Senior living operators need to take a healthier approach

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Two decades ago, quite a few firms in the hospitality business decided they would add assisted living services to their portfolios. Most failed spectacularly, for a reason that in retrospect should appear obvious.

Many of the failed launches viewed assisted living as a hospitality business with a few caregiving accoutrements thrown in. Talk about getting things backwards!

Given the current profile of assisted living residents — which is remarkably similar to the profile of nursing home residents circa 1995 — it seems pretty clear that quite a few of the unsuccessful operators really didn't understand the business they were in.

Sadly, some remnants of that outdated perspective linger on. Look at the way so many communities market themselves these days: by showcasing spas, fancy furniture and other top-shelf amenities. That's all well and good. But those are appetizers, not the main course.

To be fair, most of your prospects don't mind the goo-gas. And quite a few will see them as a differentiator. But is that what they really want?

I'd say the answer is no. What most seek more than anything else is a place where the loved ones they put in your care will be safe.

Yet many operators are loathe to emphasize this simple, obvious benefit. After all, it might make them sound like a nursing home. Yet the odds are pretty good that future residents will have even higher caregiving needs.

So here's some advice for what it's worth: Make it clearer than clear to potential clients that you will keep their loved ones safe. And while you are at it, start seriously considering ways to step up your capabilities. You might want to pay particular attention to what used to be called, ahem, healthcare services.

Or you can keep telling yourself that you are really in the hospitality business. But I've read that book before. And it never has a happy ending.

In Focus

July 11

Patriotic parade

Naples, FL 

More than 100 residents and employees of Vi at Bentley Village participated in a golf cart parade to celebrate the Fourth of July.

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