I am terrified to be writing and publishing this article . . . but we have an ethnic problem in senior living.

By Steve Moran

I am terrified to be writing and publishing this article. It seems that writing anything about race is fraught with all kinds of downsides and very little in the way of upside. Except that we have an ethnic problem in senior living. Today, based on resident populations, only white people (and Asians) seem to like senior living.

How We Explain It Away . . .

We mostly explain it away based on socioeconomic theory, “Blacks and hispanics just don’t have the economic capacity to afford what we are offering”. And, if that is not enough, we add . . . “And culturally they just aren’t attracted to senior living.”  

These are nice neat explanations that make it possible for us to keep doing things the same old way. Maybe this is right thinking, but I am not so sure.

Blacks and Whites Have Different Worldviews

The section title is way too simplistic, but I am hoping it will make your read on and not get mad. What inspired this post was an article from Think with Google titled “What Black Millennials Want From YouTube Advertisers”. The most striking and important point the article makes is that black consumers looking at content tend to look at it through different eyes.  

Very specifically when they look at content they are looking for, hoping for, wanting . . . ethnic diversity, which suggests, when they see diversity, they will think better of your brand and be more likely to consume your brand.

These are sensitive and difficult issues.

More Questions . . .

This raises more questions than answers:

  • Does it matter?

  • Should the goal be to make existing senior living communities more black friendly? And, if so, what exactly does that mean?

  • Should there be communities that cater to a black culture?

  • What are the risks?

  • What are the opportunities?

  • Does the senior living industry have an obligation to address or think about this disparity?

I find myself thinking this is a topic we need to be exploring for two big reasons:

  1. It is the right thing to do. To the maximum extent possible, if senior living is really a great thing, and I believe it is, then we have an obligation to make it able to every ethnicity.

  2. I believe it represents a significant, maybe even huge, untapped opportunity.

Finally, after writing this article I sent draft copies to a couple of black friends for a sanity check. One of them felt this article was not strong enough in addressing racism. She has written a second article from a perspective I could never have.

Your thoughts?