In our previous blog on the physical plant, we identified elements that may be standing in the way of creating a hospitality environment. Now we must look at what the community wishes –– and can afford –– to accomplish.
A community poised for an expansion may consider the impact of increasing its independent living accommodations, thus reducing emphasis on the population who need medical care or assistance. Whether that is an option or not, in order to create hospitality in independent living, assisted living, and memory care or skilled nursing — configuration of the building is central to the environment and culture.
A Feeling of Home
The environment needs to be evaluated with the goal of resembling a personal home:
- Gathering areas that look like living rooms with fireplaces
- Built-in bookcases and entertainment centers
- Vignettes for smaller gatherings or tea kitchens for easy access to beverages and snacks
Corridors, whether in an assisted living or independent living residence, should be constructed or decorated to highlight a private entry. If construction is not an option, use a change of carpeting/border and light beside or above the threshold to indicate the entry to a private residence. And, don’t forget handrails. The single pole that stretches down the hall should not be an option. Use a decorative handrail that resembles a chair rail.
Friendly & Familiar Places
No more cavernous dining rooms that overwhelm the newest member of the community. The culinary experience should be more intimate and pleasant, reminiscent of dining at home or with friends — which is familiar to all of us. Many existing, large dining rooms are being divided into smaller seating areas that offer a variety of cuisines at each station –– American, Italian, Asian, vegetarian, salad and dessert bar. Those communities that have the luxury of extensive renovation or building often construct multiple dining venues –– bistro, café, marketplace grab ‘n go, and pub.
Being able to gather and socialize in natural, home-like spaces is central to hospitality. Emerging seniors are engaged and vibrant, often interested in mingling with friends through book clubs, cards, Bunko, poker, gardening, woodworking and WELLNESS. Create spaces that encourage these interactions.
Some communities may be limited to renovating and re-purposing current spaces. If so, look around for available areas to re-purpose. Can items in a larger storage area be accommodated elsewhere while that space is renovated, re-purposed, and used for social space? Are there other possible uses of space? Would it be cost-effective to repurpose a residence to a social space? When restrictions require refreshing existing space, removing wallpaper and using current color schemes in the building and on furniture can impart a new beginning.
Don’t Forget the Hardware
Don’t forget to consider the small items, like hardware. (Many providers entering the senior living market begin with a hospitality orientation, and their buildings reflect that.) Newer communities look fresh and current, with the use of oil-rubbed bronze hardware and other modern trims. Your community should not continue to use brass on doors, hinges, and other hardware. Take the time to visit competitors in your market. You must meet, if not exceed, their level of finishes to remain competitive. Evaluate your cabinetry, countertops, appliance package and finishes with competition in mind. Similar to real estate, bathrooms and kitchens receive extra scrutiny from your prospect.
A Lasting Impression
Last but not least, don’t forget the trimmings –– like taking that simple black dress and accessorizing to create a knock-out look. Invest in a few tasteful pieces of art and décor that make rooms look finished, lived-in and welcoming. The first impression should not be one of a sterile environment, but rather a vignette of a welcoming home. New visitors should feel it immediately, and returning visitors should sense a distinct change. The physical plant becomes the first sign of the culture of hospitality — stay tuned as we take a look at culture next in our series.
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