This is a continuation of the Innovation series (see the list below)

Market research in the senior living industry is hardly out of the dark ages.  It consists of the following elements:

  • Market demographics, which means doing a statistical estimate of demand and comparing that demand with existing and under construction inventory.
  • Developers then take a look at what has been successful in other markets and buttress those concepts by asking themselves what they would want if they were to move into senior a senior living community.  The problem is that what the developer likes may not translate to the target senior population.
  • Finally, a few companies conduct focus groups with residents and their families.  There are three huge problems with focus groups.
    • Often the residents and families have only been exposed to a single senior living community so that is the entire universe they are working from.  While they can tell you what they like and don’t like, they have no real ability to say “I like this thing at one community and that thing at another community”.
    • It is easy for people to say what they would like to have in a senior community when they don’t have any skin in the game.  Just because people say they want something or would like to have something does not mean they would really be willing to pay for it, or would even take advantage of it.
    • Most seniors only live in one or two senior communities. This lack of exposure to multiple communities limits the ability to think creatively or dream big.

The Best Idea

So here is my idea.  I would propose someone needs to gather a group of six to ten adventurous assisted living residents and, over a six month period, have them live in six different assisted living communities.  They would be interviewed throughout the process about what they liked and didn’t like, what worked and what didn’t, what had value and what was a total waste. You say impossible!   . . . . . maybe, but I am not so sure. I could see a large national company or a coalition of not-for-profits take on a project like this.  Not only would it provide valuable insight, but it would create a great opportunity for publicity.  But in case you don’t like this idea here is my second best idea: Or, here’s an idea, some network could pick it up as the latest in reality shows: Big Brother: Senior Living.

Second Best Idea

With a large pool of residents across the country there are going to be a small subset of residents who have lived in more than one community.  Interviewing those residents about the differences could provide a fractional view of what works and what doesn’t.

Why We Need This

In all parts of life and business we tend to do again what we have always done (including this blog).  The problem is that doing it the same old way puts blinders on us, causing us to miss brilliant and creative better ways of doing things.  The boomers will bring a raft of new and different needs and wants including a shortage of funds.  We need to do everything we possibly can to be smart about finding new better ways of doing senior housing. My biggest fear with Senior Housing Forum is not so much the stuff I don’t know, because I can work on that.  What worries me even more is the stuff I don’t that I don’t know.  The same ought to be true in the senior living industry. What kinds of research do you do? How to you innovate?

Other Articles in the Innovation Series
NIC is just like high school
What if you had a big pot of money
Why we are so slow to innovate – It is the fault of developers and operators . . . but even more the fault of capital providers – Part 1
Capital Providers Stifle Innovation Part 2 –  How to break the bottleneck

Steve Moran

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