By Steve Moran
A few weeks ago we published an article titled “This Is How We Can Figure Out the Perfect Senior Living Design and Program . . .”. that generated a pretty fair amount of discussion over at LinkedIn. This whole idea of designing senior living communities really fascinates and bothers me. I am speaking more about the operating philosophy or programming than the physical building and grounds.
There is a single foundational presumption behind almost every senior living community, every single senior living organization, that is completely nuts.
That being old is a great common denominator for people to want to and like living in close proximity with each other.
It Used to Work
In the olden days of senior living, it used to work okay because people in a given geographic market area tended to be pretty homogenous. They grew up in the same area, were mostly of the same ethnic background, and, if they could afford senior living, mostly had the same educational levels.
None of this is true today.
We assume that followers of Donald Trump and Barack Obama, once they get old, will be perfectly happy living in senior living. We assume that lovers of classical music and lovers of rock will be happy living in senior living. We believe tradesmen will be happy living with college professor PhDs.
It makes no sense.
Making Some Sense
First, I want to acknowledge that fair housing laws can make this a bit more complicated, or at least they suggest needing some serious thoughtfulness in how communities are conceived and promoted. We also see this working in a few isolated areas. Arun Paul, Founder and CEO of Priya Living operates communities that have an ethnic focus . . . and he has a waitlist. A number of not-for-profits have communities that are designed to appeal to residents with specific religious preferences. There are also some university-based communities that work to appeal to narrower markets.
Opportunity Today in Every Community
It may be that opportunity to do this already is possible in your existing community. You might want to think in terms of smaller interest communities inside of a larger community. Do you have a bunch of retired school teachers? How about focusing on that narrow slice? Do you have a group of retired scientists, or doctors, or construction workers?
The low-hanging fruit is to start with the naturally occurring affinity groups you already have, then figure out how to meet their needs and sell to their peers.
I am convinced that specializing will be the key to growing the market. Are you doing this already? We would love to hear about it.