I believe there is a substantial market for senior living communities that are all about purpose.

By Steve Moran

If you have read much of what I have written about senior living, you know I loathe the luxury hotel/cruise ship metaphors for senior living. While cruise ships are a great place to vacation very few people would want to live out the rest of their lives on one.

Finally, though, there is a cruise ship model I can get behind.

The Right Cruise Ship Model

This past week the parent company of Carnival Cruise Lines announced a new brand they are calling “Fathom” that will start with a single modest-sized ship where the whole cruising experience will be about having a week of social impact.

The ship will be based in Miami and every other week it will sail to the Dominican Republic where passengers will be able to participate in a menu of social impact activities that include: 

  • Teaching English in schools
  • Helping cultivate cacao plants
  • Building water filtration systems

They expect to charge a premium price for this cruise experience partly because the cruise includes three days of social impact excursions and but also because included in the fee are financial contributions to the not-for-profits on the ground that operate the volunteer programs.

Purposeless Living

Elders are adults and they get to choose how they live out their lives. They can choose luxury, never lift a finger to do anything for anyone again . . . or something different — except, for the most part, the only thing we are offering people is a “never lift a finger” option.

Yes, I know, you are going to tell me once or twice a year, you do something to give back . . .

. . . but honestly that is just not enough. 

I know it sounds great at first and maybe great to families, but it is a huge problem in the industry in at least these 4 areas:

  • It encourages a more rapid decline in cognitive capabilities – think senior living-induced dementia.
  • It contributes to the high rates of depression in the senior living population.
  • It makes people want to wait longer to move into senior living.
  • It has to decrease length of stay.

Senior Living With a Purpose

I believe there is a substantial market for senior living communities that are all about purpose. Imagine for just a moment a senior living community where the initial sales presentation, the website and all marketing materials start with this:

“We May Not Be The Community For You!

We are a community that is committed to making the world a better place and our culture is that every resident will, every week be involved in one or more social impact activities.
This is our primary focus.”

At first this sounds incredibly scary and hard to sell, particularly to families, but . . . once we are engaged in conversation, we start talking about how residents come in younger, behave like they are even younger than that . . . are happier . . . live longer . . . and require less assistance.

I am not sure . . . and no one has ever tried this to the best of my knowledge . . . but I think a community like this would resonate with seniors and families.

So the cruise ship industry is trying it, how about us?