“Children, Please – I’d Rather Do it MYSELF!”

Mother, PLEASE, – I’d Rather do it Myself!

A classic Anacin ad from the early days of TV:

The first segment of this new series was written by Art Carr as a Guest Author for the Senior Housing Forum Blog.

That young homemaker of the 1960’s is now a resident in a senior living community and is still becoming “stressed out” because she is not being allowed to do as much for herself as she desires.  Everyone around her – friends, family, AND the staff of the assisted or independent living community – believe that they are being helpful when they do everything for her.  Their intentions are just as good as her Mother’s all those years ago – yet, the result is even worse.  All her Mother did was give her a headache; well-meaning staff may be actually robbing her of the ability to care for herself!

Independence is primarily a “state of mind” – a person’s desire and belief in their ability to perform a task or handle a situation under their own direction.  They may choose to accept minimal assistance, but the CHOICE is theirs.  In the book, “Successful Aging” based on the MacArthur Foundation Study of Successful Aging, the authors found that older men and women named remaining independent with the ability “to take care of themselves” as their primary goal.[i]

Dependence is a Learned Trait

Beginning in infancy, we are taught to do things for ourselves: e.g. toileting, eating, walking, and dressing.  As we mature, we are encouraged to become self-reliant, think and act independently and, as responsible adults, to “stand on our own two feet” and become productive in society.

Yet, once we reach the normal retirement age (around 65), we enter “a time of life when nothing is expected”[ii] of us.  This roleless role continues in old age, often couched in terms such as “You’ve ‘earned the right to leisure’[iii], so just sit back and let me take care of you.”  While an admirable sentiment, this approach misses the key point that forced leisure is not what aging adults are seeking.  Like all of us, they want the RIGHT to choose and make decisions for themselves about their care and lifestyle.

As we age, our care needs and dependence on others for assistance naturally increase, but the desire for independence and satisfaction of ego and other higher level needs [see Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs[iv]] continues.  However, the cumulative effect of family, friends and/or healthcare professionals telling the senior that they CAN’T or SHOULDN’T continue doing specific tasks (e.g. laundry, yard work, cooking) and/or caregivers taking over responsibility for these functions weighs on the individual.  Ultimately, they’ll give in and become dependent on the caregiver – EVEN WHEN THEY COULD STILL DO IT THEMSELVES!

To emphasize this point, consider what would happen to the development of a toddler if the parents continue to cut the child’s food at every meal?  It’s fairly easy to recognize the problems this would cause the child when they go to school, but less clear that the same dependency can be learned by the elderly as their sense of purpose and productivity is removed by others with their misguided efforts to do “what’s best for them”.

The attitude of the management and staff and the approach taken in a given situation is often more important than the actual action in preserving a resident’s independence and dignity.  For instance, there is a fine line between a gentleman opening a door as a courtesy and a senior living employee treating every resident with a walker as disabled.  Please go to the “Children Please …” category on the Progressive Retirement Lifestyles blog [https://progressiveretirement.wordpress.com/category/Children please …/] for more insights into specific examples and suggestions as to how management can PROMOTE INDEPENDENCE.  Embracing these concepts will lead to higher resident satisfaction, longer lengths of stay and an environment that will be more appealing to higher functioning seniors.

 

[i] “Successful Aging”, John W. Rowe, M.D. and Robert L. Kahn, Ph.D., Masterpiece Alliance Foundation, 1998

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid

[iv] https://progressiveretirement.wordpress.com/category/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs/

If you remember this ad and the cultural phenomena it created, PLEASE share your remembrances in the comment section below. COMMENTS:

The VALUE in Combined Activity & Marketing Events

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.

 

Dessert Extravaganza

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.

Dessert Extravaganza

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 exOlder Adult Olympicsisting 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.

Steeplechase -a

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 Winner - Lady w Trophyparts 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 art@progressiveretirement.com 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.

C’mon Man … Where’s Waldo?

“Where’s Waldo” children’s books[i] ask kids to locate the red-and-white-striped Where's Waldo 2shirt character in a series of camouflaged illustrations.

You won’t find Waldo or any residents in these pictures sampled from senior living websites around the country[ii]. Each depicts a “place” (e.g. main lobby) in a community, and many are very elegant…

BUT, “C’mon man … we’ve been talking about selling LIFESTYLES and not just real estate for over a decade! These pictures – and many more like them on the internet – SCREAM REAL ESTATE SALE!

Who are we trying to impress with these photos?   OURSELVES? (i.e. Look what I built?)

C’mon man … this swimming pool is NO different from the pool at the local multi-family apartment complex. This dining room could be at a nearby campus dormitory and the other shots could be in a hotel lobby. WHERE’S WALDO?

I know, I know: the experts say that you shouldn’t show elderly people in your ads; that the prospects won’t relate to the images of the showcased older residents or the advertised community.   They’ll say, “I’m not like them; that’s not the level of service I need!” If the depicted residents appear to need assistance with their daily activities, the concern is that “higher-functioning” prospects will say “I’m not READY YET!” Other views of active adults may be criticized as “unrealistic”.

Thus, we default to sterile pictures of the real estate features and leave it up to the prospects to use their own imagination to picture themselves in that setting. That approach may work for family housing when buyers customize their “new home” to fit their individual tastes.

WE ARE DIFFERENT in Senior Living! We provide “communal living” and should SHOWCASE what we offer. Do we really expect people to want to live in a museum-like environment where you can “look but don’t touch”?   Isn’t that the message that pictures without human beings conveys?

The Progressive Retirement Lifestyles (“PRL”) program is built upon an interactive lifestyle for all of our residents and advocates the marketing of a robust lifestyle to attract newer generations of prospective residents. We believe that senior living communities should depict scenes with a feeling of warmth and positive aging through social interaction and activity that provide benefit on an on-going basis:

  • Residents actively participating in a water aerobics class (if you are lucky enough to have an on-site swimming pool) is much more meaningful for a potential resident and their family than the passive picture shown above.
  • Residents sharing a meal with their new acquaintances in the dining room would be more appealing than the picture of the empty dining hall.
  • Residents using the common area spaces by participating in an activity there – or at least sharing a moment in conversation with other residents – shows that the building is ALIVE!

I’m ART CARR and understand that this is a controversial topic, but am convinced that my Progressive Retirement Lifestyles concepts create Superior Senior Lifestyles that promote increased occupancy. I welcome your contact at 615-414-5217 or via email at art@progressiveretirement.com to learn more about the potential of the exciting Progressive Retirement Lifestyles program.

PLEASE SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS IN THE INDUSTRY AND POST YOUR COMMENTS.

THANKS!

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Where’s_Wally%3F

[ii] These are just a sampling of the vast number of similar pictures posted on community sites and are offered as a representative group for the industry as a whole. For that reason, specific communities and/or companies are not identified.

Independence Day

Every Day SHOULD BE

INDEPENDENCE DAY

for the Seniors we Serve!

American Flag on pole - Waving

Happy 4th of July. We celebrate the courage of the patriots who fought for our independence over 200 years ago.   But, Please take a moment this long holiday weekend to appreciate all of the seniors in our US society who have contributed in some way to our freedoms and way of life today. Show them the respect they deserve and the right to maintain their highest possible level of independence — regardless of their current situation!

THANK YOU!

“STOP – You’re not supposed to . . . !”

A staff member is walking across the lobby and sees Mr. Smith trying to open the front door and exit wman with walker at doorith the aid of his walker.   The following scenarios illustrate 3 different approaches to this situation[i].  In each case, the resident receives a message that may be very clear or more subtle, but conveys information about the community’s culture and  resident management philosophy. This can impact both the resident’s well-being and the perceptions of visitors who observe the encounter.

1)   You Can’t:

The staff member yells “STOP” as she runs to the door.  In a loud voice, she then asks Mr. Smith “What are you doing?” telling him that he is not allowed to go “out there” alone.

Maybe the resident simply wanted a breath of fresh air or to enjoy the sunshine for a few minutes[ii].  Regardless, this approach generally leads to either a confrontation or total submission by the resident.  The first is reminiscent of the “Mother, Please…” scenario with the resident even becoming combative because he is being told what he CAN’T DO!  The other response can be just as devastating because a flicker of independent thought and action has just been snuffed out!

2)   You Shouldn’t:

In the second scenario, the staff member walks expeditiously (but doesn’t run) to the door and greets Mr. Smith there.  She opens the door for him while counseling that he should never try to open the door by himself.  She warns him that he might get hurt and should always ask a staff person for assistance.  She was cheerful, upbeat and walked away thinking: “I’m glad I walked by when I did because I got a chance to do something nice for Mr. Smith.  I’m a good person and good employee!”

Unfortunately, her good intentions were off the mark and Mr. Smith received a very different message.  He just had his frailties emphasized and made to feel disabled with the reminder that he is no longer capable of “even opening a door for himself”.  All he heard was that he shouldn’t try to do it himself and probably never even heard or internalized that the staff would be happy to help him when he wanted it.  These may even contribute to feelings of being “trapped” and isolated in the senior living community.

3)   It’s OKAY:

As an alternative, the staff member could greet Mr. Smith and begin to engage him in conversation while walking toward the door.  (e.g. “Hey, Mr. Smith.  How are you doing this morning?  Boy, it sure looks cool {rainy, hot, etc.} out there today.”) The employee then has two options:

  1. Ask him: “Can I give you a hand with that door?”  This enables the resident to preserve dignity by being offered a choice that can be graciously accepted.  For ladies, I generally add something like “my Dad always taught me to be a gentleman and it’s my pleasure to open the door for you.”  The act of opening the door becomes a courtesy instead of a necessity.
  2. Continue the conversation through the door.  This is the most subtle approach as the staff person is able to effortlessly hold the door open for the resident without making an issue of it.  This has taken a couple of minutes of the employee’s time but been a great investment in resident relations.

The employee’s response to this situation[iii] is a combination of the community’s culture and the individual’s own concepts and beliefs.  Both evolve over time and are influenced by training (e.g. “soft skills”), policies & procedures, stated management philosophies, and the personality of the people involved.  Creating a culture that PROMOTES ON-GOING INDEPENDENCE[iv] for the residents will have a direct impact on the type(s) of people who choose to move into the senior living community.

In the next segment, we’ll explore how the design decisions of the Architect and Management support or conflict with the desired cultural perception.  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE {by clicking on the “Sign me up!” button at the bottom of the right hand column} to make sure you don’t miss any exciting installments.


[i] In each example, it’s assumed that this isn’t an outside entrance to a secured memory care unit or skilled nursing facility and that Mr. Smith is mentally competent and not at risk for elopement.

[ii] Recent studies have shown some potential of benefits from daily exposure to natural light in delaying the onset and/or effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

[iii] Note:  each of these scenarios is considered positive because the employee recognized the resident and intervened instead of simply continuing to walk past.

[iv] This is a basic tenet of the Progressive Retirement Lifestyles program.  You may contact Art Carr at 615-414-5217 or art@progressiveretirement.com to learn how these concepts may be applied to your organization.

Relentless Follow Thru

Whether playing golf or hitting a baseball, “follow thru” is critical for consistent success.  The same is true in sales for a senior living community.  Move-ins are a process and not an event.  Simply running an ad in the newspaper or holding an open house is NOT ENOUGH!

What is needed is a systematic approach to prospect management AND the discipline to follow and adhere to that system.  The system doesn’t have to be fancy or complex – an industry leader successfully utilized a manual system for years.  But, it needs to maintain pertinent data about the prospect, track all activity and establish suspense dates for periodic follow thru.

Of course, the system is not enough by itself either.  The process starts with “getting the right people on the bus[1]” Does this mean always hiring a super salesperson – someone who can sell ice cream to Eskimos?

NO, IT DOES NOT!

Is the ability to sell senior living a natural, “god-given” talent that can’t be learned?

NO, IT IS NOT!

Anyone who has ever networked or established a relationship with someone else can be taught how to successfully build occupancy for their senior living community.

So, what makes a person “right” for the job?  Attitude, a desire to help and serve the aging population, willingness to learn and a drive to accomplish something are often more desirable traits than are technical skills.

“This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball.” is a famous quote from the movie Bull Durham.  Strategy (e.g. bunt, steal, intentional walk) can be complex, but continuous success depends on these basics.

The sales process for senior living should also be kept simple.  The basics are a good game plan, effective training and then consistent and relentless follow thru.

Marketing will create the demand,

but the follow thru will lead to the move-in.

Some of the steps in the sales process can be viewed in a downloadable PowerPoint presentation by clicking here.  This game plan should follow the sports axiom: good offense starts with good defense.[2] In senior living, providing an exceptional experience for the current residents “defends” against unwanted move-outs and provides positive feedback to potential new residents and their families.

There is no “magic pill” that works everywhere.  A customized game plan must be created based upon each unique situation, just as a winning coach prepares differently for each opponent. A building with a low number of prospects needs to focus on filling the top of the “funnel” with marketing, advertising and branding efforts. Others may need sales training / reinforcement, or even changes in personnel.

Over time, most facilities take on the personality of the local manager(s).  Efforts should be taken to understand the local culture and select a manager with a similar background and personality.  For instance, an urbanite with a high energy level who is used to a rapid pace, quick decision-making and a direct (in your face) approach to problem-solving may be a “duck out of water” if assigned to a rural facility. So, in addition to getting “the right people on the bus”, senior management needs to get them “in the right seat”.

Senior living clientele have had success in their lives and are generally smart and sophisticated shoppers.  They will want to become “part of a senior living community that shares common interests, values and/or resources[3]”, but will also be attracted by local management with a personality similar to theirs.

They will build a relationship with the prospect one step at a time by:

Making a Friend

Solving a Problem

Following this approach, a number of people who said, “I’ve never sold anything in my life!” became successful at filling senior living buildings.  In training, they were shown that many networking techniques (similar to those used in a job search) had direct application in this process.  They were taught to use the following techniques:  READ MORE:

  1. Establish common ground.
  2. GIVE something of “value”.
  3. Make the contact about THEM.
  4. Have a REASON TO CALL.
  5. Do your RESEARCH.
  6. Ask questions.
  7. Don’t sell.  Listen.
  8. Play Sherlock Holmes.
  9. Plan the Work.
  10. Work the Plan.
  11. Make every contact a QUALITY interaction.
  12. Be Prepared for No Response.
  13. Get away from the trite “Lunch and a Tour”.
  14. Don’t expect to “Close”, but be Ready for the Opportunity.
  15. Never Give Up!

Relentless Follow Thru applies to all levels of the organization, which must present a consistent message from the top-down.  Initial training, weekly sales calls, regional or companywide meetings, and mini-marketing workshops can be effectively utilized to establish targets, monitor performance, and reinforce adherence with the prospect management system.

Ultimately, however, players must be put into the game and empowered to make decisions in order to build their self-confidence.  This will present continuous “coaching” or personalized mentoring opportunities.  Certain individuals need their high-pressure sales instincts to be toned down.  Others need coaxing and hand-holding until they develop their comfort-zone.

Positive reinforcement should be given for “wins” and emotional support for “losses”, with on-the-spot adjustments to procedures and techniques and additional training when necessary.

“HOT” Prospects – the small percentage of prospects who are likely to move-in within the next 90 days – should receive a greater degree and frequency of sales efforts.  An individual can turn hot at any step in the relationship building process – there is no exact formula as to when that will happen.  They may simply say that they’re “ready”, but often some event in their life causes a change in their status.  Examples might include a fall, death of the spouse, or loss of independence.

The key is that relentless follow thru will enable you to know when these events happen and be there to provide support, answer questions and offer a SOLUTION.

A customized strategy should be created for each hot prospect.  Responsibility should be assigned and timing intervals established for facility visits, home visits, phone calls and invitations to activity programs or meals. Determine which features and amenities to highlight, as well as which unit(s) to target as “available”.  Make sure that it’s clearly understood who has the authority to make price concessions to “close” the deal.

It is helpful to notify ALL staff members and expect the unexpected (e.g. prospect showing up when the designated in-house contact is unavailable).  Selecting a resident ambassador(s) and including them in the sales strategy can also be effective.

A Final Observation

Time doesn’t slow down when you retire;

It ACCELERATES

Stuff happens causing a senior’s situation to change drastically overnight.  Don’t lose an OPPORTUNITY by delaying your follow-thru.  Be relentless in pursuing every available means to build a bond with every prospect.

GOOD LUCK!


[1] “Good to Great” by Stanford Professor Jim Collins, 2001

[2] Lady Vols Basketball Coach Pat Summitt is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, men or women, in any division with 1071 victories and an 84+% win rate at the University of Tennessee from 1974 to current.  She was the first U.S. Olympian to win basketball Gold Medals as both a player and coach.

[3] “Boomers Redefine Retirement Living”, Sally Abrahms, AARP Bulletin, April, 2011

Building the NEW Aging Continuum

The following presentation was presented during the “Aging and Technology Industry Webinar”  hosted by GrandCare Systems and sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness on September 9, 2010.  The PowerPoint presentation may be viewed by clicking here: Building the New Aging Continuum[i].

Participants in the WEBINAR stated that it was “fantastic, always learning”, “so true”, “Great presentation”,  “I love this image”, “This is resident centered care writ [sic] large”, and “Terrific presentation!!!”.  One commented, “I have been waiting for existing senior living communities to actively reach out to the greater community”, while another said, “This all helps take away the dark scary thoughts of ‘retirement living’.”

In addition, the host stated that the presentation “put into words the value of aging technologies to care providers and the NEW continuum of care. Many  in the aging & technology industry have been struggling to express this, especially to our aging service colleagues.”

THE COMPLETE SCRIPT FOR THIS WEBINAR may be accessed below. (more…)

Beyond “DEATH and Dying” – Part 4

Bargaining

The previous installment[i] introduced the concept of hope as a key to managing grief and assisting the individual to move from ANGER into the BARGAINING stage. This segment will expand beyond the concepts discussed by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in “On Death and Dying”.  With her focus on terminally ill patients, she talks about “entering into some sort of an agreement which may postpone the inevitable”.[ii] She states that these “bargains” are generally made with their God and goes on to give examples of  mothers that want to live long enough to see their daughter married, or new grandchild born, etc.

There is a further opportunity for those providing services for seniors who have already suffered losses.  They may utilize the natural desire/need to bargain by presenting realistic options as positive alternatives for current or future residents. Success is achieved when the senior begins to approach each new day with HOPE for positive experiences instead of focusing only on their “losses”.

The following guidelines should be considered when negotiating a bargain and building hope for these seniors:

  • We can’t replace their loss – DON’T TRY!

Think of the parent who buys a new puppy to relieve their child’s sorrow over the death of a pet.  The child may initially reject the new pet feeling that paying attention to the new puppy is disloyal to the memory of their “friend”.  Ultimately, the child will learn to love the new pet – not as a replacement – but because of its own unique qualities.

  • Don’t minimize the loss; no one else can determine the relative importance of a particular loss to the individual.

How often have you heard someone say (well-meaning, of course), “Oh, it’s not that important; you’re spending too much time thinking about that”, etc.?  Whether the senior lost a favorite piece of jewelry, a loved one, or the ability to drive their own car, that loss is real to them.

  • BARGAIN = COMPROMISE.  The secret is to demonstrate enough value to be gained by your proposal that will offset what the senior believes they are giving up.

For instance, older adults who are asked to give up their personal residence will seldom see enough value to offset the loss of the home by simply emphasizing the “real estate” aspects of the senior living community.  As Jason Popko observes:  a HOUSE is an “object that can be bought and sold” while a HOME has “meaning and attachment to … personal living space” that can’t be “bought or sold”.

The new building may even be better, safer, etc. than the original, but the individual won’t/can’t hear that at this stage.  Smart marketers will focus on lifestyle, the benefits of socialization, interactive activity programs, etc.

  • Don’t create false hopes with unrealistic expectations.

It is tempting to make promises, especially when trying to convince a prospect to move in, but make sure you can deliver what you promise.  Otherwise, the short-term gain will be far offset by the negative reputation that will be generated.

  • Grieving is a complex emotional process, but don’t be afraid to try and help.  Understand that it’s natural for the person to slip backwards into DENIAL and ANGER. Don’t take it personally.

Remember that HOPE is the KEY and TRY AGAIN!

  • Begin building relationships in the marketing process.  Then draw upon the knowledge gained to generate attractive options as the resident experiences the inevitable losses that come with aging.

The ability to convey compassion, show support, communicate an understanding of the grief process and present creative options will facilitate move-ins and reduce move-outs.

  • ALWAYS, treat the senior with dignity and respect and don’t insult their intelligence.

There is a tendency by some in the industry to “talk down” to the residents and treat them somewhat like children:  “Now, honey, you don’t want to do that…”   Respect their ability to understand the significance of their loss and the value of the proposed alternatives.

CASE STUDY: Jim lost his wife Tammy a little over a year ago.  He has been in declining health for a number of years with deteriorating eyesight (in fact, he is “legally” blind), but his wife had always promised him that she would take care of him and that he would never have to go into a nursing home.

Jim was a successful sales executive who used to be the “life of the party”, was active in his church, and attended all his college’s home games.  Due to his eyesight, he had to forgo these activities and retrofitted his 2-story colonial with a first floor bedroom.

Jim’s son Dale and his family moved in to take care of Jim.  But, both Dale and his wife work and Jim is often left at home with little to do all day.   Jim’s upset because Tammy often sat and had an afternoon “toddy” with him, but now everyone seems to have their own priorities with little time for him.

Some days Jim tries to do the things he “used to do”; this often causes additional problems (e.g. he fell and broke several lamps). Other days, he is angry with the grandchildren for being too loud, leaving their “stuff” in the way, etc. He is frustrated because he no longer seems in control of his “own home”.

Dale has come to you for help.  He has confided that several other communities stated that Jim seems like too much of a problem and they either want too much money for “specialized care” or said they aren’t interested in him as a potential resident; one even suggested that Dale contact a nursing home.

How would YOU handle this situation?

Please CLICK HERE to post your comments and suggestions.


[i]Beyond ‘DEATH and Dying’ – Part 3   Anger

[ii] “On Death and Dying”, Chapter V, by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D., originally published in 1969

AGING-in-PLACE – Threat or Marketing Opportunity?

A SWOT analysis, identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats, is often used in developing the marketing strategy for an individual community.  As discussed in several prior articles in the “Wake-up Call” series, the aging-in-place concept should definitely be viewed as a threat to the traditional senior living community industry.

This phenomenon is clearly gaining traction and as reported in the Orlando Sentinel, “it even has its own National Aging in Place Week, which falls on Oct. 11-16 this year.”[i] All indications are that this stated preference will become even more prevalent as succeeding generations age into the historical target demographic for senior living communities.

On the other hand, management, marketing and sales can turn this challenge into an OPPORTUNITY.  It is becoming clearer that an aging adult will need to adapt their living space to be able to continue to effectively “age-in-place”.  For instance, the Orlando Sentinel article identifies the following AGING-IN-PLACE Architectural Features:

Wider doors, hallways and toilets

Same-level transitions or ramps instead of steps

Roll-in showers with wide, doorless entries, grab bars, nonskid tiles, built-in seats and handheld shower units

Walk-in closets, casement windows, lever-style door handles

Waist-high kitchen appliances and storage drawers.

How many of these features are provided as “standard” in your community?

Are some of these features included in selected apartments (e.g. ADA[ii] or “handicapped” units)?

How often do you focus on these features when conducting a tour?

Is your company willing to add certain of these features to accommodate the needs of a potential resident and get a move-in?

Can you speak intelligently about what it would cost the individual to make these changes in their own home?

Some organizations, especially independent living communities, have been reluctant to include several of these safety features for both cost and ambience reasons.  The philosophy of these companies has been to “wait for the customer to ask for it”.  For instance, one IL only included grab bars in their ADA units because they didn’t want the building to look “too much like an assisted living facility or nursing home”.  After losing several prospective residents, the owner agreed to make modifications – AS NEEDED – but encountered problems in retrofitting the showers.

Another industry leader uses lo-rise toilets throughout their buildings, except where ADA regulations require raised toilets.  In most cases, they will “switch-out” the toilet if the resident specifically requests it, but leave it up to local management to handle.

The fact that aging adults are prepared to add these architectural features in their own home should tell builders and owners that it’s time to wake-up. Items such as grab bars, hi-rise toilets and walk-in closets need to become as standard as wide hallways in ALL levels of senior living communities.

Taking this step may initially increase construction costs slightly, but will positively impact marketing. It will enable sales people to build better relationships by focusing on CAPABILITIES vs DISABILITIES!

In fact, safety features such as grab bars, non-skid flooring, etc. may be marketed as part of a HEALTHY AGING concept.  Aging is a normal process and it should become natural to either add these features or move into living accommodations that were designed to promote resident safety.  As senior living specialists, we should promote these features as preventive measures for a healthy aging lifestyle instead of only adding them AFTER the individual needs them.

3 things happen – ALL NEGATIVE – when we make a prospect ASK for features that they may have already installed in their own home:

  • We place them in an awkward / embarrassing situation when they are forced to admit and focus on a frailty.  NO ONE likes to be reminded of their weaknesses – why should we expect a senior to be any different.
  • The value perception is diminished.  The prospect will question:  “WHAT ELSE is LESS than I have at home?” or “WHY don’t they have these features – I thought they were the experts?”
  • They may never ask the question, nor learn that options are available.  They will simply go elsewhere that does provide the desired features.

If your community does offer these features, how do you work it into the conversation and turn them into selling points without making the prospective resident feel “disabled”?

For instance, a 6 – 8 foot hallway is clearly wide enough to navigate a wheelchair, but that’s not what most prospects want to hear.  On the other hand, you might point out how spacious and well-decorated it is and then ask the question as to how it compares with the prospect’s home. [Note:  the average hallway in a single family residence will be 36 inches or narrower.]

The key is to sell a LIFESTYLE vs a litany of real estate features.  This approach will enable you to establish a personal relationship with the prospect and present the retirement community as a positive option, instead of something they will “have to do”.

Show the prospect how different features are designed to keep them safe and able to maintain their independence.  Observe that very few private residences are designed with these safety features even though statistics show that 1 out of every 3 seniors (over 65) will fall each year.[iii] This may prompt a discussion about the type of safety features they have or lack in their home and lead to the conclusion that the “smart” choice is to move-in with you!

A great follow-up question is whether they know what it would cost to retrofit their current home with the same features that you include in their basic rent.  Depending on the extent of the modifications, costs can easily run between $20 – 40,000.  (How many months of service would that buy at your community?)

Invest a little time to establish greater credibility by identifying contractors that are doing those services in your local community and finding out exactly what they charge.

Should the prospect “know” what the costs are, MOVE THEM TO YOUR “HOT LIST”!  They are ready to do something – now all you have to do is convince them that you offer their best alternative!

PLEASE CLICK HERE TO SHARE YOUR OPINION AND/OR READ THE COMMENTS OF OTHERS


[i] “Seniors embrace aging in place”, Jean Patteson, Orlando Sentinel, July 9, 2010.

[ii] Americans with Disabilities Act

[iii] International Council on Active Aging

March Madness!

Throughout the country, normally sane men and women, boys and girls go crazy over NCAA basketball in March each year.  65 men’s and 64 women’s teams compete in the annual tournaments to crown the year’s champions with millions of fans who haven’t attended a game all year tuned  to their TV sets.  “Bracketology” is THE buzzwordFinal Four 2013 for several weeks with folks who would never consider going to Las Vegas joining their local pools at work, in neighborhoods – even at church – to pick the winners at each level and cash in on the “big prize”.  EXCITEMENT abounds!

Yet, what about our senior citizens?  Did they retire from all this “hoopla” when they moved into a senior living community?  As a regional director for over 20 retirement centers, I learned that none of these buildings scheduled anything on their activities calendars related to these events.  Several factors potentially contribute to this omission:

  • Some senior living properties become so focused on providing for ALL of the needs of their residents internally, they tend to overlook the importance of keeping the residents aware of and involved in the mainstream activities of the broader community.
  • Some buildings still hold a “rest home” mentality with activity programs limited to the 3B’s:  Bible, Bingo and Birthday.
  • Many activity directors  consider sports related programming as only male-oriented activities and believe that they would not be well received by the majority of residents who are women.[1]
  • Finally, some may simply look at the tournament as something the individual can watch in their own apartment, overlooking the value of socialization in watching the game  with  friends.  It’s strange that we see the value in weekly movies in the TV rooms but don’t consider the benefit of watching and discussing other TV programs in a common setting.

     ACTIVITY CALENDAR TIP:

Because of the number of games in all time zones, there is an opportunity to schedule WEEKEND and EVENING events around the broadcast of these games on numerous days!

In keeping with the philosophy of enhancing marketability by improving the resident experience[2], I directed that March Madness be treated as a current event.

MARKETING TIP:

Identify “prospects” who are currently living alone and might be interested in seeing games.  Invite those individuals to watch a game on your big screen TV with your in-house residents.  Sell camaraderie and the value of their access to the large (and high definition if you have one) TV.

The following game was one of several activities initiated in my buildings.  [Please contact me directly to discuss other activity and marketing ideas that may be built around the March Madness concept.]

March Madness

(Seated Basketball Game)

OVERVIEW:

This is a TEAM sport with two 5-member teams.  This is an age-adapted, adult program designed as a low-impact physical activity suitable for all residents.  The game is played from a seated position to neutralize any height advantage and eliminate restrictions based on

Seated Basketball

Seated
Basketball

the ability to stand and/or walk without assistance.

It is based on the shoot-around game of “HORSE” with 5 chairs placed in front of the basket.  Each participant on each team will shoot from every seat with points scored for made baskets.

ACTIVITY OBJECTIVES:

  1. Promote independence in body and spirit.
  2. Help residents fulfill social & ego needs.  Several residents may achieve self-actualization by participating in their First basketball “game”.
  3. Create new Precious Memories as seniors get the opportunity to showcase their abilities to their families.

EQUIPMENT REQUIRED:

  1. An adjustable height basketball backboard and goal.    The goal works best at 6 feet for an 8 ft. or higher ceiling.  The model shown is manufactured by Little Tykes and may be purchased at Toys-R-Us for about $45.  Remove or cover any reference to the Little Tykes name, age group, etc. (e.g. Use a sticker with the community’s name or logo) to insure that the equipment does NOT convey a “juvenile” nature to the activity.

The manufacturer recommends that the base be filled with sand, but a) a staff member can hold the backboard with a foot on the base or b)  fill with water to make it easier to move / store when not in use.

2.  The set comes with a ball, but these are usually light weight and more of a playground ball than a true basketball.  More realism will be gained by purchasing several mini-basketballs which fit these goals.  These can usually be found on-line or at stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Several buildings found mini-basketballs with local school logos and purchased balls for competing schools (e.g. Florida & Florida State, or Tennessee, Kentucky & Vanderbilt).  They found that allowing their resident teams to use these balls gave their teams identity and heightened competition.  Ideally, the facility should have at least 3 balls for each team to speed up the game.

3.  Five straight-back chairs placed in a semi-circle in front of the goal, plus 10 chairs for the “bench” (players not currently shooting) and chairs for spectators.  The spread of the arc can be adjusted to fit the dimensions of the room, but the center seat should generally be placed no less than 5, nor more than 8, feet from the goal, with the others spread to the side accordingly.  At least initially, the “court” should be designed to facilitate scoring.  Creating a sense of accomplishment for the first contestants will encourage greater future participation.

4.  A flip chart on an easel with marker to keep score.  Both individual and team scores will need to be maintained.  A volunteer will be needed to serve as the Scorekeeper.

NOTE:  Tech-savvy communities may find it advantageous to use a laptop and flat-screen TV for keeping SCORE!

Preparation:

Set-up can be accomplished in about 15 minutes once the goal has been assembled.  The activity is suitable for on-going competition throughout the year, but initiating the program during the NCAA tournament adds the additional “spice” to encourage greater participation, selection of TEAM names, etc.  Some buildings may want to encourage residents to purchase TEAM t-shirts/jerseys for additional authenticity to the competition.

Tournament Play:

The style of the tournament will depend on the number of teams involved, recognizing that the principal objective is to generate as much resident participation as possible.  The following options may generate activity programming over several days and/or weeks:

  • Two Teams: Direct head-to-head competition.  This can follow the simple one-and-done philosophy of the NCAA OR utilize the series approach with the best out of 3 or 5 declared the overall winner.
  • Three Teams: Round-Robin competition with each team playing each other team.  If one team beats both the other teams, they will be declared the winner with the team winning the other game as the runner-up.  If each team wins one game, a final round will be held.  If there is no champion determined after that round, the three teams will compete in a sudden death Tie Breaker as outlined below.
  • Four or more Teams: Olympic style competition. Each team will play every other team in a preliminary round.  Then the two teams with the best records will play in a championship round for gold and silver medals.  If desired, the 3rd and 4th placed teams may play in a consolation round for a bronze medal.

ICE-BREAKER IDEA

Demonstration Event

5 Resident Volunteers

vs

THE STAFF

Beginning Play:

Each team will choose a Captain who will also be the first shooter.  After the ceremonial coin toss, the winner will take the middle seat and the first half will commence.

Play:

  1. The first player will shoot 3 balls from the center seat with 2 points scored for each basket made.
  2. The player will then move to the next seat to the right of the basket and the first player from the opposing team will take his/her place in the first seat.
  3. That player will take their 3 shots and then move to the next seat to the left of the basket.
  4. Play then returns to the first player who shoots 3 times and then moves to the chair on the far right.
  5. The first player from the opposing team does the same to the left of the basket.
  6. Then, the 2nd player from the first team moves to the center seat and takes their 3 shots.
  7. As they move to the second seat, the opposing team’s 2nd player takes over the center seat.
  8. Next, the 1st players take their shots from the far seats and then return to the Bench.
  9. This process continues until all 5 players from each TEAM have completed their 9 shots and the FIRST HALF concludes.
  10. After an intermission, the SECOND HALF continues in the same process, except that the first team moves to the left of the basket and the other team moves to the right.  At the end of the SECOND HALF, each player will have attempted 6 shots from the center seat and 3 from each of the other seats.
  11. At the end of the game, the TEAM with the most points (made baskets) is declared the winner.

Tie-Breaker:

In the event of a tie, the player from each TEAM with the highest personal score will be involved in a tie-breaker.  If more than one player on the same team has the same score, the team will choose which one will participate in the tie-breaker.

Beginning with the losing team of the original Coin Toss, the player will sit in the center seat (the “foul shot” position) and continue shooting until they miss.  The opposing team player must then beat the number of shots made by the first player to be declared the winner.

In the event of another tie, play will move to the 2nd highest scorer for each team and continue until a) a winner is chosen or b) all players have participated.

Should that happen, the foul shot line will be moved backwards in 1 foot increments until a winner is determined.

Advanced Play Options:

  1. A more complex scoring option is to record 1 point for baskets from the center seat (equating to a foul shot), 2 points from the middle seat and 3 points from the furthest chair.  It is generally best to begin with the simpler form of scoring until the participants become acquainted with the game and it becomes advantageous to increase the level of competition.
  2. Seats can be placed further away from the goal.
  3. Schedule an on-going competition or tournament with one or more nearby facilities.

    MARKETING TIP:

    • Contact a Senior Citizens Center, Church Group or other Seniors’ Organization and invite them to put together a team to challenge your in-house CHAMPS!

    • Add a social event, door prizes, etc. to tie in with the tournament and add participants and observers to your prospect list.

    Set up a home-and-away schedule with residents traveling to the opposing teams’ home court and vice versa.  Note: this is a great option when the same company has more than one property in the same geographical area – but may, in some instances, be also possible with competitor locations.


[1] These individuals should check out the popularity of women’s college basketball and Tennessee coach Pat Summitt who leads ALL COACHES in total career wins.

[2] Check out “Turning Residents into our Best Marketers” in the CATEGORIES drop-down box for additional thoughts on this philosophy.

Please leave a comment and share the March Madness activities you have implemented successfully in your building.