By Susan Saldibar

After reading through an extensive survey of senior living prospects, conducted by SageAge Strategies (a Senior Living Foresight partner), I was struck by the word cloud graphic at the end. One word stood out larger than all the others: “Unknown”.

If ever there was an understatement. This pandemic has robbed, from so many prospective senior living residents, a sense of certainty about what the next month will hold, let alone the next year. And yet, among all the uncertainty, the survey did uncover some signs of hope that are encouraging.

Belief in the Value of Access to Care and Socialization Have Not Been Shaken

SageAge Strategies conducted the survey of 826 prospective residents of independent living (85%), assisted living (11%), and memory care (5%) across the country from California to Florida. There is a lot packed into the survey results that I can’t possibly cover here. Steve Moran will be hosting a LinkedIn Live event with SageAge to discuss all the findings on September 1st at 12:00 p.m. EDT. You can register here.  

A few findings of the survey stood out to me that bear mention and that you might find interesting. 

  • Your prospects may be shaken up, but they’re not down and out. While those planning to move to a senior living community within the next 2 years has gone down about 13%, of those planning to move 60% report that COVID-19 has not changed their mind .
  • Prospects still see considerable value in access to care and socialization that communities bring. 75% say that the biggest benefit of living in a senior living community is the on-site access to care and support, followed by socialization, dining, and lifestyle/activities. No other environment provides all this, and it is still acknowledged as being important to prospects.
  • 25% of those who were once “interested” are now “undecided”. There continues to be a “wait and see” mindset among prospects about moving into a senior living community.

Everyone is Going Virtual

Here’s another interesting stat. For those of you who wonder if you should be conducting virtual meetings and webinars, 53% of respondents report regularly using video conferencing. By the way, I’d expect that number to grow. So, if you’re not already doing virtual meetings and tours, now is the time to start. 

There are more detailed statistics about the mindsets of those who are “very concerned” as well as some interesting insight into what are perceived as the “most challenging aspects” of COVID-19 that you’ll want to review in the actual survey results. 

All taken into consideration, however, my take on the results of this survey is that it reveals a population of seniors who may have tapped the brakes on their plans but haven’t turned off the engine yet. And this, I think, is where there are plenty of opportunities for operators who take the time to dig deeper and understand the rocky journey prospects have been taking over the last 5 months.

What Are You Doing About that 25%?

Senior living communities need to understand the fear of the unknown and work with their staff to address it, not to ignore it. The survey identified that 25% of prospects are now undecided as to if/when to move into senior living. Communities need to ask questions and deploy active listening to get to know your new prospect. Here are some questions you might consider:

  • How can we better respond to the fears and hesitation of our prospects?
  • How do we demonstrate all the things we are doing to keep our residents healthy?
  • What stories can we share from residents and family members themselves that will make others feel less tentative and build more trust with our community?

But first things first. Register here for the September 1st LinkedIn Live event. You’ll learn more about where your prospects’ thinking lies. The better understanding communities have about where their prospects’ heads are right now, the better you can respond in a way that builds trust and increases confidence. 

For more information about SageAge Strategies, please visit their website.