I love senior living with all my heart, but there are some things about our little big industry sector that drive me nuts. Some are things we say, some are things we do, and some are things we don’t do. I bet you have a list in your head as well.
Here are my top 6:-I am never moving into senior living — Jody Holtzman, in his NIC Talk just a few days ago, said he frequently asks senior living audiences how many of them plan on moving into their own communities. Mostly the number is way less than 20%. It strikes me as being a bit like being a nonsmoker and selling cigarettes.
- I get it, in some cases you serve a more modest clientele or provide specialty senior living like dementia care or you don’t think you can afford the kind of senior living you would want. But figuring out how to build and operate something we would like at a price we can afford would be a great next step.
- We say recruiting and retention Is our biggest problem — But we are mostly reluctant to actually spend money and time on creating great teams. We know when great teams are in place, occupancy is high and NOI is fantastic. For most communities and organizations, spending money and energy on culture is a much lower priority than all kinds of other things. I am convinced that just a little more spend on leadership development would yield a huge return.
- We just have to hang on for the boomers to get a little older and all our occupancy woes will be over — I believe operators and investors will be shocked at how small the bump will be. New and better ways of serving older people will continue to emerge. The residential assisted living model will continue to expand. It will be, at best, modest.
- Sameness Sells — Mostly what we are selling, mostly what we are programming is the same. Sure some is a little nicer and some more modest but mostly the same. The marketing is craving something new and different. Just look at the waitlist for Jimmy Buffet’s Latitudes and know that the market, older people, are looking for something different, looking for an amazing experience.
- Dining as It Is — I am more and more convinced dining may be the singular most dysfunctional part of senior living. I have to get up and get dressed to eat breakfast and then I get 4-star dining every day for lunch and dinner. It makes no sense. It is expensive to do; it looks nothing like what any of us do at home or what the residents did the week, month, or year, before they moved in.
Start by moving breakfast back to the residents room. Stock them with favorites a week at a time. Residents get up and do breakfast they way they want to, and have more energy all day long.
- Cruise Ship Living — I am thankful I hear this luxury hotel metaphor less often than before. While cruising for a week or a month is cool, being forced to stay on board a ship for the rest of your life sounds like a unique kind of hell.
That’s my list. What did I miss?