Editor’s Note: This column discusses an approach to senior living outside of the unique circumstances in which many operators find themselves today, with policies restricting visitors, group activities and dining due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Over the past decade, senior living resident expectations have evolved dramatically. Retiring baby boomers, with distinct preferences and expectations, have created a strong demand in the industry for a more service-oriented approach that blends hospitality and healthcare, catering to their specific needs and desires. Today’s older adults are embracing a more vibrant retirement lifestyle, one that offers flexibility in costs, innovation in design and an enhanced personal touch.  

With this mindset shift, senior living management companies need to be responsive and agile to adapt to the ever-changing demands of the market. What does this mean when you have an existing community that needs retrofitting so that it can fit into a modern approach?

First, the approach should be predicated on a hospitality lens. The hospitality industry understands that first impressions are important. Whether it’s a new, ground-up development or a renovation of an existing community, owners should consider how to promote better overall building maintenance and maintain well-manicured, attractive groundskeeping to set the stage for the high level of service that residents and their families expect. A multitude of amenities — from valet parking and housekeeping to VIP concierge service to arrange transportation and handle logistical details — also can create a greater sense of welcome for prospective residents and their families. These are things that can be incorporated seamlessly into an existing community, too – they’re not exclusive to new, ground-up developments.

Also rooted in the concept of hospitality, dining plays a critical role in determining resident satisfaction. The senior living industry, perhaps deservedly, has garnered a reputation of low-quality, bland, “institutional-style” meal options. But by investing in restaurant-style service, communities can provide a much wider array of choice and variety to keep residents looking forward to their dining experience.

Second, the setting matters. Much as in an accommodating hotel, well-designed community areas provide comfortable space to facilitate interaction and create conversations that foster friendships and an overall sense of belonging. Meanwhile, program and lifestyle teams should develop activities that bring together residents with common interests, providing new opportunities to engage in – and learn – new activities alongside their peers.

This focus on an active lifestyle promotes a superior quality of life – even within a progressive disease. Regardless of residents’ physical limitations, an emphasis on these daily experiences can help to promote choice, cognition, friendship, fitness, balance, nutrition, music, spirituality, technology, arts and family.

Lastly, but certainly not least, resort-style amenities also are an important element of a service-oriented focus, from tropical-inspired pools and well-equipped fitness rooms to wellness programs that address balancing nutrition, exercise and lifestyle.

Recently, Quadrum Senior Living took over management of four memory care communities in Florida and Texas and reintroduced them under our proprietary Liana brand. As part of a company that also maintains a prominent hospitality brand, we put this service-oriented approach into practice, focusing on delivering individualized care, community vitality and a quality personal experience – the same aspects that makes our hotel division so successful. It’s this commitment to people that serves as such a strong differentiator.

Offering all facets of the care continuum within an exceptional milieu affords our residents continuity as they age in place, along with reassurance for their families. Aligning operational approaches to meet market demands will keep senior living management companies nimble and competitive in offering a contemporary, quality environment that both residents and their families desire.