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John Temple, Chief Operating Officer for A Place for Mom, Talks with the Senior Care Investor

Click here to listen to the interview. It was conducted on The SeniorCare Investor on September 11, 2008.

Below please find the transcript of the interview mentioned above.

SeniorCare Investor Managing Steve Monroe recently spoke with John Temple, COO of A Place for Mom. Their conversation covers the database of facilities covered by A Place for Mom, how they are chosen, and what their customers are looking for.

Steve Monroe: Okay, I'm here today with John Temple. He's the chief operating officer of A Place for Mom. John, when did A Place for Mom start, and what is your primary service?

John Temple: We started in 2000. Our primary service is as a national elder care referral service. So we provide personal, professional assistance to families across the country, helping them find senior care.

Steve Monroe: And how do you do that?

John Temple: We have 300 elder care advisors that are located throughout the U.S.-all the major metropolitan areas all the way down to probably the tertiary markets. When people inquire with us, we refer them to our advisors who are expert in options in their particular area. They help the family directly.

Steve Monroe: How many properties do you have in your database, and what's the approximate breakdown between skilled nursing, assisted living, and independent living?

John Temple: We have about 14,000 properties in our database under contract with us. The dominant number is assisted living: we have between 6,000 and 7,000 assisted living properties on there. We have about probably 2,000 independent living and about 2,000 home care. We've got probably 2,000 or 3,000 skilled nursing, as well.

Steve Monroe: Okay. What property type are your customers mostly looking for?

John Temple: Well, most of our customers come to us looking for a nursing home, because that's what the consumer still understands, as far as that term goes. However, the vast majority of them don't have a skilled nursing need. The majority of them are much better suited for assisted living or independent living. And so as a result we end up placing the majority in assisted living and then, second, independent living.

Steve Monroe: Over the life of A Place for Mom, has that changed at all in terms of people thinking they need skilled nursing, but they really need assisted living? Is there any education getting out there from the industry?

John Temple: I think it is getting out there. However, if you still look at the search trends over the web that are highly quantified, "nursing home" as an inquiry is still dominant, and is a far larger term than "assisted living."

Steve Monroe: Who's doing the looking? Is it the child? Is it the proverbial oldest daughter, or is the actual senior calling you up or going to your website?

John Temple: The vast majority of the time it is the oldest daughter.

Steve Monroe: So that's still a truism for the industry.

John Temple: Yes, definitely.

Steve Monroe: And what's the most important feature that they're looking for when they either talk to you or go on the website? Besides location, is it price comparison? Is it the services? Is it the level of care? What's the most important?

John Temple: Really, it's probably the level of care. Certainly price is crucial, so once we have options for them in a particular price range, then it really becomes level of care. What services do they need from a purely clinical standpoint? That really homes us in on the things that you can choose from that would work. But then the really interesting part becomes, for the family, when they go on tour. When they go and talk to (people at) the properties.

Steve Monroe: What has changed over the past six or seven years? What has changed with regard to what your customers are not necessarily looking for, what they are looking for and where they end up going? Are there any trends that you see going on?

John Temple: Well, most recently, particularly this summer, probably in the last two months, we've noticed a fairly substantial shift in the move-ins that we're getting out there. Over the course of time, we've been tremendously consistent in our mix between a certain number of, or certain percentage of assisted living moves, a certain percentage of independent living moves, and a certain percentage of skilled nursing moves. We do it in enough volume that it's very, very consistent. In the last two months, we have seen a notable shift from assisted living over towards independent living. We thought that was very interesting. It was puzzling to us because, initially, with the downturn in the housing market, we were anticipating that independent living would be more vulnerable and decline, whereas need-driven assisted living would be invulnerable. What we believe is happening is that the independent livings are offering more home care or contracted-in services so that they can compete with assisted livings. They're both doing that more, and particularly what we see is families are choosing that option because that's what they can afford now. As a result of tighter economic times, independent living plus a limited amount of home care winds up being more economical than assisted living all by itself.

Steve Monroe: You say this has been in the last two months?

John Temple: It's been about a two-month thing.

Steve Monroe: And you're watching this?

John Temple: Yep. We're watching it very carefully, because it's a big shift.

Steve Monroe: And a very important one. How does A Place for Mom actually make its money?

John Temple: A Place for Mom is a referral service, so we are like a real estate broker or an apartment finder. We are free for all properties to sign up, there's no charge. We only make money when we bring a property a move-in, a family who ultimately moves into them. And then when we do, then we get a percentage of the first month's charges and that's our referral.

Steve Monroe: Paid by the property.

John Temple: Paid by the property.

Steve Monroe: Not by the individual.

John Temple: Always free to the families.

Steve Monroe: Okay. If you look at the whole industry and you have 14,000 properties under contract, what percent of the move-ins nationally do you think A Place for Mom is responsible for today?

John Temple: We are probably responsible for 2 to 3 percent of the private pay move-ins nationally.

Steve Monroe: That's pretty good. Do you see that growing?

John Temple: It's absolutely going to grow. We've been growing as a company at a rate of between 50 to 70 percent a year, and I don't see that slowing down any time soon.

Steve Monroe: Wow, that's fabulous. Well, thank you very much, John Temple, chief operating officer of A Place for Mom, for spending some time with me today.

John Temple: My pleasure.

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