By: Art Carr
A hallmark of my considerable success in directing fill-ups of new senior living properties and turn-arounds of under-performing communities has been a focus on enhanced resident lifestyles as the foundation for effective marketing campaigns. Energizing and elevating the level of activity programming makes meaningful interaction between prospects and current residents possible.
This contrasts with traditional industry marketing principles that emphasize large socially-oriented events. Under the WOW theory, an over-whelming impression is made on the prospective residents (and/or their adult children) once they are persuaded to get through the doors. With the money invested by ownership in upscale furnishings, etc., this has been somewhat and sometimes effective in helping evolve the “rest home” perception for many of the “Greatest Generation”.
This type of social event often revolves around FOOD and maybe some entertainment, but is effectively passive in nature, with the prospects more of a spectator than a participant. Conversely, a combined Progressive Retirement Lifestyles (“PRL”) Activity and Marketing Event is designed to engage the visitors and integrate them into on-going daily activities of the senior living community. This establishes an important level of normalcy to the process, encourages the formation of relationships with current residents and staff and minimizes barriers to the move-in process. We have also found this to be somewhat more appealing to the newer, more demanding generations of prospects than the older “Greatest Generation”.[i]
To illustrate the difference between these concepts, two examples of marketing events are described below: a) traditional Dessert Extravaganza and b) a combined marketing and activity program such as the “Older Adults Mind, Body & Spirit Olympics”. You decide which approach stimulates the greater likelihood of a move-in.
This type of event is organized under the “shotgun” approach” with the expectation that enough invitations mailed out to prospects (regardless of their defined interests, etc.) will lead to enough attendance with enough prospects being “WOWED” to lead to move-ins. Therefore, invitations are typically issued to everyone on the prospect list. A substantial number of guests (25 or more) are expected to gather for a special 2 o’clock Saturday afternoon affair.
This type of event requires a fair amount of time and money for planning and preparation (or purchase) of a variety of baked goods, confectionary treats and other “finger foods” such as petit fours, tarts, cookies, mini-cheesecakes, eclairs, cupcakes, macarons and other pastries. It does give the Community an opportunity to showcase their “Executive Chef”, especially if s/he has talents as a baker.
Each visitor registers (to qualify for door prizes – as well as for follow-up) and is encouraged to “take a tour” on a standard tour route and to view a decorated model apartment. Afterwards, they partake of the dessert buffet and then sit and (maybe) listen to a pianist or keyboard singer for a couple of hours. After that, the guests leave and the residents are served their dinner for the day.
Does this scenario sound very familiar to events you’ve sponsored or attended?
Of course, the $64,000 Question at this type of event is when a guest meets a current resident and says “This was really nice; how often do you have this type of dessert event?” Typically, the answer is something like “whenever the census gets too low and the marketing department is willing to pay for another party!”
The point is that this is perceived as a special event for new prospects and not something that is designed to benefit / improve the lifestyle of the current residents.
Older Adult Mind, Body & Spirit Olympics
The PRL Olympics and similar campaigns combine existing activity programs with new initiatives to boost the quantity and quality of activities and resident lifestyles. Prospects are encouraged to come in, join a TEAM and participate in events with 3 – 4 current residents.
This gives immediate satisfaction of their needs for socialization while the opportunity to compete promotes a sense of accomplishment and ego satisfaction.[ii]
Our plan is to acquaint prospective residents with rewarding and meaningful daily activities that they can expect to continue on a routine basis after they move-in. We strive to promote their level of independence while introducing them to new experiences and lifelong learning opportunities.
These are actually provided during the event(s) – not just “promised” for some time in the future.
PRL takes a holistic approach to our combined activity / marketing events by challenging the participants’ mind and body while improving their spirits through socialization and fostering of new relationships with other prospects and current residents. This also induces a certain degree of peer pressure that is beneficial in encouraging the prospect to move in.
Consider the following PARTICIPATION by a prospect over a several day event:
Day 1 – Morning
- The prospect (“Mary Jones”) arrives and registers. She is greeted by Sally, John and Mabel from the Community. Along with one more prospect or resident, this will make up an Olympic TEAM.
- The TEAM will find a seat and be asked to complete a 10-Question Quiz about Brazil and the Summer Olympics. The answer booklets serve as the registration for prizes for correct answers and door prizes.
- The Opening Ceremony will include an overview of the games with basic rules and a LifeLong Learning Seminar re. Rio de Janiero, Brazil and the Olympics.
- Next, the TEAM will participate in a seated Beachball Volleyball Tournament.
- Mary will have lunch with her teammates.
She can take a tour whenever she has down time between events – at her convenience!
Day 1 – Afternoon
- Mary will be taught how to win at Sudoku and her team will play Tournament Sudoku utilizing the special PRL Magnetic Board.
- Next, the Team will participate in the seated basketball H-O-R-S-E contest.
- Finally, Mary and her Team will join in the special Steeplechase Horse Racing challenge before dinner.
Day 2 – Morning
- Each member of the Olympic TEAM will complete in the events of the Older Adults Pentathlon:
- Bicycle: How long will it take to pedal a mile on a stationary recumbent bike or Nu-Step machine?
- Then “Power-walk” a course through the building’s corridors.
- Target Shooting: Use a Nerf Gun to shoot 5 targets.
- Balance Beam & Agility Drill: Staying on the ground (unlike the Women’s Gymnastics), they will walk the “balance beam” and navigate an agility course between orange cones.
- Big Board Scrabble: Mary will challenge her vocabulary skills in the TEAM Scrabble tournament.
Day 2 – Afternoon
- Olympic Golf will be the focus after lunch. Mary will compete on a 9-hole course that is comprised of part Wii Golf holes and part different putting games.
- Then she will be taught (if necessary) how to use a computer mouse to compete in solving jigsaw puzzles on a timed basis.
Day 3 – Morning
- “Track & Field” Events will be held outside in the early morning before it becomes too hot:
- Discus: A Frisbee is used to sail for distance to emulate this event.
- Shot Put: A softball will be “put” from a seated position with maximum distance measured.
- The last TEAM events for Mary will be the simulated “100M Dash” and the “5x100M Relay”. These are set up similar to the horse racing game with movements and winners determined by roll of the dice.
Day 3 – Afternoon
- Award Certificates will be presented in a ceremony during lunch.
- Afterwards, guests are invited for a “formal” tour of the Community.
Whether the event is held for 1 day or 3 days (as in this example), the prospects will begin a process of integration into the daily living of the Community that should soften the “transition trauma” of a future move-in. The visitors will have received a casual tour of the Community as they participated in various events in different parts of the building. They will have built new relationships with their future neighbors, enjoyed several meals similar to what they can expect in the future, have learned new skills and information and had FUN with an enjoyable and positive experience.
Most importantly, the event has gone a long way towards dispelling fears about living in a senior living community. The prospect is given insight into the interactive lifestyle that allows them to continue to maintain their independence and dignity as they LIVE in their new prospective home.
We believe this will encourage positive feedback and receptivity to follow-up by the sales & marketing staff.
If you would like to learn more about how you can implement the innovative and contemporary “Older Adults Mind, Body & Spirit Olympics” for your senior living community, please contact Art Carr directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-414-5217.
[i] The Greatest Generation has been the predominant driving force in the evolution of senior care / living facilities from skilled nursing to independent retirement centers over the past 30 – 40 years. As the World War II era population dies away, smart operators must evolve their methods to remain relevant to newer generations.
[ii] According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, people of all ages will continually seek satisfaction of these higher level needs.