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Prospective residents and their families want options when they are searching for a senior living community. They also rank cleanliness as one of the most important factors in their decision-making process.

That’s according to new research by LeadingResponse, a Tampa, FL-based marketing solutions firm, which surveyed more than 2,000 prospective members of senior living communities and their families to gain insight into what consumers believe is most important as the second year of the pandemic nears conclusion. 

LeadingResponse Vice President of Sales for Healthcare Valerie Whitman said that in comparing recent survey results to those of its September 2020 survey, the company found that more than two-thirds of respondents said they had not changed their views of senior living, but about one-quarter said they were unsure.

That finding, Whitman told McKnight’s Senior Living, means that senior living operators need to educate consumers now more than ever about what they’ve done to keep residents, staff and visitors safe.

“It’s not just about educating them about the services available in senior living, memory care communities, or how to cover the cost of senior living,” Whitman said. “It’s also about what you’re doing to keep COVID out of your buildings.”

Prospective residents and their families also want options, according to survey results. More than 40% of respondents indicated that they want to be able to learn about senior living communities in a variety of ways, including in-person events, webinars, online articles and community tours.

“The key thing about the survey is, you can never provide too much education, but also take a multi-channel approach,” Whitman said. 

Cleanliness now is one of the most important factors prospects use when choosing a community. Cost, staffing and location also ranked as important deciding factors. Other factors included community reputation, care services, staff longevity, unit size and transportation services.

“You need to give the consumer the information to help them take the next steps,” she said, adding that the industry often wants to hold back information in anticipation of a community tour or other inquiry. “What you want to do is provide that education so they know it’s not just about selling a home.”

Whitman said that prospective residents and their families want information and education ahead of time; otherwise they may perceive it to be something they can’t afford.

When it comes to amenities, the availability of recreational activities and wellness clinics ranked highest among survey participants, followed by the availability of group trips to area attractions, exercise rooms, resident-led activities and weekly happy hours. 

The online survey was conducted in December among prospective senior living residents and their family members aged 55 to 70 years.