I believe we ought to see ourselves as being in the business of selling hope.

This article: “The ‘F’ Word (Facility) and Other Dirty Words in Retirement Living” made the rounds a few weeks ago. At the time I liked the article and curated it (so you may have seen it), but it got me to thinking . . . Maybe the problem is more fundamental that avoiding terms like 

Words Are Just Words

A year ago I attended a presentation by a representative of the American Health Care Association (AHCA) where he talked about a series of test marketing campaigns they ran with the hope of improving the image of skilled nursing communities. The videos were wonderful and if you saw them you would likely have had two reactions:

  1. “Wow, that makes skilled nursing look really good.”
  2. “Most skilled nursing communities I have ever visited don’t look like that.”

The survey results demonstrated that, in the test markets, the public’s perception of skilled nursing communities did improve.

What Haunted Me

The thought that haunted me at the time was this: What happens when people who, as the result of one of these ad campaigns, have a higher perception of skilled nursing actually walk into a typical, rather dreary skilled nursing community and see that it looks nothing like what they saw in the advertising campaign?

The Problem Is Bigger

This is a universal problem for senior living, not just skilled nursing. It is a problem that impacts even high-end CCRCs, Independent Living and Assisted Living (and to some degree, memory care). They are ultimately seen by residents and families and the public as places of decline. Take a look at the comments that follow the referenced article, in the first paragraph the last comment at the time of this writing was this:

“Two friends who moved to a high-end retirement community a decade ago got energized enough to write their annual Christmas letter from ‘Terminal House.'”

It is humorous in part because it is how we view senior living, yet in some sense it is a true sentiment that reflects how people view senior living — even residents.  And yet . . .

In The Business of Selling Hope

I believe we ought to see ourselves as being in the business of selling hope. Hope for an amazing last chapter, maybe even the best chapter for seniors. Hope for family members as they see their loved one blossom in their last chapter experience. Hope for employees and potential employees to start at the bottom and grow into amazing careers.

The Problem Is Not the Words

These negative words have negative images attached to them because too often those images have been crafted from reality. If we don’t change how we go about doing our business then new good words will suddenly become the bad words and we will face the same word problem. If we change the reality, the word pictures will follow.

Steve Moran