The senior living industry is largely missing the boat when it comes to making a compelling case for senior living as opposed to “aging in place.”

By Steve Moran

Jennifer Young is a regular reader of Senior Housing Forum and likely the most prolific commenter on articles. As a resident, she is an expert worth paying attention to. She currently lives in a CCRC and, prior to moving into her current community, lived in one of the Sears Methodist communities during the collapse of that organization.

Recently we published an article authored by Kent Mulkey titled “Let’s All Dog Pile On Brookdale” and Jennifer wrote this comment, that was not really about Brookdale but addressing the point that Kent made that each and every day there are another 9,000 seniors entering the senior living marketplace that are saying NO to senior living.

The Big Blame

Jennifer’s big idea is that the senior living industry is largely missing the boat when it comes to making a compelling case for senior living as opposed to “aging in place.” She makes a strong case. Here is the sobering question she asks:

I’ve been awaiting stronger rebuttal on the part of your industry. Where is it? How are you, as an industry, demonstrating a strong “counter” to the on-going drumbeat that “aging in place in your own home” is the most desirable condition?

You can read her complete comment by following the link above but this is a bullet point list of how she see’s the benefits of senior living.

  • The mantra that aging in place is huge and should be refuted both overtly and subtly, pointing out the potential isolation, and the difficulty in finding reliable home help.

  • Rather than a TV ad showing a nice-looking gray-haired couple walking along a path next to a water feature in a senior community, show someone at home whose aide called in sick (and contrast that to a community’s staff on the job) or someone mindlessly watching TV in a dreary living room (and contrast that to playing shuffleboard out in the sun . . . I know, I know — a cliche).

  • Another aspect of CCRC marketing that I’m waiting to see emphasized is showing the advantage of on-campus IL residents having priority access to long term care should it be needed. It’s my opinion that when the Baby Boomers eventually realize they cannot “go it alone” in their homes, there will be waiting lists for beds.

  • You’ve got to show able-bodied potential IL residents who do have the financial means that spending the money is worth it and staying at home is not the epitome of success.

  • For independent living, SHOW the resident activities — getting curbside shuttle bus service at a theater; playing water volleyball; getting dressed up for Halloween. SHOW the residents in their volunteer capacities in the community and “outside the walls.” SHOW the table service in your dining areas. SHOW a family feast being catered in your private dining area.

So there you have it. While Jennifer is very specifically talking about the CCRC environment, there are important lessons here for the whole of senior living.