Gregg Calvert

As with so many senior living operators, New York, NY-based Premier Senior Living faced a double whammy drop in occupancy during the second quarter of 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to a significant decline in admissions during March, April and May, the firm’s move-outs increased with families wanting to take their loved ones from congregate settings. In fact, Premier’s 16 assisted living communities saw occupancy rates drop from 92% nationwide pre-pandemic to 80% over the course of those three months, according to Sheri Steele, chief marketing officer and director of business development at Premier.

Since May, however, thanks to an ongoing focus on providing socialization and daily activities through technology and on-demand meals, the company now is close to its beginning-of-2019 census numbers and expects to be at 94% by the end of January.

“We have learned a new way of business comes with quick adaptiveness in an ever-changing environment,” Gregg Calvert, Premier’s chief operating officer, told the McKnight’s Business Daily. With the operator’s current resident census, Steele said Premier discovered how important it was to keep residents engaged with their loved ones. The firm leveraged ongoing, resident-friendly virtual calls with families as a way to keep them engaged and not feeling isolated.  

Premier also introduced new resident room activities, including a daily activity basket with surprises each day, as well as hallway concerts for staff members and residents. Residents also enjoyed dining-on-demand and room service, which increased one-to-one engagement between staff members and residents.

Premier also contacted older adults within the greater community who were living at home alone during the pandemic, to ensure that they were staying safe and healthy. 

“We realized that engaging via telephone on a daily and weekly basis and asking our seniors what they needed to feel safe, and then accommodating them, could go a long way,” Steele said. ”This was often something as simple as sending daily text messages or handwritten notes of encouragement, setting up virtual activities with activity directors and wellness coaches or having food delivered to them as often as needed.” 

In fact, Steele noted, many of the company’s most recent admissions were the direct result of older adults at home afraid to go out and shop for themselves. 

“Many did not want delivery drivers coming to their homes, for fear of exposure to COVID-19,” Steele said. As a result of these small acts of caring, “our prospects were engaged, felt safe and made the decision to move into one of our communities much sooner than they would have otherwise.”