Fahad Aziz headshot
Fahad Aziz

In March 2020, the senior living industry braced for a once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis. Since then, communities have squeezed years’ worth of digital transformation initiatives into a period of months.

By introducing a host of digital communication strategies, operators have come out of the pandemic better equipped to engage residents, staff, families and prospects. Tech ensures that everyone gets the message that communities want to communicate promptly and securely, which ultimately helps boost occupancy rates and resident satisfaction.

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is making its way to older adults across the country, operators must decide which practices that they picked up during the pandemic can serve their communities for the long term. Here are three that can enhance communication in your community for years to come.

1: Leverage Facebook to engage your whole community (including prospects)

Seniors are the fastest-growing age demographic on Facebook. That makes the social media site an ideal channel for communities to reach residents and families — as well as prospective residents and families — in a single engagement strategy.

Libby Lauer, co-founder and chief operating officer of Senior Source Consulting Group, has seen several communities host Facebook Live events, such as a chef’s cooking demonstration or a mindful meditation class, that prospects and referral sources can participate in alongside the community team.

The advantage of the open-invite Facebook event model is that prospects can join from anywhere, and no community visit necessary. And they can get to know the spirit and people of a community long before they’re ready for move-in.

Communities also can tag local business partners on Facebook to boost visibility with prospects.

2: Streamline staff collaboration with a digital communication platform

2020 was a challenging year for senior living community staff members. Faced with heavy workloads and a high risk of virus exposure, many CNAs chose to stay home instead.

But high staff turnover has been a burden on the industry since well before the pandemic. Among the frequently cited reasons that senior living and workers leave their jobs are the physical demands of the job and strained workplace communication.

Operators have addressed these pain points by introducing digital communication platforms, often ones that integrate residents’ clinical information through electronic health records. Those platforms ensure team-wide visibility into all service and care tasks for compliance purposes, and they prevent confusion around delegation. 

Those platforms proved especially useful when staff members needed to limit physical contact with residents to avoid spreading the virus. Even after the pandemic ends, lean care teams can use them to become more efficient.

3: Personalize the resident experience with video technology

Social isolation has been a major health concern for older adults during the pandemic, especially for those who live alone or were forced to quarantine by themselves. And this isn’t a new problem. Loneliness has taken a documented toll on seniors’ mental, physical and emotional health for decades.

Thankfully, video technology has proved to be a social lifeline.

Many older adults have gotten comfortable on video call platforms such as FaceTime and Zoom over the past year, and those who live far from their friends and family particularly have enjoyed being able to see and talk to them more often. Communities should keep video call functionalities around after the pandemic, to maintain communication rhythms with families.

But family calls aren’t the only effective use of video. Lauer says that community representatives, such as executive directors, can share community-wide announcements over video to help residents feel more connected in times of isolation.

The early days of the pandemic saw several community leaders record video updates and share them through Facebook and other community channels. Those video assets also can be leveraged in the sales process. Short, personal videos can be shared with prospects, and even referral sources, to add a personal touch.

To ramp up communication technology in your community, start with a detailed plan

Whether your community is introducing a tool for the first time or scaling up its use, begin by creating an action plan.

Ask these questions: 

  • Who do we want to communicate with?
  • What messages and stories do we want to share?
  • What’s our desired frequency for communication? 
  • Which channels will we use to communicate?

Once you have a plan, you can make sure all teams involved have the technology and resources they need to execute.

Facebook, video and digital staff communications platforms can bridge the engagement gaps that existed before and were exacerbated during the pandemic. But they’re not the only channels. Operators continuously should look for creative ways to bring their communities together digitally in the post-pandemic future.