A follow up to our interview with Sage Age Strategies’ (a Senior Housing Forum Partner) President Faith Ott

Last night I rented an awesome movie from Blockbuster on VHS after buying the new CD by The Police and filling up my gas tank with regular. Oh, wait. That was years ago. Bookstores, VCRs, maps, classified newspaper ads, dial-up internet and encyclopedias, oh my. These were a few of my favorite things. All but gone now, relegated to the bin of the stale and obsolete . . . and gone. Each one a profound truth of the inevitability of change and the consequences of failing to prepare for it.

What Are You Doing to Make Sure Your Community, Our Industry Doesn’t Become the Next Blockbuster Video? 

The truth is that most of us are all a bit too cozy here in our little world of senior housing, and that is going to change soon – and very soon.

According to industry expert, Faith Ott, President of Sage Age Strategies, “Sometimes it can be difficult for industry leaders to think outside of their current paradigm, especially if they’ve been successful in that space. However, past success does not guarantee future success. Those leaders who have the knowledge and foresight — and use it to maximum advantage by identifying new opportunities and riding the wave of change — will be in the best position to create a successful future for themselves.”

Changes Are Coming

Faith is convinced — as am I — that the future of senior housing will look much different from today. A recent Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate study on retirement found that baby boomers are expressing feelings of optimism about living an independent, active lifestyle unrestrained by planned retirement communities, and instead bolstered by living out their passions. Faith states, “In order to stay ahead of the curve in what will be a high stakes future, senior living leaders should begin thinking about what that future might look like and what role they will play in it.”

While some percentage of boomers will surely continue to opt for the more traditional residential living continuum featuring independent living, assisted living, etc., it’s just as certain that an increasing number of boomers will expect the market to follow them. These are our future customers who are saying, “I want to stay in my own home in my own neighborhood, and I’m going to do business with whatever service providers can enable me to do just that for as long as possible.” Are we listening to them and adapting, or are we expecting them to adapt to what we offer? It’s worth remembering that throughout our life journey, we Boomers have expected the world to adapt to us and — for the most part — it has.

Senior living leaders must realize that we are really not in the “housing” business but in the senior “lifestyle” business.

Faith continues, “Today, there is a broader and growing untapped market of people living in their homes who provide a unique opportunity for additional programs and services. The trend for more people to stay in their homes means that campus-based senior housing and care providers will need to find ways to extend their services beyond their own walls and reach out to those in living in the broader community.

Many forward thinking senior housing providers are already focused on developing a variety of interesting and independence-promoting services, from the typical in-home care and support to innovative services such as dog walking, in-home modification services, inside and outside home repair and upkeep, as well as one-on-one computer tutoring and high quality customized meal delivery. There is also a focus on developing wellness and education programs out in the community and building strong affiliations with health clubs, senior centers, colleges and universities.”

Integrating the At Home Marketplace

“The flip side of this ‘outbound’ strategy is to offer at-home seniors a variety of popular community-based services. For example, a percentage of at-home seniors might well be interested in paying for meal privileges at your community. Wellness center programs and social activities might also be marketable services for the at-home segment. In addition to generating revenue, these ‘inbound’ services also provide senior adults with an ideal introduction to life in your community and could eventually result in an additional source of move-ins.”

“Thinking out of the box and off campuses will be essential for both reaching seniors who will never live in a senior housing community, and for building solid relationships with those who may someday decide to make a move. In either case, it just makes good strategic business sense for today’s campus-based senior living providers to explore opportunities in their local communities.”

Leading senior living growth organizations such as Sage Age Strategies offer a useful source of thought leadership, trend identification and market expertise that enable senior living communities to move out of their comfort zones in order to prepare for what might be a very different future. For more information visit Sage Age Strategies at sageagestrategies.com.

I was going to visit them in person, but my travel agent isn’t in business anymore.