By Steve Moran

Nearly every week in industry publications and at every single conference, someone declares that boomers will not buy what the industry is offering today. I lean in this direction, but I also find myself thinking, we actually have no idea.

Here is why. … But first: I believe that even without an “age wave” or “silver tsunmi,” there are enough older people who have the financial capacity to purchase senior living to fill every single community to capacity with a waiting list …

IF …

we get the experience right — from the first contact to living in the community — and we get the staffing thing right, where people love coming to work each and every day.

We Simply Don’t Know

Over and over again, I see and hear stories about how people tried to figure out senior living and it was such a discouraging process they gave up. In some cases, it was before they ever moved in, and in other cases, the move-in experience didn’t meet expectations.

This suggests that we simply have no real idea about what is possible with the existing project. This is not to suggest that we don’t need to continue to evolve the model, but as it primarily exists, as a needs-based model, it seems there is plenty of low-hanging fruit.

Getting There

Here is some of the low-hanging fruit:

  1. We need to make the first-touch experience better. Websites need to have pictures of living units, floor plans, and PRICES on the front page. Imagine a senior living website that has right on the front page, in the top third, something like this:
    “Prices starting at  $4,999 per month.”
  2. We need to better explain what senior living is like, for residents and families.
  3. We need to do a better job of setting expectations for what senior living can and cannot do for residents and families. Over and over again, I hear stories of disappointment from consumers, but find myself thinking that what they experienced was about right for what they bought.
    The truth is that not every resident is going to love every meal; not every activity is going to be wonderful for every resident; from time to time, housekeeping will miss something. It won’t be perfect. It can’t be perfect.
  4. Senior living needs to be less patronizing and more empowering.
  5. We need to be asking residents and families what they want. We need to view complaints as opportunities to get better, not just pains in the a__.
  6. We need to be listening to what the frontline team members are telling us about getting better, and being better.

Once we get the experience mostly right, we will then be able to really know what boomers will or will not want.