By Jack Cumming

Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, New Year’s, whatever your preference may be, since ancient times the shortest days of the year have signaled a season of relaxation and new resolve. That may differ in the Southern Hemisphere. Australians are more likely to go to the beach than to the ski slopes, but the start of the summer seems likewise to signal new starts much like the start of the academic year does for us of the Northern Hemisphere.

This is an especially auspicious year for new beginnings. The saying goes that the night is darkest just before dawn. To lend truth to that wisdom, we now have Omicron just as we were emerging from the long pandemic night. We can give into despair. The stock markets call that “capitulation.” The evidence, though, is that as alarmingly contagious as Omicron may be, it’s also relatively mild. Let’s hope and pray that our dawn is just ahead.

Telling Our Story

In keeping with the season, Casa de las Campanas, a resident-serving Type A community in California, has come up with a marketing campaign that is a Seasonal Gift in which the entire senior living community can share. Casa is reaching out to its residents, families, and friends through social media to give all its admirers talking points to help spread the word of the blessings of senior living. Thus mobilizing the public to spread the word is a new marketing approach, and Casa has an exemplary story to tell.

Here are five of Casa’s talking points released so far:

  1. Talking Point #1: “You want to stay in control and remain independent as long as possible. By making the decision now, you determine where you’ll go. You’ll also have more time to enjoy your independent lifestyle while you’re still healthy and energetic enough to do so.”
  2. Talking Point #2: “You want to relieve your family of the burden of making decisions, selling your home, dealing with your belongings, and caring for you on short notice.”
  3. Talking Point #3: “A maintenance-free senior living community means you don’t have to worry about home repairs or physical chores that may be becoming too demanding.”
  4. Talking Point #4: “With a plan for your future health care arranged, your family doesn’t have to worry about who will take care of you or where you’ll receive care.”
  5. Talking Point #5: “You’ll have the time and opportunity to stay physically and socially active — perhaps even more so than you would in your current residence.”

You can likely think of additional talking points that might motivate your supporters to spread your community’s story.

Doing the Right Thing

It’s not surprising that Casa has so many admirers. The management and board have long put resident interests first before other considerations. Despite numerous setbacks from hyperkinetic governmental approval agencies, Casa is moving forward with a state-of-the-art care center so that no resident needs to share a room with a stranger.

Moreover, Casa has bucked a common trend in which many in the industry have shifted the risk of long-term care from the enterprise (with its access to experts – the Type A contract) – onto the unsuspecting residents who can only hope for the best. Casa has retained a Type A contract and managed it well. That takes an immeasurable anxiety burden off the shoulders of its residents.

Not only has the board put resident interests before corporate aggrandizement but that perspective has paid off. Casa has an exceptionally strong balance sheet. Sometimes doing the right thing is not only just, but it’s rewarded as well. Casa’s positive net worth was most recently publicly reported as 34% of liabilities.

Giving residents the assurance that they are truly set for life is a gift above all gifts. Not only do residents have the well-funded assurance that they can stay in residence even if their funds run out, but they also know that their costs of residence won’t escalate dramatically as they need mounting care toward the end of life. These assurances of sound operation, risk management instead of risk avoidance, responsive decision-making in the face of the sudden and unthinkable, i.e COVID-19, and respect for all residents regardless of how compliant or “difficult” they may seem to be, are central to what has made Casa unique.

This spirit of commitment has characterized this standalone CCRC since it withdrew from the multi-facility Foundation to Assist California Teachers and became an independent organization, capably managed by Life Care Services. Casa operates with the highest principles.

The Gift of Caring

Casa is not unique in its contractual and financial commitments to residents. What is unique is the gift it has now provided to the industry of showing how to turn residents and other supporters into marketing adjuncts by giving them talking points that they can use in conversations with friends. Too often, senior living is seen as a desperate last move for people who no longer have a choice. These talking points can turn that conversation from life’s last resort to life’s best opportunity.

Senior living ought not to be just assisted living, though that is how many in the public view the industry and its offerings. Moreover, the industry ought to help spread the word that congregate living is desirable and not a final act of desperation for the hapless. Leaders in the industry have long decried the absence of positive messaging, but it has taken the genius of Stacy Armacost and her Casa team to show the way and to show how that can be done.

A Time to Act

Let’s hope that others follow the Casa paradigm to restore senior living to the attractive choice that it was in its origins. That starts by making the contract and financial offerings something to be proud of, as they are at Casa. Fixing the product to make clear that residents are the priority is the first step. The next step, which can only follow as the first step is completed, is to get the message out far and wide that there is a new birth of caring – in the larger sense of valuing customers – in the senior living industry.

Making a beginning with these talking points is Casa’s New Year’s gift to an industry struggling with difficult times. As we emerge from the challenges of the pandemic, this is not a time for complacency or handwringing. It is a time for action. Enterprises can rally resources for risk management and improved living more readily than can the individuals who might consider moving to senior living. With visioning leaders and active board members, we can lift senior living to its potential. The future is bright if we have the will and the courage and the know-how to seize it.

Happy New Year to everyone and thank you for the service that you bring, can bring, and will bring to an aging America. The elements cited here are the gold standard for continuing life senior living. If your community already provides a Type A, inclusive contract, and private homelike rooms for residents at all stages of their aging journey, let us hear from you. Your story is one that needs to be told, understood, and embraced. Click here to go to the posting for Casa’s Talking Points.