By Steve Moran
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I visited with a 90-year-old independent senior living resident who, after seven years, was changing communities. (I wrote about why he changed communities here. It is not a pretty story but is a critical read).
I happened to have lunch with a friend near the community that he is moving to. It is moderately high-end, about a year old, and operated by a company I have great respect for.
Here’s What Happened
I walked in the front door and told them I was in the area, was not really looking to move, and a friend was moving into this community from another one and I wanted a quick tour.
I struggled with whether I should say more about my deep involvement in the senior living industry, but said nothing.
The receptionist immediately gave me a brochure, then went to check on the salesperson’s availability … I think. When she came back, she handed me a form to fill out that asked for my name, email, phone, address, and what I was looking for.
I filled it out, leaving blank the questions about what I was searching for, phone number, and address. Within a couple of minutes the salesperson came in and invited me back to her office.
She asked a few questions along the lines of, “What are you looking for?” I reiterated that I was not looking to move in and just wanted a tour.
She was clearly unhappy (peeved is the word that comes to mind) that I was not disclosing more about my circumstances and why I might want to move in. By then I had decided that if she asked me why I wanted a tour, I would talk more about that. She never asked.
She then took me on a very quick and very appropriate tour. She continued to press about my circumstances and to express her frustration that I was being so secretive about them. For clarification, I have zero complaints about the tour. I got to see everything, ask all the questions I wanted to ask.
Driving Away …
Driving away I felt very unsettled about the experience, and I have honestly not entirely worked out why it was so unsettling, but here is my thinking:
- She took two pieces of information — the fact that I had a friend who was moving in and my appearance as an older person — and made some assumptions about me without really digging into who I am as a person, what I do, or even why I was looking. Ageism … maybe, kind of. … I am not sure.
- Part of being unsettled was that I didn’t tell her about my relationship to the industry. It is not that I had an obligation, because I didn’t, but it somehow felt unseemly, though this may just be my own baggage.
- I may very well feel unsettled about it because she made me feel old … and that, in fact, as I approach the age of 70 faster than I would ever have imagined, I am in that age bracket that people, including me, call old. So it may just be me not wanting to face my own reality.
- It may be that I felt like she saw me not as a person but as a prospect. Someone who could fill another unit, generate more revenue for the community, and earn her a commission. Nothing wrong with that, because ultimately that is what she is paid to do.
Doing It Better
It is easy to armchair quarterback, and I do wish it had gone differently — that she had asked me more questions about who I was and why I was there, which would have gotten her to my role in the industry. And yet, as a visitor to that community on that day, I was a “corner case” — something she is not likely to ever experience again.
But I think there is a lesson here, and that is that your community needs to be treating everyone who shows up as if they are still relevant and more than prospect, a checkbook, or a bother.