By Steve Moran

I was recently at the InterFace West conference and talking with an old friend about what it would take to make senior living more desirable to more people. His response was simple and complex. Here is what he said:

“We will win the game when we make living in senior living better than living at home.”

Whisper, Whisper, Whisper

This doesn’t happen at every conference, and not everyone says it, but it happens enough to be embarrassing: People tell me in deep, deep confidence that they hope they never have to move into senior living. Actually more like this:

“I hope I never have to move into senior living!” PERIOD!

No qualifying statements like:

“I want to move in but won’t be able to afford it.”

“If senior living were to …, then I would love to move in.”

“There are a couple of communities I have visited that would be great places to live.”

This is actually a huge problem. It is really hard to effectively sell a product that we don’t actually believe in. And we need to have an honest discussion about whether or not senior living is really better than home.

Thinking It Through

I went to ChatGPT and asked for reasons why senior living is better than home. This is a good exercise because the platform scours the web looking for prevalent thinking. Here is what it had to say (abbreviated):

There are several reasons why senior living can be considered beneficial for some individuals:

  1. Access to care and support
  2. Safety and security
  3. Nutrition and meal preparation
  4. Socialization
  5. Maintenance-free living
  6. Tailored lifestyle options
  7. Recreational and wellness programs
  8. Peace of mind for families

For some, the benefits of community living, support services, and safety features outweigh the desire to remain in their home.

Here is the question: Does that look better than home?

A big part of the challenge is that we broadly call everything from active 55+ to skilled nursing senior living. They are worlds apart. Some of what we offer is very lifestyle driven, and other parts are nearly 100% needs driven.

The Questions We Need to Ask

  1. What makes active 55+ better than home? This is the one bright spot with respect to this specific question.
  2. What makes moving into independent living better than staying home? It is clear that some people are making this choice, but do we really understand why they see it as better than home, and are we telling those stories?
  3. We know assisted living and assisted living memory care are both need driven. In that context, what makes them better than home? This is a multipart question, because it includes better for residents and better for family members. The answer might also include mention of tremendous economic benefits. How do we tell those stories?
  4. How do we make sure senior living really is better than home? This is the most important question of all. We will know we have this right when people who live in senior living actually believe in their own product.

More on this topic in future articles.

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