In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a bit of an arms race taking place in senior living.
Many older communities are actively retrofitting and remodeling so they can better compete with the new kids on the block.
Meanwhile, many of these new kids are serving up an unprecedented array of aesthetic, lifestyle and service options. And by the way, these changes generally are fantastic.
But I do wonder if more than a few operators bent on change have become a bit tone deaf about what really matters. This thought struck me while reading an article intended not for you, but for the people you serve. U.S. News and World report currently is running a story called “Top 5 Things to Know About Continuing Care Retirement Communities.”
Although it is written for customers who might be considering their senior living options, it’s also a great primer for marketers and operators. Why? Because it spells out what your prospects and existing customers are thinking about. They are:
1. Paying for the care
Your prospects (and in many cases, their children) need to know if they will be able to afford the entry cost and subsequent monthly charges they are likely to incur. How effectively are you helping them navigate this deal maker/deal breaker issue?
2. Legal considerations
This is primarily but not exclusively a CCRC matter. As it relates to CCRCs, it is imperative that your customers understand what type of contract they are signing, and its unique provisions. Beyond that, all customers need to understand what happens when problems occur. Are those who might sue required to accept an arbitrator’s decision? Can they have pets? Can they leave their beater car in the parking lot if other residents complain? Do you have any, ahem, atypical requirements? If so, better let them know — early and clearly.
3. The timing paradox
In theory, the best time to make the decision to move into a CCRC or any senior living environment is while the customer is relatively healthy and independent. The reality, as any operator will tell you, often tends to be quite different. How well do you assuage the fears of that oldest daughter who suddenly needs a place for Mom? The answer to that question may determine not just whether you gain a new resident, but for how long.
Having earlier suggested that amenities might be overplayed, let’s be clear: they do matter. Things like world-class fitness centers, top-tier dining rooms and movie theaters can make a difference, especially at decision-making time.
We’ve all heard the joke about the top three matters in real estate being location, location and location. But it’s no joking matter. Location plays a role in two notable ways. First is the actual setting. If you are in a part of town that’s out whack with what your residents are accustomed to, that can be a problem. Similarly, if you are primarily a self-contained oasis with no real connection to the neighbors, you may be losing out on residents who don’t want to spend all their time on Senior Living Island. A good fit is key here.
In addition to the five matters addressed in the story, I think three more deserve a mention. One is staffing. Do you have enough people working at your community? How well are they trained? What kinds of people skills do they have? If you are trailing the play in any of those key areas, it is probably going to hurt your business.
Then there’s the matter of food. Is it exceeding expectations? If not, you may be about to learn why it is one of the major reasons residents leave.
Finally, there’s what might best be described as loneliness avoidance efforts. Look, I get it: Some residents don’t want to socialize and would prefer to be left alone. Honor that choice. But don’t forget that most humans are social creatures. We feed off interactions with each other. The more you can help make that happen, the happier (most of) your residents are likely to be.
Take care of these things, and it’s a pretty safe bet these things will take care of you.