How can senior living communities be successful at connecting with prospective residents and conveying the benefits that those communities have to offer to older adults?
No doubt, you’ve used the adage “seeing is believing.” Those words come from a longer phrase attributed to 17th-century English clergyman Thomas Fuller, who said, “Seeing is believing, but feeling is truth.”
The process of selecting a senior living community can be both daunting and overwhelming. That’s why it’s so important to help prospective residents and their adult children both see and feel what a continuing care retirement community has to offer.
My decision to work in senior living was heavily influenced by the close relationship I shared with my grandparents. Their home was my second home. While playing tennis and catch with my grandfather, puzzles and monopoly with my nana, I learned at an early age the value of talking with — and more importantly, listening to — seniors. The best part of my job is getting to know our residents and hearing their stories. Over time, I’ve heard a change in what older adults expect their retirement years to be like.
Senior living communities are in the midst of a seismic shift in the makeup of their residents. We are fortunate to have many members of the Silent Generation — my grandparents’ generation — still living in our community. But the new current and prospective residents are baby boomers. This is a demographic that is, for the most part, very active (both physically and socially), highly independent and financially and technologically savvy. They also are projected to live longer than any generation before them, meaning they may spend a significant portion of their life in their retirement years. It’s been widely discussed that baby boomers are redefining retirement and they have no intention of slowing down.
So, it’s no wonder that senior living communities have their work cut out for them in breaking the stigma and stereotypes of a “retirement home.” Many adults at or approaching retirement age have the image of their parents’ peers spending their final years in a barren, institution-like facility, devoid of excitement and engagement, eating bland foods and being supervised as though they were children. The image falls short of the high standards and high expectations of this generation.
Nothing could be further from the truth at today’s CCRCs, which is where “seeing is believing” comes into play. At New Pond Village, a Benchmark Senior Living CCRC (type A & C) in Walpole, MA, we regularly host informational events to bring prospective residents into our community. Sometimes those events are informational, like the “Moving Forward Simplified” session we held last summer. Other events, like our Oktoberfest celebration, have a more recreational feel. Either way, guests at those events are able to see what life at a CCRC is really like.
There are two important parts to the acronym CCRC. The first is continuing care. In coming to a CCRC, residents can experience a full range of services to meet their changing needs in an environment that respects every stage of their lives. According to an analysis by the Urban Institute, nearly 70% of people over age 65 will need some form of long-term care, underscoring the importance of planning in advance. CCRCs offer the freedom to them to live independently but offer assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation and memory care if that level of care is needed. This is a great comfort to prospective residents, and especially to their families, who won’t have to worry about finding appropriate care down the road.
The second important part of CCRC is community. This is a community. In fact, we refer to our different care levels as neighborhoods because they truly have that feel. When prospective residents come to New Pond Village, they see that our residents are active, engaging and happy! They’re taking fitness classes or enjoying outdoor activities; they’re joining each other for a gourmet meal in one of our dining venues; they’re meeting for coffee, taking a day trip or having each other over to their residences. Visitors quickly discover there is nothing idle or retired about living at a CCRC.
There are so many examples I can think of right in our own community at New Pond Village. Leif, a retired business owner, will tell you that there’s no way someone could possibly participate in all of the activities because there are so many to choose from. Tai Chi, social mixers and committee involvement stand out for him. There’s also Rosalie, who appreciated the sense of community when she arrived at New Pond Village. Her husband had recently passed away, and her neighbors welcomed her by leaving her pastries and stocking her refrigerator, immediately making her feel cared for and part of the neighborhood.
Of course, we need to reach prospective residents and their adult children to get them to our campus in the first place. We do this by including mailed invitations to our events, traditional advertising and digital advertising, which is an especially important medium for a generation of older adults that embraces technology. We also look to our residents to share their experiences with their friends, relatives and former neighbors. Good friends make great neighbors, as we say here.
CCRCs like New Pond Village are modeled on the concept of aging in place, but I prefer to think that we offer seniors the environment to live life to the absolute fullest. All they have to do is see it to believe it and feel it to trust that their retirement years can be some of their best.
Adam Manchester is executive director of New Pond Village, a Benchmark Senior Living continuing care retirement / life plan community Walpole, MA.
The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living guest column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.
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