By Steve Moran
Mostly we do things the same way we have always done things, with a few little tweaks. We have moved much more aggressively into digital, and COVID has radically shifted how we do tours and interact with residents. Many of the most recent shifts are not things we would call better. They are, at best, “better than nothing.”
I consume a lot of content, nearly every day. I read lots of books, online articles, and blog posts. I listen to thought leaders on YouTube videos and on podcasts. Some of that content is in the industry, but a lot is not. One of my unusual sources is blogs on church leadership and church growth. It turns out churches and senior living communities have a lot in common.
These ideas are inspired by a blog post at Church Answers. The four stories are inspired by churches that invested in a Know Your Community report, which is a demographic and psychographic snapshot of local church marketplaces.
It occurs to me that this report might have tremendous value for senior living communities that want to do a better job of being a part of and serving their communities. I know when communities are first built, developers do a demand study. But I suspect it is rare for a community to come back and reprofile their marketplace five or 10 years later.
Whether or not you get a report, here are four ideas that might help you grow your occupancy and serve your community better:
- Help people. There may be specific groups in your marketplace that have big needs. They might be older people, single or married; they might be single moms, young families, or empty nesters. While older people seem to be the obvious target, those other groups could be very important as either potential employees or referral sources.
- Check your perceptions. You almost certainly have some perceptions about what your local marketplace looks like, which may or may not be accurate. If you know, you can then figure out how to better serve your neighbors. But if you don’t know, you may be doing things that are actually hurting your efforts.
- Hold court. One church in Florida was built when boomers were in their 30s. In an effort to attract these young professionals, they built a gym and offered bargain memberships. Those people, in the church and in the community, are now in their 60s and 70s. They have repurposed that gym (part of it) to pickleball courts. Imagine you had pickleball or bocce courts and opened them to the public. What a great way to attract your next residents, to dispel the stigma of senior living.
- Make friends. I promise there are, in your community, lots of people who are plagued with social isolation. Imagine holding a dinner and game night for older people in your community. Serve a great dinner, charge enough to cover the cost, then create a bit of a social club for older people.
I confess to being puzzled at how few communities put serious effort into being a part of the local marketplace. Imagine taking some of that money you pay to lead aggregators and doing this instead.
If you have creative ways you have become a part of the local community we would love to hear from you.