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Delving into the Senior Living sector IN SPAIN: an interview with Eduardo Diaz of Emera

Eduardo Díaz is the Business Development Manager at Emera, an entity dedicated to the management of nursing homes. As business development manager, his main task is to identify opportunities for the opening of new Emera residences.

How has Emera’s growth been?

Emera was founded in France in 1987. We now operate in several countries such as Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain and Ireland. We currently have approximately 80 residences in all countries, with more than 9,400 beds.

In Spain, we started in 2017 with a management team with extensive experience. In 2019, we opened the first Emera residence in our country. In these five years, we have managed to create a platform of 17 operational residences. But beyond the volume or speed of growth, what I would highlight the most in these years is the effort made to provide a differentiating and high quality service care, which takes place in residences that are very well cared for from the point of view of design and decoration, approaching a hotel concept. All this has meant that we now benefit from a high level of recognition within the social and healthcare sector.

What is the current aging situation and how does this affect the Senior Living sector in Spain?

Spain is one of the most aged countries in the world, occupying the first positions in the world ranking. The trend is for the country to continue to age. In 2022 there were 9.7 million people over 65 years of age and it is estimated that by 2030 there will be 11.7 million. This represents an increase of 22% in only 8 years. These demographics have a direct impact on the Senior Living sector in our country.

The current stock is insufficient to meet demand, and the coverage ratio is below the minimum accepted in the sector. In addition, it should be taken into account that a large part of the stock is outdated and does not meet current market standards or the regulations required for new construction centers. The demographic trends of an aging population will only accentuate the imbalance between supply and demand.

Over the last 8 years, the Senior Living sector in Spain has attracted a great deal of investor interest, which has allowed the development of new residences and the gradual consolidation of a very fragmented market with numerous small operators. The coming years will see a continuation of this process of investment attraction and market consolidation.

We expect the first few months of 2024 to be a continuation of the investment “standstill” experienced during 2023, driven by rising interest rates. This fact hinders the execution of new projects, but at the same time generates an opportunity by increasing the imbalance between supply and demand, thus increasing occupancies in those residences in operation. For this reason, the projects we currently have underway, either under construction or in the licensing phase, should benefit from this imbalance when they open.

Given this scenario, what has been your differentiating element?

In the sector, it can seem difficult to differentiate oneself and standardization tends to be the norm. It is in the quality of service where we want to make an important effort to differentiate ourselves. This quality of service must be perceived by the resident and families and transmitted by word of mouth.

Emera is a company dedicated to the care of the elderly, so providing welfare to society is the reason for our activity. We are a reference in Spain in the application of social and health initiatives that help the well-being of our residents.

We are at the forefront in the implementation of a restraint-free model, we currently have thirteen centers certified by CEOMA and during 2024 we expect to certify the rest. In addition, we are pioneers in Spain in the implementation of the concept of “dementia-friendly centers”, with three centers already certified.

Based on regulatory requirements, we have developed well-defined processes and protocols that are monitored and reviewed periodically to ensure the provision of a quality service and, above all, the good governance of the residences and the group as a whole.

What technological solutions do you use and what role do they play in the security and care of your residents in Spain?

Technology helps us to provide a higher quality of service in our residences. In terms of security, an indispensable element in our residences are video surveillance cameras in common areas and corridors.

In addition, many of them have a facial recognition system at the main entrance of the residence. Through this system, our residents can wander freely throughout the center, but if their ability to orient themselves is altered and going outside would be a risk for them, these cameras warn us so that they do not leave without a companion.

Our Special Care Units, for people with certain pathologies, are also equipped with technology that allows residents to live autonomously and roam freely in these units. For example, exit doors are made invisible (to avoid exit anxiety), noise and light are controlled with sound and light meters to avoid behavioral disorders, mirrors with special illumination facilitate orientation, therapeutic kitchens, ultra-low beds and other sensory stimulation elements.

In addition, activities for the channeling of emotions with robot therapies, such as the robot cat, snoezelen rooms, etc., are carried out. Technology is also used for entertainment and leisure: 3D glasses, tablets that are also used for video calls with the family, etc.

Technology also helps us to have a better control of the residents’ medical records and their follow-up, through the computer program, improving the individualized care plan for the resident.

Another example of technology applied to security is the geolocation bracelets for certain residents that we will be implementing throughout 2024. These bracelets will allow us to know their location when they leave the center on their own, monitor their vital signs, know if they have suffered a fall, etc.

What future projects or plans do you have at Emera?

Our objective now is to continue growing based on a defined expansion plan, focused on certain cities where we feel we must be present due to their low level of coverage, such as Valencia, Alicante, Castellón, Seville, Málaga or Madrid, among others.

In January 2024, work began on a new residence in Madrid, and we expect to start work on two other residences during 2024.