By welcoming the surrounding community, operators can offer a better amenity package at great value.
By Lisa Stover, Presto Real Estate Services
With the rapid increase in the number of senior housing communities opening nationwide, it is imperative to find a point of difference that will attract residents to your buildings.
Unique in-house offerings are one way to look at creating a point of difference. But another, arguably more effective, way is to build a strong sense of community by connecting with the larger local community outside the walls of your building.
Let’s face it: moving isn’t fun. When it comes to seniors and moving, they just don’t want to do it. Most folks are determined to stay at home where they feel they are independent, even when it means living a limited lifestyle. It is only when some episode occurs landing them in the hospital or rehabilitation that many seniors must face the inevitability of a change.
The minority, on the other hand, understand and embrace that a catered lifestyle will enhance the quality and ease of their day-to-day lives. These are the residents who are looking for the best options with the ideal services at the right price.
Customize your programming
Currently, a lot of niche programming is being offered, especially in the memory care space. Working alongside neurologists, many of the large seniors housing groups have developed proprietary programs to enhance the lives of the cognitively impaired seniors in their communities. Since forecasts show that memory care will see the sharpest rise in move-ins, this makes perfect sense.
Outside of the memory care arena, there is a possibility that there will be plenty of beautiful new rooms on the market and not enough bodies to fill them. Many of the residents moving into independent living units are caring for a spouse who could not live independently on their own. Those caregivers need to feel supported and cared for themselves, and will enjoy having community activities and resources outside their door.
So, what is it about your community that will sway the next prospect to choose you?
Because today’s independent seniors are tech savvy, they are more plugged into their surroundings and aware of the resources available to them. Many pilot programs throughout the world are showing successful living models that incorporate multigenerational elements.
With this in mind, partnerships may be the answer, or at least a start. Thinking outside the norm will determine the success that many seniors housing communities will experience moving forward.
Reach out to your neighborhood
Partnering or aligning with local groups and senior support services may not just bring more people into the building, but will bring the right people and keep them happier. By utilizing your common spaces throughout the day, residents will not only feel more socially connected but may find themselves inviting friends to visit more often.
Groups like Rotary, Kiwanis, Red Hats, book clubs and garden clubs are always looking for great meeting spaces. Restaurants are the typical choice for groups like these to hold their monthly or weekly meetings. This can get expensive for the group and rarely helps to increase membership, which is comprised mainly of adults over 62 years of age. Opening your doors to the public and senior groups will create goodwill and forge relationships moving forward.
Life-long-learning is a buzz term in the senior world today. Community colleges are catering to independent seniors seeking knowledge and personal enrichment. Inviting those same local colleges or other groups onto your campus to promote education and multi-generational community will expose your progressive culture to the population at large.
Opening these classes up to the general public and appealing to seniors in the area may attract the type of residents to whom your community caters best. Consider internship programs with the local high schools. Changing the way people see senior living and involving youth in the care and socialization of our seniors is a great way to expose all your community has to offer.
Classes are not the only way to open your doors to your neighbors. Partner with outside support services such as local sports complexes, mind/body and art studios, and a variety of salon services as opposed to offering everything through the community. This will expose you to partners who may in turn be more inclined to send prospects your way. Hosting line dancing or reflexology classes is a great way to bring an energy through your doors that could be infectious.
Government offers opportunities
Besides services and enrichment, you might consider inviting local government into your community.
You have the opportunity to be an active participant in your neighborhood. Host a block party with surrounding neighborhoods, coffee with the mayor, or a coat drive in the winter. Give the homeowners around your building a reason to come in.
Why not have a barista on duty in the coffee shop until 2 p.m.? Offer neighbors coffee and a tour when they visit.
The reality is that things in the senior living industry will need to change. The disposable income that tomorrow’s independent seniors will have is not what they have today.
Ask yourself: how can we create an aesthetically beautiful environment that offers not only housing and meals, but a lifestyle that enriches the lives of those we serve at a value? Attracting the right residents will be a function of culture, offerings and price.
The world is aging, and the task is in your hands to find a way to do it well. How will you respond?
Lisa Stover is the founder of Presto Real Estate Services, which specializes in helping seniors plan and execute move from their homes.