I desperately want to know what you are doing to ensure a project does not fail with the bottom 20% of your users/locations.

By Sara Kyle

This is part two of a two-part article written by Sara Kyle, the Director of Resident Experience at Holiday Retirement. It speaks to one of the biggest most frustrating challenges senior living operators struggle with and almost never gets talked about. You can read PART ONE HERE.


If you are a software vendor and we have talked for any time at all, you know I have asked to see where engagement and adoption are the lowest in your portfolio. This is not to call anyone out. Exactly the opposite. It is all about wanting to see if other communities resemble any of the 260 I am responsible for. 

My executive team is not going to ask after a 3-month or 6-month pilot which ones are doing well and stop there. No, they are going to drill me on where it’s not working and what my plan it is to make it work. Lilly Donohue, CEO of Holiday Retirement does not do well with “I don’t know” or anecdotal explanations.   

So . . . 

I desperately want to know what you are doing to ensure a project does not fail with the bottom 20% of your users/locations. We must be able to talk about where it is not ideal. Please quit hiding the fact that engagement and usage just stink in some organizations. There is a reason and we need to uncover it, talk about it, and determine what is acceptable and expected. This brings me to my next set of questions: 

  1. If you are unable to show 100% adoption and usage in a community, why do you expect all companies to pay a contract based on 100% usage?  

  2. Is a 100% goal realistic?

  3. Do you have any communities at 100% adoption? And when I do ask about adoption rate and usage, I want a real, honest answer, and I want it immediately.  We must be willing to address the lack of adoption and admit it is the resounding fear to fully committing to a technology solution for older adults. 

So, what’s missing you may ask?

Here it is. How can we use technology to connect people outside the walls of the community? I cannot help but view all of senior living as an opportunity group; communities or aging in place. Can we cross over company names and locations to let users see they are a large collective, and virtual engagement should be as equally important to track as being physically present at one location? 

I will give you one example and let others run with the possibilities: 

Trivia – If you have 1200 communities signed up for your services, why is trivia only offered on an app that is not real time? This has been happening in bars for decades. Is it really that hard to do for senior living? Imagine having a points system and prizes where communities could compete against each other or individuals in different communities could compete with each other. 

Trivia could be a much more exciting game if people could log on anytime and play against others not just in their senior community, but across their world based on similar demographics or similar interests. The fitness and sports industry has done a great job with this, connecting people to others who are working out so they can share success and failures. They can compete, which motivates even higher levels of use and engagement. They can do it in gyms, at home, or even on the road. 

I am certain there is more we can do as part of an industry-wide initiative. And, if you were able to create something for people inside senior living and also for the 90% who are going to age in place it would be something powerful and amazing. It might even help people like senior living better and improve occupancy. 

Engagement software should not be designed just for residents or prospects. 

Facebook started off as something that connected classmates from a single school and look what happened. Right now, in engagement software, we have the base for connecting residents inside a single community. What could be next? How can we have LinkedIn, Volunteer Match, Match.com, Facebook, and paid working opportunities all together and accessible? 


We must bundle solutions. The offerings are all so fragmented that senior living organizations are being pitched 5 versions of the same solution and then having to pay separate fees for each one. This then means charging residents more or trying to pass the costs onto residents and junk fees.     

How about partnering with other companies to create amazing practical packages. OneDay and CareMerge started this last year and it is the right direction.  

Sagely, TouchTown, CareMerge, Smile, Senior Portal, Cubigo, Linked Senior, LifeShare Technologies, there are numerous partner opportunities that can work with the foundation you have created. 

Rendever, IN2L, Eversound, LifeBio, OneDay, Music and Memory, Spiro100, S3, MoFlex, Hydroworx, SciFit, Techno Gym, NuStep, Matrix, HUR, Lyft, Uber Assist, Java Music Club, Lifetime Wellness, Total Brain Health, PRISM, Illustratus. 

Every single resident satisfaction survey company, quality of life assessments, net promoter scores for dining. 

Anything the resident is doing in addition to what is not tracked in your system is missing the full “engagement” of the resident. We are getting there, but we can do better. 

(Disclosure notice: a number of these companies, but not all, have a financial relationship with Senior Housing Forum.) 

At some point, I have had a conversation with every company listed and heard each one tell me about their product, and I’ve contemplated how I could make it viable in my organization. I am more than happy to connect each of you with each other because in my mind I keep putting together this puzzle of offerings. I start wondering how to create the most well-rounded, option-based product compiling all your visions, but realize it is already all created . . . just in silos.   

As people who think they have the one product that is the answer, you need to start convincing each other that you will all be more successful if you are additive and collaborative. This will not happen until you stop just chasing the big deals! 

I promise people would pay more if it was easier to implement and scale and works with other programs already in place. If an associate has multiple portals to log into to engage in all these solutions, or if they have to layer data on top of other data, your solution will not be as successful as you imagine . . . or try to convince me in the sales pitch.   

We are all at the point of saturation and watching how we spend our money is important. Figure out how to make this all work and there is gold for you and your affiliated companies. 

Partnerships Will Make You Rich

Partner with one another! You are all trying to do the same thing . . . engage people and enhance the quality of life, allowing people to live their very best life. The intention is so so good, but for the company you are pursuing, it is overwhelming, exhausting and can get super annoying, fast. It is hard to filter through all the noise, especially when we do not have a base metric of what is a quantifiable and acceptable measurement of “engagement.” I do know participation (being present) does not equal engagement and engagement is to be determined. Maybe we all need to work together a bit more to determine a universal metric that we can stand behind as a norm for the senior living population. 

I am begging you to figure this out. Everyone wins when you do.