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.

C’mon Man … Show Some Respect!

Over the past decade, I’ve had success in building occupancy[i] with a focus on activities to demonstrate a superior senior lifestyle. It is encouraging to see more operators utilizing activities to convey LIFESTYLE CHOICE in their ads, but “C’mon Man”, we need to show more respect for our customers than is displayed in this direct mail piece:

“… we offer a lifestyle that allows you to focus on the fun things in life. You never have to worry about what to do today because there’s always something going on to keep you engaged. Join us today for one of our activities and stay for lunch. It’s on the house!

 

5 Things “NOT to Like” with this Marketing Technique

 

  1. This independent living ad targets prospective residents, and/or their families, who are ready to turn lifestyle management over to the facility. This “needs-based” approach has contributed to higher average-aged residents, older residents at move-in and shorter lengths of stay.   It has also led some experts to question whether the recent building boom in senior housing will create a supply that outpaces demand[ii], even with the influx of baby boomers into the “senior” classification.
    • We must promote independence with dignity and respect to meet the positive aging demands of newer, higher-functioning generations and attract adequate numbers of potential residents.

 

  1. This ad is synonymous with the “cruise ship on land” marketing concept that assumes “old folks” will be happy toCruise Ship on Land just sail off into the sunset and be happy as long as they get plenty of food and have something to entertain them between meals. Unfortunately, this is good intentions masking a form of benign ageism as identified by the MacArthur Foundation Study.[iii]
    • The dated “rest home” mentality was based on this principle that older adults no longer contribute to society and must be “cared for” in sheltered facilities at their end of life.

 

  1. Current and prospective residents have been responsible adults for most of their lives and don’t want to just have “fun” all day.   They lived an active and productive lifestyle BEFORE deciding to move into a senior living community and most desire to retain as much normalcy in their lives as possible.
  • Progressive Retirement Lifestyles (“PRL”) draws its scientific basis from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.   In order to continue satisfying the higher level needs – e.g. EGO – of older people, our senior living 3b Activitiescommunities must provide mental and physical challenges for their residents with a diverse array of activities. The “3 B’s”[iv] – Birthday, Bible and Bingo – simply won’t cut it anymore!
  • Our programs respect and foster the desires of many residents to continue “contributing” in some way – by helping others within the community, by volunteering and/or by providing service to others “less fortunate”.

 

  1. “Worry” is a natural part of living and most mature adults don’t want to be treated as though they can’t “act” or “think” for themselves. They don’t expect to just “sit back” and be treated like children with every minute of their day planned for them.
    • The PRL concept has proven successful by offering multiple daily lifestyle options, while allowing the residents to make their own independent choices.

 

  1. The only specific “activity” highlighted in the flyer was a “Chef Showcase: Waffle Bar”, which is more “demonstration cooking” than a true resident activity.
    • At best, this is a passive event with residents and other spectators being entertained by the Chef.   Although entertainment is an important ingredient, PRL emphasizes interactive lifestyles with active participation by the residents in activity programs.
    • Unless the “waffle bar” is available every week, there is a risk that current residents will complain that the activity is just a marketing ploy and NOT a lifestyle feature.
    • PRL is a combined operations and marketing approach that enhances operations first and THEN invites prospects to participate in on-going programs.

The PRL program was developed to adapt to the evolving market and promote additional demand by respecting the prior life achievements and recognizing the on-going capabilities of newer generations of seniors. PRL creates positive differentiation from the competition by providing and marketing a more robust lifestyle with a greater quality, quantity and variety of stimulating age-appropriate activities than was frequently the case in the past.

I am Art Carr, the creator of the unique Progressive Retirement Lifestyles program and welcome your comments. PLEASE POST YOUR OPINION about whether you agree or disagree with these observations and share this article with those who might appreciate it.

Please contact me at 615-414-5217 or via email at art@progressiveretirement.com to learn more about the exciting Progressive Retirement Lifestyles program and its potential to enhance operations and serve as the foundation for improved occupancy.

THANKS!

[i] This approach enabled me to build a regional census 6 points higher than the national average and lead the fill-up of several new buildings, as well as stimulating turnarounds of other under-performing communities.

[ii] http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-senior-housing-raises-concerns-supply-will-outpace-demand-from-baby-boomers-1439285401

[iii] See “Successful Aging” by John Rowe, M.D. and Robert Kahn, Ph.D, published by Masterpiece Alliance Foundation, Inc., 1998

[iv] With a thank you to Sara Elizabeth Hamm who first “coined” this phrase.

And now … The Rest of the Story

2014 Women's Final Four

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament

TRIVIA Question:  Who is the winningest Division 1 basketball coach of all time?  Clue → it is NOT in a men’s basketball program and it is NOT a man.

Answer:  Pat Summit, Head Coach Emeritus with the University of Tennessee “Lady Vols” basketball team.  “She kept her elite program in the winner’s circle for almost four decades, producing a mind-boggling record of 1,098-208 (.840) that included the most victories in NCAA basketball history. During her tenure, the Lady Vols won eight NCAA titles as well as a combined 32 Southeastern Conference tournament and regular season championships. Tennessee made an unprecedented 31 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament and produced 12 Olympians, 34 WNBA players, 21 WBCA/Kodak/State Farm All-Americans earning 36 honors, and 39 All-SEC players earning 82 recognitions. Along with the success on the court, Summitt’s student-athletes had tremendous productivity in the classroom. Coach Summitt held a 100 percent graduation rate for all Lady Vols who completed their eligibility at Tennessee.”[i]

The Lady Vols along with UConn (Connecticut), South Carolina and Notre Dame are again a number one seed in the 2014 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Tournament with 1st round games beginning this weekend.  Although Pat won’t be on the sideline for Tennessee (Holly Warlick now coaches the Lady Vols), other familiar coaching icons will be at tLadies Basketball Coach Iconshe tournament including Geno Auriemma from UConn, Tara VanDerveer with the Stanford Cardinal, and Kim Mulkey, coach of the Baylor Lady Bears.  These 4 coaches have produced over 3260 victories,  winning 20 national championships in a combined 115 years of coaching, and each has become an institution at their university.

In total, teams from 30 states will be participating in the women’s tournament with New York having the most teams (6), followed by California and Tennessee with 5 each.  Seven other states (Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia) have 2 schools in the tournament.  This should give you plenty of opportunity to generate competition for your residents – especially in those situations where you have both large (i.e. major conference) and smaller schools competing (e.g. Stanford vs Cal State – Northridge;  LSU vs Northwestern LA, or Texas vs Prairie View).

Women's Tournament by State

  • A special mention should be made for the “Black Knights” women’s basketball team of the U.S. Military Academy.  Although located (and counted as a NY school) at West Point, NY, this team is really a “national” team and should receive support from across the country.
  • Kudos to Connecticut and Notre Dame who are each undefeated in regular season and conference tournament play going into the NCAA tournament.
  • There are 5 additional states (Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, South Dakota and West Virginia) that were not included in the Men’s NCAA tournament.  {See “Forget the Activity Calendar. . . ACT NOW!” for suggestions about utilizing the NCAA tournament as the basis for an enriching resident activity program and marketing event}
  • Five schools — Akron, North Dakota, South Dakota, Winthrop and Wright State – are all making their first NCAA tournament appearance
  • 25 of the teams join their male counterparts at the Big Dance.  The Women’s Tournament adds post-season play for 39 additional teams and gives you 5 more states to build resident support around.

    How about a competition between the Men’s and Women’s teams for the 25 colleges with both teams in the SHOW?  Who will go farther in their tournament? 

The NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament offers some challenges, but many more opportunities for meaningful dialogue and interactive programs with the predominantly female population in today’s senior living communities.   One of the challenges is that the NCAA tournament has only been organized for women since 1982 so it’s unlikely any of your residents ever played in the tournament.

TRIVIA:  Kim Mulkey played on the first championship team from Louisiana Tech in 1982 and is the first person, man or woman, to win a basketball national championship as a player, assistant coach and head coach.[ii]

TRIVIA:  Tennessee and Connecticut have won almost 50% of the National Women’s Championships with 8 titles a piece.

On the other hand, most of the 1st and 2nd round games are played “on campus” with attendance a lot less than at the men’s games.  Therefore, if your community is near one of the 16 tournament sites you might have the chance to actually take a group of residents to see one or more of the games.

Los Angeles, CA Toledo, OH
Seattle, WA West Lafayette, IN
Ames, IA Knoxville, TN
Iowa City, IA Chapel Hill, NC
Waco, TX Durham, NC
College Station, TX College Park, MD
Baton Rouge, LA University Park, PA
Lexington, KY Storrs, CT

The Sweet 16 games will be played in Lincoln, NE; Stanford, CA;  Notre Dame (South Bend), IN and Louisville, KY with the Final Four in Nashville, TN.

One of the biggest opportunities is to create an inter-generational sharing experience for your residents, their adult daughters (bobby-soxers and baby boomers), grand-daughters and great grand-daughters.  The residents and their adult daughters lived through a cultural revolution started by the United States Congress’ passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  This legislation changed the face of women’s athletics across all levels and 10 years later led to the first NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament.

  • In 1971, the year before Title IX became law, fewer than 300,000 girls participated in high school sports, about one in 27. In 2002, the number approached 3 million, or approximately one in 2½.[iii]
  • In 1972, fewer than 32,000 women competed in intercollegiate athletics.  Women received only 2 % of schools’ athletics budgets, and athletic scholarships for women were nonexistent.  In 2008-09, a record number of 182,503 women participated in competitive college athletics, accounting for 43% of college athletes nationwide.[iv]

Along with the increased participation, the game of “girls” basketball itself has also seen significant change.  Before Title IX (i.e. when all of the residents as well as the Bobby-soxers and many of the Baby Boomers were growing up), girls basketball was more a part of the Physical Education curriculum than a competitive sport.  Today’s young girls would hardly Ollie-Hoosiersrecognize the half-court game, uniforms of Bermuda shorts and white blouses, and all foul shots thrown under-hand like Ollie in the movie Hoosiers!  Fast breaks, rebounding “above the rim”, even dunks were foreign to the pre-1972 women’s game.   SO, set up an inter-generational discussion group and encourage your residents (and prospects) and their older adult children to share their remembrances of girls basketball in the “days of yore”.  Invite a local college or high school team to participate in the discussion and help them understand the legacy that they have inherited. Humphrey Bogart said, “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship in the movie Casablanca and you can build that same type of on-going relationship with a local school team throughout the coming year.

Finally, the Girl Scouts of America developed Girl Scout badgea new patch that members can earn with activities focused on the history, importance and media portrayal of women in sports.  It was developed in conjunction with the 2014 NCAA Final Four in Nashville, TN and offers a tremendous opportunity for your residents to interact with the young scouts.

You have all the ingredients for a dynamite activity program and customized marketing event that demonstrates appropriate respect for the life accomplishments of the residents.  The potential of getting multiple generations from the same family together in your building focused on a common interest – including participation in March Madness games as discussed in a prior article – is priceless.

 


“THAT’S GREAT … but my TEAM isn’t going to the SHOW!”

Dejected Basketball TeamLess than twenty per cent of the 351 Division I colleges and universities get invited to the NCAA tournament each year.  But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t proceed with the March Madness activities and events suggested in “Forget the Activity Calendar. . . ACT NOW!” [http://wp.me/pCemc-j8] if your favorite team wasn’t selected.  This article includes five additional methods to tie into the excitement created by college hoops at this time of year.

 

NIT Logo♥  If you live in West Virginia, you might want to switch your focus to the National Invitation Tournament (“NIT”), which includes 32 additional teams and concludes with the final games played at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi and Vermont join West Virginia as additional states represented in the NIT that were excluded from the original 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Cinderella     There are 32 Conferences included in the NCAA Tournament.  Determine what conference that your local school belongs to and then your residents can cheer for (or against → in some cases fans will root for “my school or whoever plays ABC University!”) the Conference Champion who is at the Big Dance.  Frequently these teams from the smaller conference – who only get an automatic bid by winning their conference tournament – become the Cinderella team of the tournament.   Will their trip end after one game or will they go “deep into the tournament”?

Even if this doesn’t apply to your local team, let your residents pick a Cinderella team from one of the non-major conferences and support them in the tournament.

  There are 14 different sites where the tournament games will be played over the next 3 weeks, including Dayton, OH for the four “play-in” games on March 18 & 19.  Even though there are no Indiana schools in the tournament, Indianapolis will be the location of the Midwest Regional Finals on March 28 – 30.  If you are near one of these locations, there should be a lot of local press in newspapers, TV, etc. that you can tie into.  You don’t have to do a full “Bracketology”, but have fun by picking the winners in the local games.  Set up pools for a) largest margin of victory, b) total margin of victory (all games), c) number of overtime games, etc.  Vote for favorite coach and/or player.  If you’re into social media, sponsor that person online.

  If your local team’s season is over, contact the Athletic Department and request a visit from someone on the coaching staff and/or the Cheer Squad.  Explain what you are doing to involve your aging adult residents and ask them to participate in your “life-long-learning” series by presenting a 15 – 20 presentation on how the tournaments work, etc.   Tell them that you know how hard they work and that your residents want to recognize their achievements in this season as you wish them more success in the future.  Build the foundation for an on-going, inter-generational relationship with the school.  Consider the residents’ excitement to have the Cheer Squad do a couple of routines for them in your building and maybe have the mascot speak.

Cheer Squads

Star Difference If you really want to “think outside of the box”, work with the Athletic Department to create several special awards that could be presented in a ceremony at your community (e.g.  Above and Beyond, All-Around Excellence, Rising Star, Leadership/Citizenship, etc.→ contact me directly for more ideas and help in implementation).   This is another great way to generate “free press” and present your community in a very positive fashion.

♥  Finally, there are another 64 teams in the Women’s UT - UConn Ladies BasketballNCAA Basketball Tournament.  Because of the preponderance of females in our resident populations, this may offer a particularly attractive alternative for celebrating March Madness, which will be addressed in a subsequent article.

The important thing is to DO SOMETHING!  Don’t be a slave to your published activity calendar and miss this opportunity to improve the interactive lifestyle of your residents.

NCAA Basketballs

“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

Continuing Challenges or OPPORTUNITY …

for the Senior Living Industry?

Will operators continue to “cut costs” – even when it entails reducing services for the residents?

Will the focus continue to be on “need-driven” admissions and move-ins?

Will the average age of residents continue to increase while the average length of stay decreases?

Will new development and innovations continue to stagnate?

Will the “Aging in Place” movement continue to gain strength with seniors choosing to buy more services that help them stay in their personal residences?

OR

Is this the year that:

a)       The industry begins to prepare for the changing demands and needs of new generations of potential residents? [READ MORE]

b) Progressive visionaries challenge the “status quo” in design and operational philosophies?  [Update to Follow]

c) More emphasis is placed on providing a quality lifestyle for the resident, regardless of his/her medical (physical & mental) limitations/capabilities?  [Update to Follow]

d) Operators embrace new technologies to provide a stronger value proposition as a viable alternative to the prospect remaining in their own home? [Update to Follow]

e) New entrants from outside the industry and foreign investors assume leadership roles with new energy and vision?  [Update to Follow]

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!

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

[ii] Americans with Disabilities Act

[iii] International Council on Active Aging