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It’s Not Just About the Bricks and Mortar

Friday, July 15, 2016

Our industry wears the moniker of senior housing — so it’s all about the housing, right? I propose that, contrary to the name, it is not just about the campus, with its inviting social areas, multiple venues, attractive décor, and lovely homes. Certainly, it is important to pay attention to the buildings, their presentation, and facilities management, since the visual impression is usually the first impression. However, is that REALLY what determines the sale? I propose that it is NOT the deciding factor for most prospective residents.

As the senior living industry has grown, competition has increased to attract prospective seniors. With increased competition among the nonprofits and the growing number of for-profits that have entered the arena, today’s senior housing buildings have become lovely, inviting areas — often comparable to a hotel or resort. In order to compete, it has become necessary to build or renovate to create this appealing environment. Most communities have or desire to replicate this “look”. However, as more communities replicate this “look”, the uniqueness of the hospitality model erodes.

Senior Housing More than Bricks and MortarCulture & Emotional Impact

So if most communities successfully create hospitable reception and social areas, dining venues, spa and other amenity spaces, what inspires a customer to choose one community over another? I suggest that it is what is offered WITHIN the bricks and mortar — programming and resident culture. That is what can differentiate one community from another.

To quote Maya Angelou, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

An engaging programming and resident culture can have a positive effect on how customers feel during their visits to our communities. Long after one community blurs into another, trying to recall who had the prettiest pool and spa or best outdoor dining, customers will remember how they felt during the tour. They are looking, either consciously or unconsciously, at how they will “fit” and live within the environment at our communities.

Welcoming at the doorAsk Yourself This…

Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself about your community programming and resident culture:

  • Are current residents open and welcoming to new people, or are there existing cliques which create a closed culture?
  • During a visit to the community, do customers observe a vital lifestyle with residents immersed in interesting activities?
  • Is there a natural, warm interaction between residents and staff members?
  • Do guests feel special? Are they and the current residents treated with respect and personal attention?
  • Is the life enrichment program varied, with an appeal to (or an ability to add) programming for particular interests?
  • Is it all about business, or all about lifestyle?

In creating a sense of place, every community must go beyond the buildings. Lovely accommodations create the backdrop for the engaging, vital lifestyle that our customers seek for themselves. But there’s no aesthetic like the feeling they get when they walk through our doors and into our communities.

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