By Steve Moran

This seems to be such an extraordinarily hard concept for some senior living providers, even today. And because of the pandemic, it will make the difference between fabulous success that is economically profitable while making the world a better place for residents, families, and team members.

Unless maybe purchasing pain relievers, gas, or undergarments, no one ever wants to purchase something ordinary. Our brains are simply never wired to purchase, to crave, ordinary.

Instead, our brains are curious, they want New, Fresh, Fascinating. They want experiential delight.

Coming Out of COVID

Coming out of COVID, you can try going back to the same old way of doing things, assuming that demographics will take care of occupancy. I promise it won’t!

No matter how massive the age wave, it will not be big enough to fill the ordinary communities that exist today. If you are counting on demographics to make it all better, you will instead fall off the cliff.

What Will Work?

It is far from clear what the new model of senior living will look like, but here are some things we know for sure:

  • Selling care and security will not get your community full.
  • Residents want to have a remarkable, experience-filled life.
  • They want to live those experiences with other people, both older and younger.
  • They will move into our communities because we create with them (not for them) powerful, meaning-filled experiences.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended one of these immersive Van Gogh experiences in San Francisco. I found myself wondering how many senior living residents go through the exhibit. Also, I found myself thinking that if I had to give up being able to do something like this, I would be less likely to move into a senior living community.

The Wrong Message Again and Again

The senior living communities near my home in the Sacramento area are a kind of a living laboratory for me. I took a look at about half a dozen of their community websites. Here is what I found (above the fold):

  • “The Community I Have Been Looking For” —  Except most consumers have no idea what they are looking for. This particular page was a paid ad, which means they paid something for my click. And the Google map on top of the page has a big fat load error, even when I refreshed it.
  • A huge image of a couple having fun together outdoors, along with an offer of virtual tours — I am not sure why this would make me want to call or find out more.
  • A picture of a fountain (with no water) and a message telling me this community is the “trusted choice” — We are skeptics. And no water in the fountain?
  • A menu bar where “pay a bill” jumps out (at least to me) and an inquiry form — I am not sure why I should inquire. And “pay a bill” suggests to me what is most important.
  • “Designed with Purpose” — I found myself wondering if there is another way people do it.
  • A homepage where the whole focus is on care — In a very real sense, this was one of the better ones, assuming their sales pitch, their differentiator, is care. But if all I want is care. I can get that at home.

I will tell you I did see a few that were really nice. They featured residents having food or drink together. Yet, for all of that, I am not seeing any websites where they boldly claim that moving into their community will transform the lives of residents. That moving Mom or Dad into senior living will result in our being delighted that we made the choice.

This is both our risk and our opportunity.

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