When it comes to opening a new senior living community amid the uncertainty of COVID-19, flexibility and web-based tours are a must, according to operators who have done so.
“We faced several new challenges with the pandemic that we hadn’t when opening other communities in our portfolio,” said Jeffery Smith, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Integral Senior Living. The operator has opened three new communities since the pandemic began, including a 62-unit luxury assisted living and memory care community this month in Knoxville, TN.
Smith noted that the tour process in particular has changed dramatically. The operator’s sales and marketing teams created video presentations and virtual tours to showcase team members and facility units and amenities to potential residents and their families. When physical tours did take place, they required social distancing and facemasks.
“It’s made us work harder to assure we make that human to human connection,” he said.
In addition to the added technology and personal protective equipment costs many new facilities have had to purchase, others have invested in more COVID-19 safety protocols. These include touchless faucets in common and high-touch areas, motion-activated light switches, UV lighting and electrolyzed cleaning.
“We looked closely at layouts and scheduling for dining and programming spaces as well as how movement and access needed to be modified,” said Maria Oliva, chief operating officer of Chicago-based Pathway to Living, which opened a new 117-unit senior living facility in the Chicago suburbs this month.
Oliva said the facility also repurposed several rooms to turn them into isolated employee-only areas where staff can change in and out of PPE at the beginning and end of each shift. Pathway also required two negative COVID-19 tests prior to any new resident moving in.
All of these steps have led to a successful lease-up to date, she added.
“So far, we have seen a pent-up demand for new, ‘clean’ communities and we’ve outpaced our underwriting for the first two months,” Oliva said.