not have that ability to do so for themselves,” Tussing told Senior Housing News.

The research-based program incorporates elements provided from a partnership with Rice University as well, and has a daily schedule for memory care residents, though it often includes starting the day with some kind of exercise to “ramp their day up” and ending with relaxation techniques.

The Soar Program focuses largely on “purpose points” for residents, such as a workbench and a “man cave” that has safe games for residents to utilize such as round dart balls.

“The purpose points are things that our residents can do individually for one on one with a caregiver, to help them feel that sense of purpose,” Tussing said.

That focus on research-based programming, coupled with the company’s fast growth in 2024 and beyond, make Aspenwood a memory care operator to watch this year.

Willow Valley Communities

Willow Valley Communities, headquartered in senior living hotbed Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is expanding its memory care offerings and continuing on broader development to keep pace with projected future demand.

Adding it is Lakes Campus, Willow Valley Communities is bringing the internationally-renowned model from the Hogeweyk senior living community in The Netherlands to the new memory care center that will add 140-units on a 7-acre campus. The new memory care center will be in a village-style design with multiple neighborhoods and allow flexibility, with the needed security in place, for residents to have freedom of movement around the property.

“Memory care is as important as ever,” said Willow Valley Communities President and COO Craig Thompson in a recent interview with SHN. “We’re not just building a memory care center. We’re going to do something that is on the leading edge and we have not let off the accelerator at all.”

A groundbreaking for the new memory care center is set for this month and construction is slated to be complete by the end of 2025, with phase one including the commons building, shared amenities and three stand-alone buildings to form the first neighborhood on the campus, Willow Valley Communities Charitable Foundation Executive Director Lauren Renehan told SHN.

Alongside its growth in memory care, Willow Valley is also gearing up for an urban senior living high-rise community known as the Mosaic in downtown Lancaster that includes 146 independent living units in a 20-story building. As a life plan community, health care components will be offered to residents “if needed,” according to Willow Valley Development Corp. CEO John Swanson.

Amenities for the future high-rise include a spa, fitness center, pool, ballroom, restaurant, rooftop bar and more. Elements of the community will also be open to the public to promote intergenerational connections.

The Mosaic is currently in pre-sales with Willow Valley anticipating that by next spring, the company will have reached its needed pre-sale mark to close on financing and get construction started in fall of 2025, Swanson said.

Through innovative design for its memory care center and progress on future development, Willow Valley Communities is a provider to watch in the memory care space and beyond this year.

The Moments

With a single location in the Minneapolis area, The Moments is almost surely not a memory care operator on the radar of most. But the company has over the years made a name for itself in high-end memory care, and it is now ready to take its model elsewhere in the state and potentially beyond.

The company last year added to its currently-92-suite flagship campus in Lakeville, Minnesota, with a new expansion that took second place in the standalone memory care category of the 2023 Senior Housing News Architecture and Design Awards.

The expansion added 60 units with a “luxury, boutique hotel feel,” according to Owner Elizabeth Wright, alongside large open spaces prioritizing natural light, a spa, salon, arts and crafts room and a theater.

Although the company’s buildings carry a resort-style, luxurious vibe, Wright said she will continue to stress operations over real estate.

“If you don’t have the operations, it will be a really beautiful, but empty, building,” Wright told Memory Care Business in 2024. “So, making sure that the operations are scalable – that’s really what the grand plan is.”

Now that it has established itself in the area, Wright said The Moments is on the move this year. The company has plans to take its assisted living and memory care model to two additional campuses in Chanhassen and Wayzata, Minnesota. And there could be more beyond that – though Wright is unsure what comes next after The Moments’ current projects, she said she and the company are ready for more.

“Ultimately, my dream for this company is to set the market for memory care,” Wright said. “If it means we have five communities, okay; if it means we have 25, even better; and if it means that we have the ability to really take it nationwide – great.”

Those aspirations, coupled with the company’s hard-won experience creating high-end memory care, make The Moments a company to watch in 2024.

Sage Oak Assisted Living and Memory Care

Sage Oak is not a large memory care operator, with four small-home locations in the Dallas area. What the company lacks in size, however, it makes up for in forward-thinking operations.

Earlier this year Sage Oak launched a new memory care model focused on personalization, Curated Care. The program groups residents who have similar outcomes and abilities into different households using health information and data provided by their families. For example, residents living with the same cognitive issues might all live in the same property together.

Using that approach, Sage Oak workers could more easily care for residents while providing the kind of personalized service that incoming older adults will no doubt desire. And in doing so, Sage Oak CEO Loe Hornbuckle believes it will help ease the stigma associated with needing memory care services.

“If we can create these different offerings then we can reach people sooner and avoid the stigma,” Hornbuckle told Memory Care Business earlier this year. “We have to be willing to try different approaches to things and it’s harder than lumping everyone together, but we’re focused on great outcomes.”

He added: “This is going to be a transformative change in how we approach things.”
Sage Oak’s efforts fit into a larger trend by memory care operators to offer services that are more personalized for residents. And Hornbuckle is plugged into several other trends at the leading edge of the industry, including to do with technology and staffing, making the operator one to watch for more innovation in 2024.

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