By Steve Moran

There is a widely held belief that senior living is ripe for innovation — that we need serious disruption in order to thrive and perhaps even survive into the coming decades.

The problem is that no one seems to have any idea how to make this happen. There have been a lot of ideas people have talked about, but mostly, senior living looks pretty similar to what it did 10, 20, and even 30 years ago. We have mostly seen incremental change resulting in higher luxurious and higher costs.


Perhaps the biggest problem is that we are trapped by what we already have. There are dozens of examples of this happening in the business world. Kodak had the digital camera way before others. There were dozens of computer operating systems before IOS and Windows. … Anyone remember CP/M? The screen based phone was around for many years before Apple finally made it really work for people.

In senior living the trap is bigger and more difficult to push past. What we offer today is nearly always real estate based. Once it is built it is tough to make radically different modifications. And … it is a lot safer to build what everyone else is building rather than something that is completely different.

Singular Focus

Amplifying the problem is the idea that disruption needs to primarily come in the area of building design and programming. While this may be true, it is far from being the only parts of senior living that are in serious need of disruption. Here are some other areas where the senior living industry is stuck in doing it the same old way:

  • How we treat staff
  • How we look at life enrichment
  • The amount of input that residents have on the operation of a senior living community
  • How transportation is done
  • What dining services look like
  • How we market and sell senior living

One Example

There is one guy, a friend by the name of Russell Rush, who knows how to sell senior living better than anyone else in the entire industry. Give him a poor performing building in a saturated market, and in a year or less, he will give you a 95% occupied community — saving you hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in carrying costs. And massively increasing the net asset value of that community by millions of dollars.

Yet …

He does not have people breaking down doors wanting to hire him and to learn his secrets. Why is that?

He, like me, is a quirky guy — likely why we are friends. Even harder to swallow is that he sells differently than anyone else in the industry. Just a couple of “for instances”: He never does second tours; if a prospect does not sign a reservation during that first and only tour, he never follows up with them again.

Crazy stuff, right? It is, and yet I promise you that he can close at a rate that is double or triple your best salesperson.

Escaping the Trap

Escaping the trap is exceedingly difficult, because sometimes, in order to break free from the trap, one needs to keep preserving down the same path, like Thomas Edison did with the light bulb, where it took something like 1,000 tries to get to success.

Other times, though, one needs to stop and completely rethink their existing strategy and head off in a different direction — what Kodak and PalmPilot and the makers of the CP/M operating system did.

My question for you: Where are you trapped in your organization? What do you need to do to break through that trap?