By Steve Moran

Over the past year I have had the opportunity to listen to a few dozen senior living residents — and in some cases their families — talk about their senior living experiences. It is the best kind of education about what we are doing right and where we have opportunity.

The good news is that residents and families are mostly happy with their experiences — not ecstatic but happy.

Lowish Expectations

There is one repeating theme that I find to be both good and disturbing, and that is that residents and their families have come to accept and expect mediocre levels of service. Here are some examples:

  • Meds will be done right most of the time.
  • The food will be good some of the time and not so good most of the time.
  • When housekeeping gets it mostly right, that is good enough.
  • When they use their emergency call button for help, it will take 15 to 30 minutes for someone to respond. (They are not particularly bothered by this.)
  • Mostly, their concerns don’t seem to get much consideration.

Worst of All …

Every single independent living resident I have talked to about what they would do in the case of a true emergency has told me that they would bypass the community staff and call 911, believing the staff will not respond in a reasonable amount of time.

It Is No One Thing

Senior living continues to struggle with an image problem, and that image problem comes less from big, massive failures, which happen in all industries, but rather from death by a thousand cuts. Every day there are lots of little things that make senior living less good than it could be, leaving an impression of mediocrity or worse.

Just this past week I talked to a friend who is deeply involved in the senior living space and is trying to figure out the best solution for his aging parents. It is a pretty typical family scenario: aging parents, brothers and sisters with very different perceptions about senior living. Two things stand out:

  1. The friend who knows senior living has discovered that when it comes to finding the right senior living community for a loved one, the process is pretty terrible.
  2. The other siblings have a very negatively distorted (maybe) view of senior living, and the process of figuring it out for Mom and Dad is making it worse not better.

If we ever hope to achieve the success we dream of, we need to get the little things, including the buyer’s journey, more right than it is.

It is possible for senior living to be the thing that nearly everyone wants as they grow old … but we are a long way from being there.