Solutions for Seniors
Craig Ahlstrom Jr. is the fourth generation in his family to develop senior housing. He and his father recently cut the ribbon on Summit at Sunland Springs, a 48-bed memory care community in southeast Mesa.
People aged 65 and older account for 13 percent of the U.S. population. This group is expected to more than double -- to more than 89 million, or a fifth of the population -- by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America estimates the number of older Americans stricken with the disease will rise from 5.1 million in 2010 to 13.5 million in 2050, reinforcing Ahlstrom’s decision to build Summit.
“Right now, memory care is definitely in demand. A lot of seniors unfortunately are showing up with dementia and need help with it. My grandmother had dementia,” Ahlstrom said.
Ahlstrom credits his two W. P. Carey master’s degrees for the confidence to help build and become the director of the new multi-million dollar facility. Building on the Bachelor of Science in business management degree he earned in 2008 from Utah Valley University in Orem, he received a Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) degree in 2009 and just completed his W. P. Carey MBA.
Studying for the MRED and MBA degrees was something of a dress rehearsal for Summit at Sunland Springs, Ahlstrom said, because the project was being developed while he was in school. “I was able to see a lot of the processes that I would be going through with the development of this memory care community before I actually went through them,” he says. For example, MRED students learn to calculate market feasibility, which Craig immediately put into action. “We talked a lot about evaluation of an asset, how you would go out and raise money and how you would pay back investors.”
The interactions with people from diverse backgrounds during his studies helped prepare him for the variety of people he had to deal with to pull the project forward. That included neighbors of the project who wanted some changes.
“Some people are complicated to deal with, and some are not. But you learn a lot in the MBA and MRED program about how to work in groups and get along with people of different backgrounds and different ideas of what’s best,” he added.
And even better, he was able to connect with some of the speakers to seek out contacts that enabled him to secure millions of dollars in financing. “So it’s not always best to sleep during those presentations,” he jokes.”
Sleeping through the details is clearly not Ahlstrom’s style. Quite the opposite, in fact. “I want to be involved in the community creating a difference. I do not want to develop this and leave it to someone else to do it right. I want to do it as I think it should be done.”