By Steve Moran

As is true with many of you, this is my busiest season of conference travel. Having overcome most of my shy genes, I end up having lots of conversations with random people in restaurants, in airports, and on airplanes more frequently than I would have ever imagined. I hear stories about parents, grandparents, and other loved ones who are living in senior living.

My Favorite Question

My favorite question is this:

How is the experience? 

What is great news is that almost every single person reports having really good experiences. In fact, nearly never do I hear disaster stories.

They tell me stories about how senior living is making it possible to keep a husband with dementia safe and at the same time giving the caregiving spouse a new lease on life.

They tell me stories about how senior living has allowed adult children to be freed of the burden of worrying about their older parents.

They tell me stories about how older people have moved into senior living communities and are having fuller and better lives than they were having at home.

Worst Critics

Senior living has a lot of room to get better, but most people who are experiencing senior living as consumers are happy with the product they are getting. We who are insiders know what it could be — what it should be — and that makes us extremely critical of our own product.

This is not to say there are not some real horror stories. I have talked to a number of industry leaders who have become consumers, and they have experienced some real risks for their loved ones.

I suspect it is a bit like medical care in a hospital: The public simply does not have enough knowledge or transparency to really understand when things go wrong. Except I would never let a loved one who is in critical condition stay overnight in a hospital without a family member spending the night with them, because a loved one almost died when that happened.

The Message We Send

I find myself wondering if too many of us unintentionally send negative messages about this industry we love. I confess that every time I ask my favorite question, I anticipate a negative response, and yet it almost never comes. I am starting to wonder how I come across when I ask that question.

We have this huge opportunity that mostly gets missed: to collect, tell, and retell our success stories. We need to be telling those stories to residents and prospects because it helps get our communities fuller. Even more importantly, we need to tell ourselves and our teams these stories so that we can see how good we are, so that we can see how we are changing people’s lives.

The goal then becomes creating more and better stories, and that improves the quality of everything we do.