Is the Word “Retirement” Outdated?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,, 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

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;

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. 

Market Positioning: Conveying Your Message

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Communication is obviously a critical element in marketing seniors housing and it is accomplished through various channels. Back in the day it was advertisements in newspapers, selected periodicals and direct mail. Now it includes social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Google, LinkedIn and others. We know that prospective residents and their families want the basic information about what you offer – independent living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing – what it costs and the financial structure. But is that enough? In order to capture the segment of the market that will find your community most compatible with their lifestyle, its important to establish your market position. Here are some examples of market positioning statements from several existing communities serving seniors.
* Setting Standards of Excellence in Retirement Living Since 1967
* Tradition of Quality Healthcare
* Artful Living
* Together Transforming the Experience of Aging
These simple statements say a great deal about the four communities they represent. The first emphasizes the sense of continuity and reliability. The second stresses that the community is a health care provider (as opposed to one that offers a continuum of care). The third suggests that “art” in its many ways is part of the community’s identity. And, in fact, its collection of art which is displayed throughout is a feature that distinguishes it. And finally, the last suggests that aging is a dynamic process.
So going beyond the basics is a must in conveying your community’s message and identity.

A New Year – 30 Years of BAI

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We want to take this opportunity to wish all of our friends and associates a wonderful 2020. It’s been an interesting year full of varied engagements taking us from New Orleans to Connecticut and many places in between. At Brecht Associates our team has gone through some changes and we anticipate bringing on new consultants and growing the capabilities of many of our existing staff. I have enjoyed writing the blogs on a regular basis and they have ranged from an inspiring poem by an 89 year old friend of mine to a call for knowing who your competition really is. The latter was received by an organization whose Board had just agreed they needed to know more about the competition which led to a study to help them learn what they faced. Much has been written by periodicals including the Wall Street Journal on whether the “boomers” will want to move to senior housing. I’m one of those boomers and I’m not sure myself, but I think if we shift the psychology of the model to one that enhances the opportunities for older adult to continue to grow and engage in the outside community we’re headed in the right direction. Let’s make the “Activities Director” the “Director of Resident Engagement”.
We look forward to 2020 during which we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Brecht Associates, Inc. Help us celebrate that milestone.

The Competitive Landscape is always Changing

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When was the last time you updated information on your competition? Do you know what’s in the planning cycle? Knowing what your competitors are up to is so important to your own marketing and positioning efforts. Whether they are making minor changes like converting some traditional AL units to Memory Care, expanding their independent living or combining smaller units to make larger more marketable apartments or developing a satellite campus, you need to know what’s going on. Updating information on competitors can be done with telephone calls or some on-site visits and should be done routinely about every 18 months. And this update should definitely include finding out what new communities are being planned. Brecht Associates has a 30 year history of obtaining reliable and accurate competitor information for its clients. Let us help you with that.

A Poem by a Dear Friend

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My dear friend, Jean Billetter

I believe that music is a blessing I can hear. I believe that the time will never come when I am not filled with awesome wonder by the sun rising, the sun setting, the changing of the seasons, mighty mountains with peaks crowned by clouds. I believe that strong winds, lightning and thunder, sudden storms will always frighten and fascinate me.

I believe that I have an unending quantity of love that must be given unconditionally and with no restrictions or reservations. I believe that all life is a freely given gift, precious beyond measure, meant to be treasured, and treated with tenderness.

I believe that the better way to begin every day is with a prayerful petition for guidance and a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

I believe that my life has a purpose. I believe that what I say and don’t say matters. I believe that what I do and don’t do, what I think and don’t think matters. And I believe that if I am willing to try and live by what I believe, my Almighty God will make me more able. And finally, I believe that every beginning has an ending.

By Jean Billetter