A slam dunk to increase move-ins?

Lois A. Bowers
Lois A. Bowers

When you walked by resident rooms or apartments last week, did you hear college basketball games on their television sets? If you overheard residents talking during dinner or happy hour, were they discussing brackets? Does this month's activities calendar include a trip to the local college for some tournament action?

If hoops aren't part of your present, they could be part of your future, according to Ben Hanowell, data scientist for senior living referral service A Place for Mom.

About 35% of baby boomers are NCAA basketball fans, he said, noting that members of the generation will represent more than half of the 65+ population in two years. And “diehard NCAA fans tend to be more affluent than the average American,” Hanowell said.

Those facts present an interesting opportunity for at least some senior living community developers and owners.

Hanowell crunched the numbers to determine the best U.S. metro areas for older adults to retire to if they love basketball. Is your community located in one of these cities, or are you planning to build or buy there?

  1. Louisville, KY (Louisville Cardinals)
  2. Lexington, KY (Kentucky Wildcats)
  3. Lawrence, KS (Kansas Jayhawks)
  4. Salt Lake City (Utah Utes)
  5. Tucson, AZ (Arizona Wildcats)
  6. Raleigh, NC (North Carolina State Wolfpack)
  7. Bloomington, IN (Indiana Hoosiers)
  8. Gainesville, FL (Florida Gators)
  9. Fayetteville, AR (Arkansas Razorbacks)
  10. Columbus, OH (Ohio State Buckeyes)

This was Hanowell's first crack at the exercise. “Basketball gets a lot of weight in these rankings,” he said, “but only because there are more components to the basketball part of the score than there are for affordability or reviews.”

He considered cities that hosted opening, regional and final games as well as time since last bed, last win (any game), last sweet 16 appearance, last elite eight appearance, last final four appearance, last championship appearance and last championship title. The rankings also factored in nonbasketball variables, including the number of reviews and median star rating from SeniorAdvisor.com as well as affordability, represented with a median cost estimate from A Place for Mom's Senior Living Cost Index.

When calculating any such list, results will vary depending on the way various factors are weighted. Hanowell said that when he considered affordability, basketball and star ratings equally, for instance, the resulting list showed four of his top-10 communities in different places, and the other six communities on the revised list hadn't made the top 10 on the first list.

“Our original scheme is designed mostly for diehard fans who want the best and most affordable senior living possible where they are also very likely to be near great college basketball,” he said.

Capitalizing on your location

So how can operators use this information to recruit prospects? “Build relationships with alumni associations and fan clubs of Division I institutions in cities that rank highly on both senior housing and care,” Hanowell recommended.

And what if your community isn't located in one of the cities on the list and you don't have plans to build or buy in these areas? “NCAA basketball isn't the only thing out there that sports fans — or baby boomers, more generally — are crazy about,” he said. “Find out what sets your community and its area apart, and then find creative ways to market to people who would fit well there.”

For example, Hanowell said, if your community is located in an affordable hotbed for retail shopping, then promote that fact to prospective residents. (Lucky for you, he also has calculated the best cities for seniors who love shopping.)

“People who appreciate a good shopping day don't just stop when they reach 85, at least not if their fixed income gives them some room for the occasional splurge,” Hanowell said. If you're going to market closeness to shopping as a benefit for residents, however, he said, “make sure you've got a way for your residents to get to those nearby shops safely.”

Food for thought as March Madness winds down and move-ins heat up.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight's Senior Living. Follow her on Twitter at @Lois_Bowers.

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