By Steve Moran
It started with a selfie, progressed to a social media conversation, and culminated with a visit.
Early in my Foresight career I would pick a random senior living community, walk in and ask for a tour, then write about it. I quit for a couple of reasons. The first and most significant was that they were mostly cringeworthy experiences.
In most cases I would be sized up as a nonprospect and be given a brushoff. On one occasion I was with another team member who played the part of my adult child looking for senior living for me. Not one time did the salesperson address me directly. It was the hardest thing for me to keep quiet, because as time went on, it became so absurd I wanted to laugh.
There was one tour, though, at Sunrise Senior Living in Fair Oaks, where the manager on duty that Sunday was a maintenance supervisor. She gave me the best tour I have ever taken, bar none.
My conversation with Jill Chang, the director of sales and marketing at Bayview Seattle, a spectacular life-plan community in Seattle, started with a selfie at LeadingAge and turned into an invitation to come visit. That happened over the 2022 Christmas holidays.
See the pictures below, but the location and the views are spectacular.
Lunch With Residents
The highlight of the visit was lunch with a group of residents who love living in the community … who love living “in community.” Some highlights from the conversation:
- They have all found that living in senior living in this community is a great experience. They keep busy and are participating in the day-to-day life of the community. They have been given the opportunity to create great, meaningful experiences in their lives.
- They all made the decision to move in because they knew that as they aged, the risk of falling would increase and that a fall could result in severely debilitating injuries or even death.
- I was particularly impressed with how deep of a relationship they had with the people who work in the community. They all knew the dining staff, who they were — about their families, their dreams, and their hopes. No judgment, because individuals and community cultures are different at every location, but I find in many communities, the relationship between dining staff and residents is much closer to what you would see in a typical restaurant: pleasant but mostly transactional.
- It is an older building and therefore imperfect … so there are some things about the building that are obsolete. This means putting up with remodeling and retrofitting. One of the things I have heard from residents over and over again, is that when there is transparency and they are part of the process (as in, part of the community and not just customers with a bank account), they are amazingly tolerant and even supportive in disruptions.
Over and over again, I believe, the industry underestimates how much consumers like the product we have today. This does not mean that we don’t need to evolve but that we have a strong base to build from. The single biggest challenge is how do we create a product that those other people, the ones who have rejected senior living, will come to love?