Question of the Month: The ‘Wow’ Factor

by Jeff Shaw

How can the owner of an older property improve the ‘wow’ factor to better compete in the marketplace?

Play to your strengths

By Megan Longley

Vice President, Sales

Acts Retirement-Life Communities

The most important way to “wow” is always in the human element of the first impression. That is what prospects are really registering and making the decision against: Warm greetings, staff introducing themselves in the hallways, happy and engaged residents. 

To compete, all of us must pay routine attention to curb appeal — that means signage, landscaping, easy car-to-curb experience, lobby entrance, paper signs (you know you have them) and paying attention to all those dings and scuffs in the hallways. 

Each community, no matter new or old, has elements that make them special. Continue to clearly highlight those elements.

Be the “soft, old sweater”

By Ted Doyle

Vice President of Marketing & Communications

LCB Senior Living

With the parity among higher-end providers when it comes to new buildings, they can get “finish blind” — more worried about getting done than the quality of the product. An older community can turn that phenomenon to an advantage by remembering that a premium experience beats a nice chandelier every day of the week.

We have a 30-year-old community that competes against a beautiful new competitor. Our sales team is reminded that anyone could build that shiny building tomorrow, but, like a soft, old sweater, nobody could replicate the comfort of our gem. Yes, the amenities are there, but the charm and warm sense of community are what sells it.

Improve curb appeal, entrance

By Ken Kuhnle

Chief Operating Officer

Vantage Point Retirement Living

First, to even get prospects in the door, there must be curb appeal. Make sure the outdoor property is clean, has some color pop in the plantings and signage, and make the prospect feel drawn to come in for a visit.

They are in the door now. What do they want to see? Clean, light, airy spaces. A modern, large-screen monitor with a welcome message and what is going on today. A fresh smell to greet them. A happy receptionist to recognize that they are visiting.

These are just a few ideas to subtly make visitors feel comfortable without spending a lot of capital on improvements.

Look for potential

By Doris-Ellie Sullivan


Retirement Unlimited Inc.

The key is not to focus on the restrictions of the properties’ features, but the potential to reinvent and bring purpose to the space. Assess the current use of each space and conceptualize how a room could be repurposed into an additional amenity space or a multipurpose room that caters to the needs and interests of current and future residents. 

At the heart of the senior living experience is program offerings, excellent team members and a reputation of quality care that are the true areas of opportunity to give you an edge in the senior living market.

It’s all in the details

By Harrison Saunders

President, CEO

Harrison Senior Living

Details! If you cannot afford a costly overhaul of the building and site’s infrastructure, you can at least show meticulous attention to what you have. Such a degree of attention can also be a differentiator, separating smaller operators who can afford the time, from those larger providers who have scaled to a point where such a fastidious nature has become either very difficult or outright impossible. 

Exterior and interior paint is not going to break the bank nor is cold patch for your driveway. Fresh mulch, the absence of weeds, and either annuals or a better investment in recurring color like perennials and bulbs — these can make a striking impression on arrival, even with an older property.

Helping your teams to see these details is essential. The same goes for the interior but also applies to your people. A vibrant, warm impression on entry sets the tone for a successful sales process.

People are the key

By Jayne Sallerson

President, COO

Charter Senior Living

Older communities that have great culture create the wow factor. The interactions between our associates, residents and visitors play a crucial role in cultivating a lively and nurturing atmosphere. 

Ultimately, the decision-making process of potential residents is heavily influenced by the emotional connection they forge within the community, rather than superficial aesthetics. It is the people, not extravagant features like fancy chandeliers or granite countertops, that truly nurture and care for residents.

Furthermore, maintaining a consistently clean environment is essential in ensuring that the community remains inviting and welcoming to all.

It’s a “constant pursuit”

By Tom Grape

Founder, Chairman & CEO

Benchmark Senior Living

The so-called wow factor is a constant pursuit, regardless of a building’s age. 

For older spaces, ongoing physical plant upgrades and maintenance need to be combined with impactful annual capital investments. Ideally, these investments contribute to the emotional response consumers have when visiting. Maybe it’s a spacious new patio space or fitness center where future residents envision socializing with new friends. 

Just as important is upgrading technology — a task that can start soon after new construction. Our consumers are tech savvy; they know the latest and greatest. 

Of course, even with these investments, you must have an eager and well-trained workforce to achieve a superior resident experience.

Invest in your property

By Alan Plush


HealthTrust LLC

The “wow” factor is that first impression. That starts outside with landscaping, building condition and maintenance, even of the parking lot. 

So many times when I visit older properties they look tired and uninviting. Common areas inside should be clean and not have worn and dated furniture, paint and carpet. As for units, don’t simply repaint and recarpet. As a part of general capital expenditures, every seven years reimage units as they turn. Styles change. 

In short, spend money on capital expenditures. The easiest part is to have the initial staff experience be amazing, and that is cultural. None of these suggestions are impossible; it takes directed investment and focus.

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