By Steve Moran

Trouble exists for senior living on three fronts:

  • Occupancy – With a few exceptions occupancy is terrible. We need to be over 90% to be nominally healthy. The NIC average is just over 80% with a number of companies, including Brookdale, being substantially lower.
  • Staffing – There are communities limiting occupancy because they cannot find staff. Front line workers are demanding higher wages and it will get worse before it gets better. Most people who work in our industry love the residents, but even with higher wages they have little respect for their leadership.
  • Perception – The senior living industry is freaked out about poor public perception. But mostly it is not nearly as bad as we think. Mostly the public just doesn’t think about us at all. And when people do think about senior living for themselves or their loved ones, they know there are bad communities out there, but also believe there are good ones and that they can figure out the right one.

I am reading Mathew Sweezey’s book “The Context Marketing Revolution”, which was given to all the SMASH attendees. In it, he talks about how we are in the early phase of the micro-influencer era. These are people who have large audiences within their sphere of influence and can use that credibility and influence to help senior living organizations and communities advance their cause.

Massive Misperception Problem

Right now, senior living has a massive misperception problem. On one end, it is seen as nursing homes. On the other end, it is seen as active aging, a perception senior living organizations perpetuate by using photos of residents that do not really represent the people who live in their communities.

Here Is How It Might Work

We saw one glimpse of this happening when Matthew McConaughey called bingo via zoom.

And if we could get some more A list/B list TV/movie people, it would be a big help. But what is more realistic and more doable is to look for local influencers. It might look like this:

  • Create a sheet offering your expertise on senior living and reach out to all your local media outlets offering to be their go-to resource for all things related to senior living or even better all things aging. This means you become the local influencer.
  • Send pitches for big or fun events to your local media outlets. 
  • Invite your mayor, city council members, school board members to come in for lunch so they can see the great things you are doing.
  • Look for other groups who can come use or participate in the daily life in your community.
  • Post things on the social media app Nextdoor.
  • Figure out who else carries influence in your local community and invite them into your community.

In each case ask them to share about their experience on social media, particularly Facebook. Then reshare their shares. If you need to, write the post for them.

The Perception Good News

When it comes to perception, most people don’t think about senior living at all. This is good when bad things happen, but bad when we are trying to grow occupancy. This is mostly good news because there is not a huge deficit to overcome.

This is our moment to change the perception of senior living and the perception of aging.