It always kind of gives me gas

For sure every month and at times more frequently I hear stories or read stories about senior living developers/operators who have upped their game by adding more amenities to their next grand development. It always kind of gives me gas.

Don’t get me wrong. I get why they are doing . . . why you are doing it. It is fun to be the owner operator the next cool amenity-rich community. It can be a way to improve your competitive advantage and it makes it possible to charge premium rates. It might even be the best way to impress the Boomer Children of your residents.  

I would even acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with building an opulent senior living community that is targeting the top 5% of income earners and wealth holders.

The Wrong Approach

In most cases though this amenity creep is bad for elders and bad for the industry:

  • If we channeled the money spent on amenity creep to creating purposeful living programs for seniors, they would live longer, live healthier and live happier. This means moving from a cruise ship/luxury hotel motif to a think-tank, volunteerism, creative arts and learning motif. Sending the message we are helping elders live the next wonderful, productive, satisfying chapter in their life. Maybe even the very best chapter of their life.  The capstone chapter.
  • There is very little evidence that amenity-rich communities have higher word of mouth referral rates.
  • Having an amenity rich community might even lull your team into thinking they don’t need to try harder or even try as hard. I can say with certainty that as I toured buildings last year, I found no correlation between high-end buildings and high-quality tour experiences.
  • Because amenities cost money this growth in lavishness means higher service fees and in the short term, if you can fill those communities, it might make sense, but it is also freezing people out of the marketplace. Amenity creep leads to more amenity creep until one day units will just plain be too expensive.
  • Amenities do not a story make. What I mean by this is that when prospective residents begin to consider senior living they want, more than anything else, to know what it is like to actually live in a community, in your community. Pointing out fancy spas, pizza kitchens, grand great rooms tells them nothing about living in your community. In fact, it may be that in some cases your community will feel so grand that it will not represent who your perspective resident is at all.
  • It is a trap. You may have the best amenities in the marketplace when you open your doors, but it then becomes only a matter of time until the next developer in your marketplace out amenities you. Then what do you do? How do you sell? A great living experience never becomes obsolete.

We need to tell our senior living story better, but sometimes I am fearful that we don’t tell our story better because we can’t tell our story better, because our story is not really all that good. Bringing the amenity creep under control will help us to do a better job of creating great stories for our residents.

Steve Moran