SunTrust Banks in Atlanta plans to expand from a mostly regional to a national player in financing nursing homes and other senior housing facilities.

The $205 billion-asset SunTrust’s specialty group provides construction loans, treasury management, working capital and other types of financing to the senior housing industry, which can include skilled nursing, assisted-living and memory-care facilities.

Previously, the business operated mainly within SunTrust's retail footprint and select parts of the Northeast. A spokeswoman said that SunTrust has financed deals for clients outside of those areas, but those deals usually still had some connection to the Southeast. The bank intends to use its existing SunTrust and SunTrust Robinson Humphrey offices for the nationwide rollout.

"We saw an opportunity to fulfill our purpose of advancing financial well-being by addressing the needs of many senior housing providers and communities nationwide who are underserved and require access to capabilities beyond just a traditional bank loan," Jason Cagle, head of commercial banking, said in a press release Thursday.

As the U.S. population ages, the senior care industry has been growing and with it, opportunities for lenders interested in financing this business. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people age 85 or older is expected to grow from 5.6 million in 2010 to 19 million in 2050. That age group would be 24% of the U.S. elderly population and 5% of the entire population.

Wells Fargo, BOK Financial and United Community Banks in Blairsville, Ga., also specialize in financing the senior care industry.

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