Which benefits to emphasize in senior living marketing efforts will depend on individual prospects, but increasingly, such marketing efforts should include older adults’ social circles, according to the authors of a new study.

Researchers at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida said that the study, “Factors affecting seniors’ decision to relocate to senior living communities,” published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, is one of the first to incorporate motivational factors and perceived barriers that inform older adults’ behavioral attitudes toward relocating to senior living.

Health, social and family / friends, and housing are among the factors influencing an older adult’s move to a senior living community, they found. As the number of chronic conditions and disability rates among residents increases with life expectancy, the authors noted, senior living operators should emphasize the healthcare aspects of the industry in marketing materials.

Highlighting the socialization opportunities offered by senior living, and promoting the image of “hassle- and worry-free environments,” may be attractive to prospective residents looking for a hotel-like experience where they don’t need to cook, clean or perform home maintenance or repairs, the authors said.

Flexible payment plans, flexible unit ownership, a variety of housing options, access to a hotel-like environment and service culture, and activities may make communities more attractive to couples in which only one partner has immediate care and support needs, they said. 

Because friends and family play a large role in whether an older adult chooses to move into a senior living community, the authors suggested addressing barriers related to family, economic or socio-psychological factors as well as knowledge and information barriers. Older adults who are socially isolated due to the death of a spouse or other life events can be enticed into senior living by recreational activity and event offerings, for example, they said.

“These results suggest that [senior living community] operators should not only target seniors, but also include seniors’ children and family members in their marketing strategies, and including them as a part of the decision-making team,” the authors wrote.

Unlike in other industries, they added, it is rare for potential residents to have prior experience with the industry. “Studies indicated that lack of information and prior experience in general is a major factor causing psychological concerns about [senior living communities],” the researchers said.

Government agencies and senior living operators should organize educational sessions and seminars to educate potential residents about senior housing options and the various aspects of services and amenities senior living can offer, the study suggested.

Data for the study were drawn from literature reviews, focus group interviews of older adults in senior living communities or aging in their own homes, and online questionnaires.