By Steve Moran

The theme has become so tired, I almost hate to repeat it. No one wants to move into senior living communities unless they have no other choice. (For sure Life Plan Communities are a different story, but they represent such a tiny fraction of the marketplace, that it barely counts.)

It is so bad, that mostly even senior living executives don’t want to move into their own communities, again with a few isolated exceptions.

The Big Benefits to Older People

There is compelling data that when older people live in a congregate setting (senior living) they live longer, healthier, and happier lives. But at the same time, the data demonstrates senior living has a long way to go solving the loneliness problem. To the point, I find myself thinking: “If we are this good (when we are actually not all that good), what kind of an impact would we have on those growing older if we were really good at solving the loneliness problem?”

Benefits to Senior Living

At least in the short run, I think it is near impossible to get people to go from hating the idea of moving into senior living to loving it. But I do believe we can make it so that as older people start to lose physical and mental abilities, they will think of senior living earlier and in a much more positive light. When we figure this out:

  • Lengths of stay will increase; just a one month length of stay increase in a 100 unit community is the economic equivalent of filling 8 additional units
  • Prospects will become residents earlier
  • Families will love senior living more and recommend it to their friends
  • Residents will be less demanding
  • Net operating income will be better

How Do We Figure This Out?

I am sure this is not a complete solution, but it is a great place to start. We need to put together a statistically valid sample of age 75 or 80-plus seniors, who mostly live in places other than senior living (probably around 1,000 individuals) who rank at the bottom of the loneliness scale. We then need to figure out why they are beating the loneliness odds and incorporate those lessons into senior living programming.

I am convinced that we need to put as many resources into programming as we do dining. At this point, those investments would pay huge dividends that would flow straight to the bottom line.