By Steve Moran

I’ve been having a bunch of conversations over the last couple weeks about two tightly coupled, but very different questions:

  1. What should the opening or more accurately reopening of communities look like?
  2. What kinds of relationships are most important to residents?

Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom is that the highest priority for reopening should be to make it possible for residents and families to interact. It makes sense because senior living communities are getting pressure from families to have face-to-face interactions with their older loved ones.

I’m not convinced that from the resident’s perspective that is really their highest priority.

This is going to sound bad . . .

but I am pretty confident this is right. I suspect that deep in the heart of most residents, they are a lot more ready to connect with their friends in the senior living community, the people they hung out with each and every day, than their family members. In truth, residents and their children have not lived together for decades and have very little in common except history.

Like This

If you were to give most of your resident family members this question: 

You are getting ready to go on vacation for a week (I would have used “go on a cruise” just a few weeks ago) and you get to pick either going with a good friend or with your parent, who would you rather go with?

The truth is, most people would rather go with their friends rather than parents. And it seems likely that your residents would answer the same way about going with their kids.

Worth Considering

We also know that very often, when family members come to visit a resident they struggle with what to talk about. There are only so many times you can talk about their health, what they did or are doing, and kids and grandkids, and only so many times old family stories can be told.

What We Sell

Ultimately what we sell are the benefits of socialization. While we don’t always do the very best job of providing this, it is still a big part of what we sell. If you think about it, an older person could rent, for probably an equivalent amount of money, a senior apartment and then prepare a few meals of their on their own, and use various delivery services plus a little home care and family support to experience a life equivalent to what they have today with social isolation. What we sell is a complete package anchored in socialization.

Ultimately we need to be talking to families and residents about what they really need and want. We need to be giving them back the things that are most important.