Age at Home vs. Senior Housing – Part 4

Seniors may look at their lives and come to the realization that they need to live in a more supportive environment. Together with loved ones they embark on the process of selecting the most appropriate senior housing option. As more seniors take advantage of these supportive options and friends see friends thriving in senior housing this will become increasingly common.

Today, more typically, a senior reluctantly makes the decision under pressure from family. Families see that Mom is not consistently taking her medications and is suffering for it; that Dad is not bathing regularly or eating balanced meals; that Mom or Dad has had a fall while alone.

This is a difficult decision for most seniors. They will move from a place that has been home for many years, a place that is very comfortable, a place with great memories. They will need to rid themselves of possessions, some of which are mostly functional but others that have great sentimental value. There is a loss of independence that ranges from making meals to doing laundry the right way. There is a significant and real fear factor. Will they be able to make friends? Will the food taste good? Will the staff really care for them as promised? Perhaps most difficult is that there is no turning back; it is very rare for individuals to leave senior housing options and return to a private residence.

There are two key opportunities to make the case for senior housing, to make the case for your community:

1. Experience the Love – Community tours tend to focus on the features of the community. Marketing directors spend time talking about how “luxury hotel-like” the community is. As the tour progresses the discussion moves to the supportive services the community provides: transportation, assistance with medication, assistance with bathing, 24 hour emergency response. These are all good and important things but not the most important.

Every community needs to have resident ambassadors who are available to meet prospective residents. These individuals can talk about their own experience, about how much better off they are, how much happier they are in their new senior housing setting. And now the prospective resident has a friendly face to look for when they move in. You need more than one “ambassador”, to avoid burn-out and to match different personalities.

Paint Word Pictures – Tell stories from the resident’s perspective, not the family’s. Talk about real residents who moved to your community and became more social, who received a new lease on life; residents whose physical and emotional health improved. Focus on the fears the perspective resident had before they moved in. Talk about how difficult the decision was for the resident. Describe how those fears were resolved by talking about how much better their lives were after they made the move.

Finally set proper expectations, about how long the adjustment typically takes; about how the resident, family and staff can work together to optimize the experience. Be realistic about the role the resident will play in the process.

Next Week: A guest article on financing senior housing projects

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