I enjoy sailing, doing crossword puzzles and reading National Geographic. Maybe you like running marathons, baking and romantic comedies. We’re very different people, with different interests — and that doesn’t change with age.

The most effective way to engage senior living residents is to tailor content and experiences to their individual interests. Although one-to-one attention from staff and customized activities make a huge difference, it’s technology that empowers communities to deliver individual engagement on-demand and at scale. The benefits go beyond simply keeping residents happy — person-centered engagement leads to better mental and even physical health and can be a key differentiator for communities.

Here are three reasons a personalized approach to engagement is more important now than ever before.

  1. We live in an experience-based culture where personalization no longer is a “nice-to-have.” It’s a must. Our economy increasingly has become experience-based. From our social media feeds to the way we order takeout, our preferences and interests come together to serve up an optimal experience. That desire for personalization doesn’t stop at the door of the senior living community. I predict that we will see more and more prospective families paying attention to the ways communities gather information about residents and use that knowledge in innovative ways to anticipate their needs and personalize their experience.
  • In a post-pandemic world, communities will need to bolster their differentiators to stay at capacity. COVID-19 has had a tragic effect on senior living. A recent analysis shows that 43% of all COVID-19 deaths in U.S. have taken place in nursing homes and assisted living communities. Understandably, the health crisis has led to higher vacancy rates. As the pandemic eases, there will be more competition, and communities will need to position themselves uniquely to stand out with families. A key way to do this is through a programmatic, personalized approach to engagement.
  • Person-centered engagement leads to purpose. Connecting residents with their interests, the things that drive them, creates a feeling of purpose and fulfillment. Studies such as the Rush Memory & Aging Project have demonstrated that having purpose in life is one of the most significant predictors of health and wellness for older adults. Residents who feel that community staff members know and understand them — and give them opportunities to connect with their interests — will be happier and healthier. The same study showed that older adults with purpose in life experienced fewer falls / disabling incidents and a slower rate of decline in cognitive function.

Getting to know residents’ unique interests and preferences simply isn’t enough. Communities will need to use that knowledge in meaningful ways to deliver a full person-centered experience that makes residents feel known and valued and connects them to what matters — giving them purpose.

Lisa Taylor is CEO of iN2L.