Independence Days

Entrepreneurs offering a compassionate option to nursing homes are fueling the $12 billion assisted living industry.

Growing up in the nursing home business taught Philadelphia entrepreneur Irving Seldin one thing: Nursing homes left a lot to be desired. The problem wasn't that Seldin's family ran inferior homes. The problem was the concept itself. "I had an aversion to the whole institutional setting,' Seldin says. People were being treated like patients, not individuals, even when they weren't in need of real medical care.

Like most people, Seldin saw the need for alternatives. But unlike most people, he made it his business to create them. When his father decided to retire in the early 1980s, Seldin worked with him to convert one of the family's homes into a new kind of residenqce: Seniors would have access to help with daily living--transportation, meal preparation, bathing and laundry, for example--without being subjected to the loss of privacy and individual identity common to many traditional nursing homes.

When Seldin opened the Chestnut Hill Residence in 1982, he called his concept "personal care.' At the time, his was one of several fledgling ventures to enter the uncharted territory that's now known as "assisted living.' Today, assisted living represents a major growth area for entrepreneurs with the compassion and skill to tap into it. The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) estimates current industry revenues at $12 billion--and they are expected to hit $30 billion by the year 2000.

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This article was originally published in the July 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Independence Days.

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