John O'Connor illustration
McKnight’s Editorial Director John O’Connor

Senior living operators possess a remarkable advantage that has often been underestimated: their ability to combat loneliness. While safety remains a top priority for both adult children and residents, the fiercely competitive landscape demands more. Safety is now expected; it’s a given that operators will ensure it.

But this week, another great reason for residents to enter your community was revealed. And it’s nothing short of groundbreaking. Recent research from NORC at the University of Chicago indicates that residents who move to senior living communities experience a significant reduction in one of the most challenging aspects of aging: frailty.

Turns out, residents who move to senior living communities tend to be less harmed by one of the great drawbacks of aging: increased frailty.

In fact, that vulnerability tends to not only level off, butg actually decline after move-in, according to findings released this week by NORC at the University of Chicago. (Full disclosure: the study was funded by a grant from the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care. NIC is an occasional marketing partner of McKnight’s.)

Researchers emphasized that the change in vulnerability shortly after moving into a senior living setting is no trifling matter.

“This suggests that vulnerability is not a permanent state, but a temporary state of being that can be corrected with the proper interventions,” NIC Senior Principal Ryan Brooks told my colleague Kim Bonvissuto. “For operators, this suggests that congregate senior living can help restore a measure of vitality and independence for residents.”

One of the key takeaways for operators, Brooks added, is that the research points to investing in nonmedical supports — social engagement, community involvement, balanced nutrition, transportation and access to exercise — as critical to resident overall health, well-being and safety.

“What this shows is, senior housing has the ability to recognize a person’s vulnerability to declining health outcomes and then in turn offer supportive services and healthcare to them. It can lead to greater resident vitality and quality of life,” Brooks said.

“Non-medical care and services — like socialization, transportation, exercise, balanced nutrition, medication management and others — have a positive impact on a resident’s health,” Dianne Munevar, NORC lead researcher, said in a statement.

This is truly wonderful news for our nation’s oldest citizens. It also happens to be gold for your organization’s marketing department.

Promising that residents might age more gracefully in your community is one thing; demonstrating that improvements can and likely will occur is another. This phenomenon is, in every sense, a game-changer.

Senior living marketers, are you ready to change your game?

John O’Connor is editorial director for McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.