By Steve Moran

I watch very little TV and never watch daytime television. But right now my wife is recovering from pneumonia and is watching a bit of daytime television. I was fixing myself a tomato sandwich when a Joan Lunden/A Place for Mom commercial came on. It horrified me.

The message was that senior living is a place where everything is done for you. Day after day after day after day after day of doing nothing except indulging. Just two messages:

  • Amenities

  • A completely “free service”

Both of which entirely miss the mark.

Holiday Inn, Cruise Ships, and Senior Living

Some time ago, someone posted a mildly humorous little ditty about Holiday Inn being as good as senior living and a lot less expensive. There was lots of hand wringing on the part of the industry about how misleading the post was, but when you watch these APFM ads, the comparison makes more sense. And likely what most people know about senior living comes from watching APFM ads on television.

And yes, in full disclosure, there is a tiny bit about care being available to the extent needed.

Free . . .

I am going to go out on a limb here, but I find their emphasis on “free” to be misleading. If I were not an insider, I would have no idea that free means only free to the consumer. I would also have no idea that by calling them, I was inadvertently placing myself in the middle of a contractual relationship between APFM and a bunch of senior living providers.

The Picture I Want to See Painted . . .

The picture painted by APFM is, I think, designed to make families feel less guilty about “placing” mom or dad in a senior living organization. But it is hard to imagine that when I get to be 70-, 80- or 90-something this is all that is left in life.

I want to be offered something where I can continue to live with purpose and meaning, and while playing with grandkids is great (something I enjoy), it is not enough.

  • I want to have a place where I can make new friends and deepen old friendships.

  • I want to go someplace where I can continue to learn.

  • I want a place where I can continue to create.

  • I want a place I can continue to make a difference in the world.

I believe that if I had to help my mom or dad find a senior living community, this is what I would want for them too.

Our Biggest Enemy . . .

Is it possible that these TV ads are doing huge damage to senior living by painting such a narrow picture of who we are and what we do? I am fearful the answer is YES. They could do it differently, very differently. I have this vision of Chip Conley, author of “Wisdom at Work”, being the new spokesperson for how senior living helps older people have amazing closing chapters in their lives.

I believe this would be a powerful boost to senior living and to APFM.

Some final disclosures:, a competitor of APFM is a Senior Housing Forum Partner, but they had nothing to do with this article. Draft copies of the article were sent to both and APFM for comment or correction.