By Steve Moran
Over the last few days, I have watched with growing frustration a number of senior living organizations downsize corporate and regional life enrichment leaders. I believe this is significant senior housing news that is very short-sighted. Making it even worse, it feels like the ones laying staff off are completely missing the single biggest value proposition senior living offers.
Why Senior Living is Cool
Senior living does lots of things for older people. We provide meals, we provide a place to live, we provide housekeeping . . . you get it because you do it. The list might include 50 things. There is really only one thing though that makes for a compelling value proposition. And that is that we are the perfect antidote to social isolation and loneliness.
There is so much data out there that loneliness is a killer. The evidence is compelling, it’s more dangerous than cigarettes and so many other things.
And Yet . . .
When I look at how senior living organizations spend money on operations, life enrichment in almost every community, in almost every organization, is the one area that gets the least love. (Though recently I came across one community where they are making a major investment in life enrichment and it is paying off huge, we will be telling that story in the coming weeks.)
Life Enrichment leaders have been a shining light of courage and creativity in the bleakness of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have had to completely redesign everything they do in order to serve residents in the best possible ways. Go take a look at LinkedIn or Facebook and you can see that creativity on full display.
I am convinced that this creativity saved lives and the mental well being of hundreds of thousands of residents. Not only that, but it also prevented move-outs. And while difficult to measure, it will likely turn out that they minimized the impact of isolation and of decreased physical activity, which could shorten lengths of stay.
I Would Propose . . .
Right now is the time for senior living communities to increase their investment in life enrichment. I believe doing so will be critical to higher occupancy and longer lengths of stay. It will also increase resident satisfaction.