Do you want more referrals? Make sure your community is just like home!

One of my favorite presenters is Margaret Wylde of Pro Matura. In particular what always makes me grin is how she manages to present a long list of what we are doing wrong . . . or maybe a little more charitably, what we could be doing better . . . and we flock to hear what she has to say.

In the last couple of weeks I have heard her present twice.  First at the Marcus Evans Conference in Southern California, then again a couple of weeks later at the Interface Seniors Housing West Conference in Los Angeles. In both presentations she addressed what makes senior living communities recommendable by residents and by extension their families.

Like Home

More than a year ago I was touring a great large-campus senior living community with the executive director. As we were chatting she said her goal was to make her community as close to home like as possible, she paused then continued saying “ . . . because this is not home.” 

It was a frank acknowledgement that I had never heard from a senior living provider and I have spent considerable time contemplating this idea, mostly thinking it is true, but also wondering if it is possible for a senior living community to become home.

The Data

Margaret and her team spend much of their time asking lots of questions and then analyzing that data to draw conclusions about our industry. I went back and listened to a recording of one of those presentations and there is just too much data to provide it all, but here are some highlights:

  • While senior living as an industry and individual senior living communities love to tout their high satisfaction survey rankings, they always do it by lumping together the number “satisfied” with “very satisfied”. While it gives a nice feel-good number, it is a way to disillusion yourself. 

    It turns out that in senior living, as is true in any other industry on the planet, the only number . . . the only category that is of value are the “very satisfied”.  These are the residents who love your community, your staff and your program so much that they will recommend your community to their friends.

  • In independent living Margaret has found that about 25% of residents are very satisfied with their living arrangement and of those 25% about 78% would recommend the community to a friend. As you go down the satisfaction ranking, the percent that would recommend drops dramatically. (They are in the process of doing a similar assessment of assisted living, but believe the numbers will correlate.)
  • The number one factor that correlates to being very satisfied is that residents feel at home at their own community. 
  • What amounts to feeling at home?
    • They feel at home in their unit, but this has almost no correlation to unit size
    • Comradery with other residents and staff
    • A sense of control over their lives
    • Access to natural light in their apartments

  • The things that keep people from feeling at home include:
    • Difficulty making friends/bullying
    • A lack of understanding about how things work in the community, perhaps translated into a lack of control and a lack of transparency.

This raises a big question about the current amenity and size creep we are seeing in the industry. How is it in your community?  Do your residents say they feel at home?

Steve Moran