The Value of Lost Prospects

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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 see what you can learn. 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. This kind of information can help you consider what changes are possible that may enhance the appeal of your community. And it will sharpen the knowledge of your staff, as well.

High Tech or High Touch

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There is no question that high tech devices are becoming prevalent in resident accommodations in all sorts of senior housing. It’s not unusual to find Alexa answering questions like “what’s the weather like today?” Or even facilitating communication with staff. And technology is a more efficient way to determine whether a resident has taken a fall in their room and needs help. In a recent Senior Housing News article, Alexis Ohanion, an American internet investor and entrepreneur, emphatically indicated that robots will not replace human caregivers as these staff members are less replaceable than many other types of workers. Caregivers are able to create an empathetic human connection. Steven Moran, in the March 20 issue of Senior Housing Forum points out that when senior housing team members are introduced to new technology, they may already “feel overburdened with what they have to do right now”. One of the greatest challenges our industry faces today is finding and retaining qualified staff such as aides and caregivers. Their ability to develop relationships with residents reinforces their perception of their value and the importance of their jobs. So high tech has its value but it will never replace high touch.

Intergenerational Communities

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“I don’t want to live with a bunch of old people”. How often have we heard that? As we Baby Boomers begin to approach an age where we might be contemplating a move, we’ll probably hear it more and more as the notion of only living with other older adults is becoming less inviting. Intergenerational communities are becoming a hot topic as evidenced, for example, by the December/January issue of Seniors Housing Business in which the last article is called “Mixing it Up is the Future of Senior Living”. Among other things, the authors, Diane Dooley and Phillipe Saad, refer to mixed use communities as a great place for intergenerational housing. In fact, we are seeing an increasing number of apartment buildings where amenities include common living areas like a gym, party room and library and seniors who are downsizing and living with a variety of ages. Living in the city, addressed in my last blog, is by definition intergenerational. As we age and are able, we will continue to make a contribution to the community around us, whether as a volunteer or a part or full time employee. We’re not finished and inspirations for what might be next can definitely arise from living in a community that enjoys a mixed age population.

Advantages of living in the City

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Why do I love the City? Let me count the ways. First of all, a city is walkable and while a trainer once told me “walking isn’t exercise, it’s a form of transportation”, I say it’s both. One of the easiest and healthiest ways to stay fit is to walk every day if you can. Even if that means on some days you just get up from your desk and walk around your office as frequently as possible, it’s a start. One of the great benefits of urban living is that you can get to so many things by foot – restaurants, the gym, the movies, theater, concerts, book stores – you name it and its right at your finger-tips, or should I say “toe-tips”. Exposure to a diverse population of all ages, colors and ethnic backgrounds provides the opportunity to get to know folks who are different from you which will broaden your horizons. And you don’t really need a car. There’s public transportation not to mention taxis, Uber and Lyft that can get you wherever you need to be, and I guarantee you will spend less than your annual car payments and car insurance. I know it isn’t for everyone, but you may be surprised and delighted to find out it’s for you.

Aging in Place

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This is an expression that has been used in many ways for many years. Fundamentally, it reflects the desire of a senior to remain in their home whether that is a house, a condo or an apartment. It represents a declaration of their independence and their ability to continue to take care of themselves without the formal help that would be available in a LifePlan or assisted living community, let alone a skilled nursing facility. Older consumers today are generally well educated about what their options are and they include not just retirement communities but some of the new non-age restricted rental products which include amazing amenities. As we Boomers age, I believe we may be even more stubborn about maintaining our independence and “aging in place”. I’ve heard another way of expressing this – “aging in community”. There is actually a website – agingincommunity.com and it reflects the Village movement with connections to the directory of Village Networks. Today there are over 200 open Villages and more than 150 in development in 45 states and the District of Columbia. Their plan is to add intergenerational cohousing neighborhoods, EcoVillages and intentional communities. So the concept of obtaining help through others in the community enabling people to remain where they are is gaining great traction, significantly broadening the options for seniors.

Happy New Year

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Happy New Year to all of our friends, clients and colleagues. 2018 was a great year for us and I hope it was for you as well. We consider ourselves to be very fortunate to have had the opportunity to collaborate with you, provide you with consulting services and to learn from you as well. Every client and colleague grows our experience and our heartfelt thanks to every one of you for making us even better. You all have contributed to our ability to build and sustain a great reputation in a field to which we at Brecht Associates are so committed. We are all fortunate here to be able to honestly say that we love what we do.

Our best wishes to you all for a healthy and prosperous 2019.

Disruptions

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Words frequently take on new or enhanced meanings as they relate to business and innovation. One of the most popular of those words currently is “disruption”. What does this really mean? The dictionary defines a disruption as to break apart, to throw into disorder. But of late disruption has also been defined as “a radical change in an industry, business strategy, etc., especially involving the introduction of a new product or service that creates a new market”. But considering the latest definition, what has that meant to the senior housing industry? Back in the 1990’s the emergence of assisted living was definitely a disruptor since it represented a new product resulting in fewer moves into the continuum of care (known as the Continuing Care Retirement Community or CCRC or Life Plan community). More recently, the increased availability and use of home care has caused many seniors to remain at home until much later, entering senior housing not only older but frailer as well. Traditional non-profit organizations might refer to for-profit players as disruptors given their propensity to focus on assisted living and memory care and to enter the market more swiftly than non-profits due to more streamlined decision making processes. And what might be called “senior housing lite”, independent living communities offering only minimal services may become a disruptor. Successful responses to disruptors requires the ability to be flexible, nimble, and to review and respond in a positive and productive way while strengthening your product and your brand identity. It also may require implementing new technologies that support staff, residents and family members. One of the great features associated with serving seniors has been the changes we’ve made to adapt to ”disruptors” as we continue to grow and improve.

The Best Hurrah: Continuing to Live with Meaning

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The aging process does not necessarily mean that older adults won’t continue to contribute to the world around them, however they define that.  Some may think of this as the “last hurrah”, but I believe it can be the best one.  We live our adult lives encumbered by responsibilities.  We go to college and graduate school and pay back loans.  We get married, joyfully raise a family with all that entails.  We work hard at our jobs and careers, climbing the ladder of success.  We often have little time for self-expression, volunteering, giving back to the community, taking on a cause that has meaning.  But for the older generation, time may open up to an array of possibilities.   As Barbara Kleger wrote in her most recent blog “baby boomers aren’t retiring, they’re ‘rewiring.”’.  They’re re-arranging their lives, homes, and plans in order to create purposeful years. Or, as Robert Kramer, the founder of NIC, describes it, a time of “the 4 e’s: engagement, enrichment, experience, and enjoyment.”

The limits are largely in your own imagination and, of course, the capacity to take things on.  I’m reminded of Marc Freedman, the author of Prime Time: How Baby Boomers will Revolutionize Retirement and Transform America as I write this blog.  Freedman contends that because older adults will have time, a precious commodity, they can “get involved in ways that have both personal meaning and make a significant difference to others.”  Through his organization, Encore, Freedman was Founder of the Purpose Prize which transitioned over to AARP in 2016.  The AARP® Purpose Prize® award honors extraordinary individuals who use their life experience to make a better future for all.  You may not become a prize winner but there is so much you can do.

The Importance of Customer Service

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We are all customers when we go to the supermarket, the department store, a restaurant, you name it. We expect to be treated with attention and courtesy. When this is not the case, we can choose never to return to the place. Repeat business is a sign that an organization is doing something right. For example, my husband goes to the same Starbucks for the same latte every day and when he gets there, the staff greets him warmly and someone is already reaching out for his Starbucks mug and readying his beverage. He rewards them by not only tipping well but always returning. At Brecht Associates, we pride ourselves on customer service. We listen carefully to what our client is looking for, we ask probing questions at the start of the engagement and we interact with them throughout making certain that we reach concensus on assumptions like the market area definition and the age, income and market area draw to be used in the demand analysis. We deliver our reports on time and are always prepared to discuss the results of the analysis. As such, we enjoy a tremendous proportion of clients who return to us whenever they need our services. And they refer other clients which helps us grow our practice. Thanks to all of you who have contributed to our growth and success. We honor and appreciate you.

What is Independent Living?

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Of course, we all think we know what is meant by Independent Living (IL). The major trade associations have defined it for us as has industry practice over the decades. But is it what it once was and if not, what is it now? We think of independent living as being residential units of varying types that offer services such as meals, transportation, housekeeping and activities and that it is designed to serve those who do not really need assistance to enjoy the activities of their daily life. But increasingly, we are finding that a measurable proportion (as much as 25-35%) of those who reside in IL are receiving varying degrees of assistance in activities of daily living (ADLs). They may need anything from medication reminders to help with more substantial things such as bathing and dressing. Yet they remain in their IL unit since they are not considered a danger to themselves or others and they are able to independently vacate their unit if needed. Over the years the age of entry has increased from the mid-70’s to the early 80’s which explains the rapidly increasing frailty of IL residents. On the other hand, we see an emerging IL product type in which virtually no services are provided. The latter are typically structured as rental communities. Tracking and understanding the changing product types known as Independent Living will be important for many reasons ranging from how markets are analyzed when considering a development opportunity to shaping plans for what to offer that will be attractive and competitive.