Assisted living boom predicted in Italian cities

The head of Korian Italy says assisted living is the next big opportunity in Italian elderly care. We speak to her, and an Italian healthcare consultant to find out more.

“I think in the next two to three years, assisted living could take off in big Italian cities,” says Andrea Minciarelli of Your Care Consult. “If you’re in downtown Milan you’ll probably be paying towards €3,000-3,500 a month. For a less central urban area, you’d be paying around €2,500-3,000.”

“I’m convinced that in Italy there is a demand for this kind of offering, but it’s dormant. It needs to be awakened through specific marketing, where consumers see evidence of independent living, instead of purely seeing nursing homes.”

Currently, elderly Italians have recourse to home carers called badanti which cost an average of €1,500-2,000 a month, according to Minciarelli. Add to that the cost of living in your own home and you’re not far off from the average monthly cost of a residence in assisted living.

“You’re better off paying the same fee but in an assisted living residence,” claims Minciarelli. “Not only would everything in the home be taken care of, but you would have access to care without having to organise this yourself.”

Mariuccia Rossini, head of Korian Italy, says her group has already opened a small facility in Brescia, Lombardia.

“Currently it is not possible to consolidate existing structures, as there are so little on the market, in Lombardia there’s a few protected apartments but it’s a low amount,” says Rossini. “So in order to develop assisted living, we need to start building.”

She adds badanti have no formal qualifications, which can cause problems with the quality of care.

According to Minciarelli, Korian is going to be an important player in this market but new operators backed by private equity could also make an appearance. He tells us a private equity-backed operator attempted to develop a facility in the Milan area a few years ago, but it fell through due to problems with building permission. Market research on the area showed “an extremely positive response” to assisted living.

In 2015, French assisted living specialist Aegide-Domitys, alongside property developer Nexity, built a facility of 124 apartments in Bergamo, Lombardia, with the property company Immobiliare Percassi which owns the real-estate.

“I predict that the high-end of the assisted living market will be developed like it was in France, with fully dedicated facilities in urban and central locations (as opposed to a mix of assisted living and nursing home beds),” says Minciarelli. “But I imagine that within five years when the product is more known, we’ll see the kind of mixed structure they have in Germany. This is where two separated buildings are built close by, so that people can transfer from assisted living to a nursing home facility with ease when they lose independence.”

Our Analysis : It will be interesting to see whether Italians are willing to part with their badanti and move into assisted living. Currently, there are about 45 badanti per 100 elderly citizens aged 75+, compared to 10 nursing home beds. If the idea catches on, the potential for growth is very significant.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Anaïs Charles or call 0207 183 3779.