The trifecta of good tours?

By Steve Moran

I had to make a quick run to Auburn, California — a little foothill community about 20 miles east of Sacramento — and after taking care of business, I thought, it must be time to visit a senior living community. I pulled up google maps, searched for assisted living and headed to the closest one.  

Solstice Senior Living at Auburn

The first one was Solstice Senior Living at Auburn. This is a former Holiday Retirement community so it is all independent living. I identified myself as someone who writes on aging and asked for a tour. After a very short wait, the Executive Director, Gennaro Faiola, came out. We chatted a bit while I clarified who I was and what I did. We had a fine conversation and he gave me a great tour of his almost-full community.

Sierra Ridge Memory Care

I will be honest, while my heart sings for the industry when I have a great tour, there is an element of disappointment because good tours don’t make for great articles that people love to read and comment on (which is kind of sad, but it is the way we are . . . all of us . . . even me).  

Since there was another community right across the street I figured I would give it another shot kind of hoping for a bad experience that would lead to a good article. No dice! I walked into Sierra Ridge, a Milestone community, asked for a tour and was immediately handed over to Joyce Perkins, who said, “I think we have met before”. She looked familiar to me too.

Again, another great conversation and a great tour of an almost-full community.

Brookdale Auburn

Figuring I couldn’t go three for three, I drove half a mile to Brookdale Auburn. When I walked in, there was a big traffic jam and the front desk person was busy sorting photos. I stood there for maybe 20 seconds, thinking, this is going to be the one. Nope!

She asked me to fill out a form while she went to get someone. I have been asked to do this a few times, and at first, I thought, this is kind of pushy . . . then filled it out. I have come to believe this is something every community ought to do every time.

The Marketing Director, Cathy Reuter, came out, took one look at me and said, “I know you.” Busted! We chatted for a few minutes, then the Executive Director, Lisa Huntzinger, joined us, and we spent a long time chatting about the industry and their community.

I was particularly impressed by Lisa, who is a newly promoted Executive Director. She is so passionate about her new position and spent a lot of time talking about the support and mentoring she is receiving in her new position.  

Pretty Cool

Some observations from the three visits:

  • Except for the memory care community, parking was tough. After circling the parking lots of the other two communities, I was forced to find a place out on the street. This is a frequent problem I see when visiting communities. I think it is easy to get complacent about things like this, which means team members start using those spots.   

    It is difficult to know how much of an impact it makes. Yet, when I was a real consumer looking for assisted living for my mom, we went to one community, could not find parking, moved on to the next one on our list, and never came back. All because of a lack of parking.

  • At two of the communities there was some recognition of me, so one might argue I got better than average treatment, but I don’t think that was it. They were all doing things right.

  • The weirdest phenomena I see over and over again is that I get the best treatment in communities that have high occupancy rates and the worst treatment in those communities that struggle with occupancy. The front desk treatment is a reflection of the culture of the community and there seems to be a high level of correlation between that first encounter and the resulting occupancy of the community. 

It was ultimately a delightful day to have this experience, but I am thinking I may have to revisit my senior living community tour strategy.