Has there ever been a more bizarre time to be in the senior living field?

Our federal government just announced that deaths tied to COVID-19 have topped the quarter million mark, with many more on the horizon. Meanwhile, more economists are warning that a severe recession – or worse – might help ring in the new year.

The pandemic’s ongoing human and financial toll has hit senior living especially hard. For most operators, occupancy is way down – in many cases at or below the worst numbers in memory.

At the same time, costs continue to escalate. There are of course the higher labor expenses involved. Then there are the outlays linked to making communities less prone to viral spread.

It’s probably safe to say that the number of operators who will look back at 2020 as the good old days will be low indeed. The How-Did-We-Survive? days might be more like it.

And yet, cause for optimism remains. Speaking Tuesday at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting Virtual Experience, Greenbrier Development’s executive vice president shared some helpful advice.

As my colleague Kimberly Bonvissuto reported, Barry Johnson insisted there are opportunities in the future — but some innovation may be needed.

This year, his sales and marketing teams learned a few lessons about customer relations during a pandemic. Among the most important:

  • Acknowledge that problems exist,
  • Validate prospects’ concerns and
  • Reassure would-be residents that the project will deliver peace of mind. 

“Stay in the market. Change the message — and maybe the way it’s delivered — but stay in the market,” Johnson advised.

“Interest rates are low, houses are selling and prices are staying stable. When has there been a more important time to sell peace of mind? That’s what we should sell: peace of mind,” he added.

The peace-of-mind strategy also provides this unintended payoff: Operators who use it might realize the same benefit.

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