By Steve Moran

The “jobs to be done” theory suggests that consumers purchase products and services in order to accomplish something — in other words, to get a job done. Under this theory, this applies to every single product or service that anyone ever buys.

The idea is that this is a better way to understand and predict why consumers choose to purchase or not purchase something. The theory’s biggest single value is that it can help us better understand human behavior, even in senior living.

The Traditional View

The traditional view is that residents and their families will choose senior living — and your particular senior living community — because of the features you offer: a nice apartment, activities, transportation, assistance with activities of daily living, friendship ….

The Job Theory View

The job theory — short for jobs to be done theory — view would go deeper and ask: What is the fundamental problem or problems the customer is trying to solve? In the case of senior living it might be:

  • Emotional need for friendship
  • Forgetfulness on the part of the resident
  • Lack of capacity to do certain tasks
  • Need for transportation to specific kinds of things
  • Boredom
  • Desire for family peace of mind

Why This Is Important

The reason this is important is that we have preconceived notions about why consumers and families purchase senior living, and they may or may not be right. It might also be that they are choosing to say yes for reasons that we don’t fully understand, or even in ways that would surprise us.


I went to ChatGPT to get some ideas about how you can figure it out with your residents and their family members. Here are some ideas:

  1. Start by asking residents and their family members questions:

a. Why did you first explore senior living?

b. Now that you moved in, what is it that is most important, most useful to you?

c. What is a typical day like for you?

d. What has surprised you about living here?

          Follow their responses with clarification questions.

  1. Spend time simply watching how residents and family members interact with your community: the physical area, other residents, team members, and services (noticing which ones they actually use).
  2. Journey map their experience from the initial decision to move, through the move-in process, to their daily life.

If you have tried this with your residents, I would love to hear about it.