I came back feeling extremely proud to be a part of this industry and profoundly optimistic that we are on the cusp of some “disruptive” (I love and hate that word) positive changes.
I love going to conferences because it is a chance to sit and talk to the best of the best providers and vendors. It is a chance to hear their stories, their dreams, their pain points, lessons learned and victories.
My First Year
The first year I did the senior living conference circuit it was dazzling, overwhelming, confusing and, more than anything else, depressing. I saw people greeting and hugs between old friends. There were groups of people engaged in passionate conversations, both deep and light-hearted. I didn’t know anyone, sat alone watching and could hardly wait for the shows to be over. I also knew that, as I got to know more people, it would get better and it definitely has. This week at ALFA was the best ever.
A Big Paradigm Shift
While totally exhausted from early mornings and long evenings of great conversations, I came back feeling extremely proud to be a part of this industry and profoundly optimistic that we are on the cusp of some “disruptive” (I love and hate that word) positive changes. Changes that will, most importantly, benefit residents and staff but will also make the work of developers and executives more fulfilling and satisfying. Here is why: (The Caveat: It is possible that, because my network is vastly expanded over prior years, I would have heard similar things in my first two years of ALFA if I had been better connected. If this is true everything you read below is just blowing smoke.)
- We Are Doing Better Than Good – While this is true there is still great potential for a radical shift to great. I talked with so many people who are experimenting with how they deliver services in an effort to better empower residents, families and team members.
- Technology Will Rock– We still have a long way to go with technology in senior living. Usability, cost and interoperability are still big challenges and not everyone is getting it (both vendors and providers), but the need for more and better technology that makes the lives of residents better and safer, staff more efficient and management more effective are smack dab on people’s radar.
- Beyond the 3 B’s– I am really encouraged that more and more providers are recognizing that life enrichment needs to be more than Bible, Bingo and Birthdays (not to say these need to go away). There is some cool “give residents purpose” stuff going on. There is some great educational stuff going on. There is beginning to be a much better awareness that life enrichment and marketing need to be closely coupled.
- New Models – While you might think, when reading much of what I write, that I am in favor of blowing up how we do senior living today, this is not true. It works for most operators and it works for the segment of the population we serve. But likely the best single way to increase market penetration is to offer seniors a wider variety of options.
I was able to do a bunch of interviews with some amazing leaders during ALFA in the weeks leading up to the conference. I hope to catch-up on writing the stories over the long holiday weekend and publishing them over the next few weeks. I hope they will leave you as hopeful and inspired as the process of doing the interviews left me. Steve Moran If you like this article (or even if you don’t) it would be a great honor to have you subscribe to our mailing list HERE
I enjoy reading your articles. I know you love and hate the word “disruptive.” I mostly hate the word “industry” to describe long term support and services. FYI.
I kinda hate the word industry too. I am just not sure what to replace it with.
Provider community, long term support and services, housing with services…. Just a few suggestions. Thanks
I follow your senior housing forum and enjoy the relevant and informative discussions. Since I have been in senior healthcare for 30 years and now work as a consultant for many in this industry, I read as much as I can about innovation, changes,challenges and who’s who. While there is much happening, both innovative and disruptive,I always am saddened that even after all these years, marketing and sales seems to be a second or sometimes a fifth thought. I always ask my clients,”What makes you different?” “What sets you apart?” After they go on and on extolling their great products and new services, I ask, “Who have you told?” It is usually followed by silence!
Nice work; I shall continue to look forward to lively discussions.
Veronica I agree with you 100%. In a few weeks I am presenting a breakout session at the Washington State LeadingAge convention on story telling. Selecting stories that highlight those differences will be an important part of that session.
Seniors are my favorite people. I have been working with seniors for most of thirty years that I have been a barber/stylist. And, now that I am a senior I am even more cognizant of their needs. As a provider of a footrest for salon chairs for the handicap and the elderly it gives me great satisfaction to hear how this one change helps so many people. Even people who are in a retirement facility want to look and feel good too. Now, we have this accessory footrest that replaces the standard “U” shaped footrest and allows for easy access and egress to and from the styling chair. Getting into the chair is the only hard part of getting a haircut or other hair service. Many residents don’t bother because it is too difficult to get in and out of the chair. Not any more. We at salonfootrest.com have the answer. We have just redesigned our original footrest to be more universal and be able to attach to even more styles of chairs. Let’s keep making our elder look and feel like the wonderful people that they are. Just because they are older doesn’t mean that they have to look bad. Now, they can get into a styling chair with ease.
Veronica, you are so right. Many changes yet many things stay the same. Same old, same old. It seems that the senior housing issues are thought of by those who are not seniors. Asking seniors what they want would be a nice heads up for change. There are many innovative and interactive services available now that were not many years ago. But, many time the simple things are overlooked. Why should things stop that seniors used to be able to have before they moved to a facility. I have worked in several facilities that have beauty/barber salons and they are missing the boat. I’m not quite sure who designed them but it wasn’t a barber or a cosmotologist. Getting around in sometimes tiny spaces is a challenge. Imagine how difficult it is for the senior too. Did anyone ever ask a resident what they wanted? Years ago I worked in a rehab hospital and opened their salon. We made a couple of changes and they had a very smart PR person who used the comfort of having their hair done/cut/ etc. as a marketing tool. Yes, have things available that they get if they don’t live at a facility. We also licensed the shop to be able to be of service to family members who , many times, spent hours at the facility as well. Even the staff appreciated having the opportunity to stop by at the beginning or end of their shifts as well. This methodology brought about more revenue to the facility and made everyone feel good. Looking good makes you feel good and have more energy. Having hair services available helps the resident feel more activated and able to rehab better as well as want to enjoy other activities. I have a problem understanding why facilities have to conform to so many rules but they seem to forget about allowing the salons to have to conform. We at salonfootrest.com continue to get as many facilities as possible up to par. Are you next?
Instead of referring the Senior Living “lifestyle” as an industry why not refer to it as a Community since it is a combination of many things and walks of life?
While I like using community I am fearful it becomes even more confusing because even today community can refer to a single building or a market area. To then add community to refer to everyone in the industry would just cause more confusion . . . I think.
Even a Senior “Market” would entail a combination of many facets. Market is warmer than “industry”.
It was great to meet you at the ALFA Expo in Phoenix this 2014. I am glad you shared your viewpoints. And…as I have many related comments I could make I will shorten them to make it more palatable for all. 🙂
Technology Will Rock – Cannot be stated enough. However, with technology comes burden, fear, high cost, variable ROI’s, as well as apprehension and doubt. The upside benefits sometimes are overstated and that leaves many Operator/Owners/Investors asking do I really need that? Or is the next best thing, really the next best technology. If the aforementioned Leadership will make sure the firmly and realistically vet the solutions presented to them, request a detailed ROI analysis, and adopt technology cautiously with the right contract terms in place they will create win-win solutions with their choices and vendors.
New Models – The final statement, “But likely the best single way to increase market penetration is to offer seniors a wider variety of options.” I believe is the key. The populace of the US is based on options. We are an on demand society and all ages have been conditioned to the the last decade of social media, content on demand, instant gratification, smorgasbord of offerings and a myriad of choices that can be researched and verified faster then you can say Google. I believe the key for Operators to make their facilities the most desirable, is to find a way to deliver top choices and top care. So what needs to be collected from those already Operating Facilities is a reference-able “Angie’s List” of the best of breed solutions for the ALF and LTHC marketplace. And one’s that will be willing to testimony the credibility which maintain excellence in senior care, service deliverable, operation improvement, and communication capabilities.