John O'Connor

President-elect Donald Trump often was accused of being tone deaf during the campaign. A major reason: He said his father helped him get started in business with a “small loan.”

Apparently, the token amount actually may have been north of $10 million. That we should all benefit from such small acts of kindness.

But perhaps senior living operators shouldn’t laugh too loudly at The Donald’s expense. For it’s pretty clear many of them also rightly might be accused of being out of touch.

Go to any industry event and you are likely to hear discussions about new approaches that are making senior living more affordable. But once you drill down, “affordable” typically seems to mean payments totaling at least $3,000 a month, or more than $36,000 a year.

Not sure quite how to gently break this, but 36 large is a lot more freight than many of your prospects ever can hope to cover.

Consider the latest Nationwide Retirement Institute survey conducted by Harris Poll. One-third of the respondents (who were 50 or older) said they could not pay for an unplanned expense totaling $500. More than half could not cover an amount above $1,000. These are the people who may soon be on your mailing list?

But wait, it gets worse. Eight in 10 adults with children haven’t talked to their children about their plan to address healthcare needs in retirement, most often because they don’t want to cause worry.

Put another way, a lot of the people who you would like to move in are both broke and in denial.

It’s hardly breaking news that we are not a nation of savers. But the depth of that truth can be quite stunning. And if you happen to be a senior living operator, you really should take stock.

People who cannot replace a broken stove and want to pretend they are immortal are not the exception. They are the rule.

You want them to sign up? Then perhaps it’s time to make sure your business model aligns with your customers’ reality.

John O’Connor is editorial director of McKnight’s Senior Living. Email him at [email protected].