By Steve Moran
The great puzzle senior living as an industry should be laser focused on is why every single senior living community is not at 98% occupancy. We know there are enough older people who have the financial resources and who would live better last chapters if they were to move into senior living.
We also know that most senior living consumers are really happy they made that choice.
Messed Up Belief
If we were to survey the American public about their attitudes toward senior living for themselves or their loved ones, most people would say that senior living is the place you go when you have run out of other options.
- You need more care than you can access at home.
- You can’t drive anymore.
- You are having a hard time with taking medications.
- You are not getting good nutrition.
And if we could do an honest survey of senior living professionals, many of them hope they don’t ever “need” to move into a senior living community — theirs or someone else’s.
Flipping the Script
There are a few examples of senior living being 100% choice driven:
- CCRC residents make the choice to go into senior living — mostly, though, because they are thinking about that time when their bodies and perhaps their minds will not work so well. So, while they perhaps see it as the best place to age, the decision is often more about the potential loss of health than the quality of the independent living.
- Margaritaville, The Villages, Sun Cities are probably the current best examples of senior living being the first choice — particularly Mararitaville where they have long wait lists of very healthy people in their 60s lined up to move in.
The Assisted Living Conundrum
It would be hard to argue that assisted living is ever a choice or lifestyle driven, but it is possible to create an assisted living community that is so great that making that move from home, when the need for care already exists, feels like an amazing upgrade. A move that one gets to do rather than has to do.
Possibly even the kind of upgrade that had that special place of honor that growing old once had and still has in a few societies.
The Big Challenge
Until we — those of us who work in senior living — actually believe that senior living is the adult equivalent to moving into a luxury mansion, living at Disneyland, or living on a cruise ship, the public won’t either.
Coming tomorrow: Part 2, “A New Way of Messaging Senior Living.”
This one will get me in big big trouble with a bunch of readers, but I hope you will approach it with an open mind.