Last week I published an article titled “It’s Our Own Damn Fault,” where I propositioned that one of the reasons we are not attracting younger seniors is because we are not doing a good enough job of telling our story.
In the process of pondering this age creep problem I had the chance to spend some time talking to Jayne Sallerson, the new COO of Sherpa CRM about this issue. She was the first person to very specifically identify how we got to where we are and what we need to be doing about it.
How We Got Here
Over the last twenty or so years the most significant change in the senior living space has been a shift from a social model of care to a much more medical model. This came about as senior communities worked to hold on to existing residents as their health declined and as a way to broaden the pool of potential residents. There were three unintended or unanticipated consequences:
- As senior living communities begin providing for more frail seniors, less frail seniors were not as attracted to senior living, accelerating a shift in resident needs.
- Senior living providers become more oriented to providing housing, care and services to frail seniors. As a result, programmatically, the focus became healthcare and less living a healthy vibrant productive life (see the Bill Marriott story).
- Medically frail seniors became the low hanging fruit for senior living sales people. They typically had immediate need because of some change in their health. These immediate need prospects have become the place where every senior living salesperson puts all or almost all of their efforts. It is easy to see why . . . They represent a short-term win.
The problem, of course, is that they are typically older, have shorter lengths of stay and are more expensive to care for.
This is a problem we have created for ourselves but it is not irreversible.
In talking to Jayne about how to reverse this trend, I found that she believes senior living communities need to continue to focus on those prospects with immediate needs, and therefore, who are likely to be rapid move-ins. She is convinced that in addition senior communities need to, in a very deliberate fashion, invest time and energy in those high hanging fruit prospects . . . seniors who are just beginning to think about senior living.
Her belief is that in nurturing those relationships, those seniors will become more induced to move into your community in better health. This will mean moving to a better mix of residents with a younger average age and requiring less help. It will mean longer lengths of stay and, ultimately, higher occupancy levels.
Jayne emphasized that the Sherpa CRM product has been designed to support a selling style that is heavily relationship oriented and is a great tool for nurturing these high value long-term prospects.