IS THE DIRECTOR OF RESIDENT ENGAGEMENT THE NEW ACTIVITY DIRECTOR?

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Back in the day (and maybe today as well) most senior housing communities had someone with the title of Activity Director.  It was the job of that individual to design a program basically to keep residents busy.  Things like Bingo, Paint by Number, Sing-Alongs, making decorations, were typically part of an activity program.  No doubt, things of this sort (and there is a long list) can be entertaining but will residents of the next generation (and even many in the current generation) appreciate something more?  Senior Housing should not be like a moat, separated from the community around it. Undoubtedly, there are opportunities for seniors to volunteer and make a contribution to the larger community.  What if the “activity director” identified ways on which residents who wished to engage in outside community and brought these opportunities to the attention of residents?  It could begin with the staff member talking to each resident to find out what they would be interested in doing.  The next step would be to make connections throughout the community to see if they could match the resident with an organization that would value their involvement.  I heard of a great example many years ago when a nursing home administrator asked a resident what he had always wanted to do and never had the chance to pursue this.  The answer was, “I wanted to be a teacher but I couldn’t raise my family on that salary”.  The administrator visited the local high school and asked a staff member if there might be some students who would like an older mentor.  The answer was “yes” and the match was made!  Having meaning in your life continues as long as you live.

Lost Prospect Survey

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Your staff spend time talking to a prospect by phone and then even more time giving them a tour and learning what they can about that them. And then it goes nowhere – it doesn’t turn into a sale. It feels like a waste of time. But it doesn’t have to be. A lost prospect survey conducted by telephone can yield information that has great value to your organization. Let some time go by and then reach out to let them know how valuable their feedback would be. First, be respectful and send a letter or an email to that prospect to ask permission to have an independent consultant conduct a brief telephone interview with them. If they say yes, then include questions such as what they liked and what they didn’t like about your community ranging from design to services, staff interactions and pricing. Then ask whether they looked at other communities and how yours compared. And finally, find out whether they decided to move to any retirement community and if not, why not. If they did move elsewhere what factors influenced this decision? This kind of information can help you consider what changes are possible that may enhance the appeal of your community or the way that you are marketing it. And it will sharpen the knowledge of your staff, as well.

Compelling Benefits of Senior Housing

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There are so many benefits to living in a senior housing community.  First, let’s just consider the last word in that sentence – “community”.  This is the antidote to solitude and loneliness, two factors in the life of many people as they survive into their late 70’s and beyond.  Much has been written about the negative impact of loneliness on health – both mental and physical.  Senior housing provides the opportunity to meet and make new friends, engage in stimulating activities (no, not bingo!), and continue to learn.  Even in this age of Covid 19, we have learned from data published in recent  surveys that most people who have been planning a move to senior housing still intend to move.  Many decades ago, my mother-in-law moved to a wonderful Life Plan Community in the Pennsylvania suburbs, after her husband had died.  She knew people who lived there and actually hosted a reception for a couple who met and married there!  Moving to senior housing can represent a new beginning, and shouldn’t be thought of as the beginning of the end.

An Inspiration

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In a wonderful book by Charlie Mackesy called “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”, I was struck by this quote: “Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent”. As we draw on all of our strengths to get through this terrible pandemic, I often return to this quote. And I believe that the response of the senior housing industry to the challenges it continues to face is aptly described in this moving sentence. Our colleagues are dealing with illness among staff and residents and even their own families, yet they get up every morning and bring their considerable skills and empathy to their jobs. I hope they know how we feel about this – grateful, honored, impressed by their commitment. They make us proud to be part of this wonderful industry.

Is the Word “Retirement” Outdated?

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According to Wikipedia “Retirement is the withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from one’s active working life.” In years past retirement in many companies was mandatory at age 65. I recall that the large organization that I worked for in the in the 1980’s maintained that policy and my mentor left the company at 65. When it was common for organizations to fund retirement plans, it was part of the financial decision-making of the employee. But I think that for many, retirement might be replaced by reinvention. As we work to overcome ageism bias, we are recognizing that many older adults still have a great deal to contribute, whether in a full time, part time or volunteer basis. Much has been written about this topic. Chris Farrell’s book “Unretirement” comes to mind with its subtitle: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work”, as does the book “Second Wind” by one of the leading intellectuals in the aging space, Dr. Bill Thomas. Marc Freedman’s book, “Prime Time”, takes on how baby boomers will revolutionize retirement and transform America. Freedman’s organization, Encore does a great deal to facilitate continuing contributions by those “well past middle life” and it’s worth checking out his website, encore.org, to learn more about the exciting programs this organization sponsors. As a senior (let’s reinvent that word as well), to paraphrase the poet Dylan Thomas, we will “not go quiet into that good night”.

Virtual Focus Groups

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Did you have focus groups on your marketing plan for 2020? Are you interested in reaching your local market area? Wouldn’t it be great to ask age and income qualified people a series of questions regarding your community, offerings and services? Right now is an excellent time to make sure that your marketing and communications plans are based on what your prospects actually say they are interested in and concerned about. We are offering a new service, reimagined virtual focus groups.    Thanks to the Zoom platform it is easy to reach out to the folks you want to hear from, and test new ideas and services, plans for expansions or changes to your community – or just to learn what is on the minds of people in your target market. 

Through virtual focus groups we can learn more about what the market is currently looking for and how it will respond to our changing world. One of the primary purposes of the focus groups is to provide an informal setting for participants to provide their feelings and reactions.  Focus groups work whether they are in person or virtual.

We understand that the virus is causing people to rethink seniors housing since the media seems to conflate nursing homes with all forms of serving seniors in a communal setting.  We think it is important for you to learn what you may be up against so you can work more effectively with your target market. And you can continue to test new ideas, new services and plans for expansion or new development.

We can recruit participants, even working from your communities’ prospect or waitlists.  We will work with you to craft the focus group survey instrument to help answer your unique questions. Our report will summarize our findings and help guide you to next steps to optimize your goals based on participants feedback.

New Services from BAI

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Brecht Associates has added three new services that we believe can help you now to position your community in the best way possible.   Whether your campus is closed or open, we can offer these services to help you refine and augment your market and positioning strategies in ways that will assist your organization in putting its best foot forward.  We have developed three targeted analyses designed to assess your current status and enhance your ability to articulate clear goals going forward.  Each service is available individually or can be purchased in combinations.  The results of each service will be summarized.

Market Positioning Analysis

We will compare how your community is positioned based on reviewing your website, brochures and use of social media like Facebook.  Our review will consider use of language and messaging, testimonials by residents, visual images, description of the community, and financial information. This will be compared to major competitors identified by you.

Unit and Service Differentials

We will compare your community with your competition (as identified by you).  This can be particularly helpful for AL and MC services.  This will include unit types and sizes, what is included in basic services, what requires additional fee and how much those additional fees are for such services.   It will include special services, such as helping residents engage in the outside community, that may help differentiate your community. We will look at your community’s amenities and programming and compare to your major competitors. 

Changes in Market Area Draw

We will define your market area based on current resident origin data.  We will also look at information provided by you on resident origin data from 3 years ago and 5 years ago.  Based on that data we will identify your primary market area, evaluate how much you draw from that area, and then compare that with your historical data to determine whether your draw has diminished and if so, from what areas.  We will summarize the results, pointing out whether any differences have occurred and where.  This will provide you with data that can help you evaluate whether newer competitors may be taking away some of your market share. 

At this challenging time, we understand your concerns for your staff, your residents and your families. We know that comes first. Many of you are also in the midst of either planning a new community, or modifications to existing communities. Or you may be interested in learning more about how prospective residents may be thinking about their future senior housing options. Without leaving our office, we can be of help. One of our most popular services is the preliminary market study. This type of study is done without physical field work. It involves conducting telephone interviews to properly define the market area, identifying and surveying existing and planned competitive communities by phone, analyzing the demographics of the market area and calculating the potential depth of the market and whether it is sufficient to support your plans. The conclusions that we reach can help you decide whether or not to proceed with the plan or modify it if necessary. Another service we can provide is to conduct telephone interviews with lost prospects who are defined as someone who actually visited your community but didn’t move in. Because the lost prospects are guaranteed anonymity, they are much more willing to discuss what led to their decisions. Was it design, services, pricing or something else?
Let us know if we can help. I can be reached at 215-219-2216 or by email at susanb@brechtassociates.com

Don’t let Corona stop your progress. Business must go on: we can help you plan.

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Continuing Our Business

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This is obviously a challenging time for all of us, personally and professionally. I sincerely hope that you, your families and your employees and colleagues remain safe and healthy as we collectively deal with and get past this terrible virus.

For those of you that are attempting to continue conducting business, I remind you that Brecht Associates is an “office without walls”, meaning that we all work from home offices.  We can continue to run our practice by phone and the internet.  Accordingly, please know that Brecht Associates’ “virtual office” remains open, and we stand ready to serve you as always.  Those of you who have retained us for studies we are currently conducting should be reassured that we will continue to work on your projects. Please don’t hesitate to contact me by phone or email as necessary. (215-219-2216; susanb@brechtassociates.com)

Mary Wade’s Expansion Plans

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Mary Wade is one of the leading retirement communities serving the New Haven area in Connecticut. It currently offers the following:

  • Adult Day Care
  • Affordable Residential Living
  • Skilled nursing including long term care, short term rehab, hospice care, dementia care and respite care
  • Hospice and palliative care
  • Transportation services

Mary Wade’s plans included the development of a new building that will offer dedicated assisted living with a total of 84 apartments of which 20 will serve those requiring memory care.  Over the course of several years, Brecht Associates worked with the leadership of Mary Wade to evaluate and refine the plan for this expansion.  In 2019 the development was successfully financed with tax exempt bonds working with the banking firm of HJ Sims.