Archive for the ‘Senior Housing Marketing’ Category

The Changing Face of Senior Living Marketing

The Internet has changed so many aspects of senior life, from the ways in which they shop for a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), to the ways in which they communicate with their doctors. Marketing strategies for those companies and health care providers also is changing as seniors become more adept at using the web and social media.

Price Transparency

In Cassandra Dowell’s “New Senior Living Shopper Demands Price Transparency,” the point is clear: if CCRCs want to close deals with seniors and/or their adult children, they are going to have to embrace price transparency.  The days of people visiting CCRCs and making their own decisions seem to be a thing of the past, as potential consumers and their adult children price-shop CCRCs online.

As older people and their adult children begin to look for CCRCs, they no longer just want to know about the services and amenities; now they want to know about providers’ contracts, financial stability, and property financials, history, and management information.  The economic downturn seems to have made it even more important for seniors to know more about their choices in CCRCs and feel secure in their decisions.

But, providing the right types of information and amount of price transparency online can be a daunting task for CCRCs.  Databases such as LifeSite Logics and Silver Living have compiled the information and done their own research and reviews on CCRCs and provide consumers with the information and reports they may be looking for when considering a CCRC.

These sites also aid consumers who may not trust information directly from the CCRCs and who are looking for unbiased tools to help them make decisions about their care.

shopping online

When this information is unavailable online, consumers have a difficult time in making those decisions, and with so much information about other CCRCs becoming available, they may just ignore the sites that don’t provide enough information all together.  So, while some CCRCs may consider keeping prices under wraps to encourage on-site visits from prospects, they in actuality are shooting themselves in the foot.

Consumers who know the pricing is within their budgets are more likely to tour the facilities because they don’t want to waste their time looking into CCRCs that are out of their league.  When price transparency is in place, CCRCs create more meaningful follow-up opportunities with prospects and save everyone a great deal of time: only those prospects who can afford your CCRC are contacting you and scheduling tours.

Diane Twohy Masson, CASP, has outlined ten goals with walk-in tours in mind, with number 1 being the highest level to achieve:

  1. Getting a senior to move into your senior living community.  Congratulations on helping them find a solution for their needs!
  2. Scheduling a move-in date – their house sold and they are ready to move in.
  3. Depositing on an apartment – you’ve made a sale!
  4. Coming back to choose an apartment – be careful not to make any assumptions or they will leave before making a choice.
  5. Coming back to discuss financial requirements – get an administrator involved to help.
  6. Coming back to discuss health concerns – remember, this may or may not be the official health assessment.
  7. Coming back to dine with residents – encourage this so the residents can work their magic on your prospect.
  8. Attending an event – help them to imagine the lifestyle of your community.
  9. Touring a second time – invitations to dine with residents, look at the perfect apartment, or meet with some residents and staff are very beneficial.
  10. Wanting to ask more questions – this is the first indication that they are interested, so be on the lookout for a solution to their needs.

Getting the information out to prospects and their adult children online is just the first step in marketing to seniors.  CCRCs need to have a strategy in place for tours and meeting goals to ultimately close the deal with seniors looking for a care facility.

Connecting Through Social Media

Just as the internet has made finding and choosing CCRCs easier for older people, social media and the web have made connecting and communicating with health care providers easier too.

Angie Haupt points out that hospitals have been building an online presence for some time, driven by marketing and supported by relatively large budgets, but there is a trend in more primary care and other private-practice doctors expanding their horizons on the web.  And, the numbers of doctors who are blogging and tweeting are increasing every year.

But, “Should You ‘Friend’ Your Doctor?”  That’s a topic Kristine Crane explores in her May 2014 US News & World Report article, and it appears as though the answer is yes: as long as both the patients and the doctors follow the same rules of communication.  One rule of thumb to follow is that patients should avoid contacting doctors all of the time or for very serious issues online, and doctors are prohibited by law to have specific conversations about patients on social media.

doctor using technology

One of the more effective ways of connecting with doctors through social media is through the various chatting and forum options.  Patients with similar health concerns are able to connect with one another and their doctor and share similar concerns and questions.  And, some doctors are creating podcasts and YouTube videos for patients to listen to or watch prior to their visits, so they attend appointments already armed with critical information.

Again, transparency is the key to effective online communication.  The more information CCRCs and doctors provide to patients online, the more likely they are to transform from prospects to customers and patients.

Images via Flickr by Tim Reckmann and HI TRICIA!

Post by Angela Stringfellow

Senior Housing Assistance Group: Redefining What Affordable Senior Living Means

SHAG Columbia Gardens at Rainier Court

Columbia Gardens at Rainier Court is a new community in Rainier Valley.

The Senior Housing Assistance Group (SHAG) is more than just about being a roof over the head, according to Executive Director Jay Woolford. As the sixth largest nonprofit provider of affordable senior housing in the United States, SHAG serves a large, underserved population of seniors and is pioneering efforts to create a model of community-based partnerships that allow their residents to age in place at home.

Visually, SHAG communities challenge the stereotype of what most people think of when it comes to affordable senior housing. Their communities resemble those of market-rate communities, offering amenities such as fitness rooms, community gardens and electric car powering stations. As with market-rate communities, SHAG communities are located in urban and town centers, with shopping, restaurants and health care resources accessible within walking distance or a short bus ride.

The diversity of the over 5,000 residents who call a SHAG apartment home might also challenge misconceptions. Though communities are open to seniors 62 and older, most residents are in their 70s, with some being over 100! Like most retirement communities, single women make up a substantial portion of their residents, and seniors who are 55 and disabled comprise 15 percent of the resident population. More than half of SHAG residents have lived at a community for more than five years.

What makes SHAG communities unique is that they are built using a combination of private and public funding sources. While this helps reduce financing and development costs, it also means communities must be self-sustaining and operate primarily on collected rent. As a result, SHAG must plan strategically, balancing the need to build more affordable housing to meet demand while not exceeding their budget.

Since its first community opening in 1989, SHAG has grown to include 28 retirement communities and counting, spanning from Bellingham to Olympia. Woolford says it is not unusual for seniors to ask when a new SHAG community will open in their area. Tukwila is the next location for a SHAG community, with Tukwila Village opening in fall 2014. More communities are planned for Lynnwood, University Place, Bothell, Federal Way and Mountlake Terrace

SHAG residents watching a gameWith many senior living providers focused on building high-end retirement communities, this leaves a large segment of the population unserved. Furthermore, even those who had the luxury to prepare for retirement, one big event, such as a medical emergency, can result in near poverty. This need for affordable housing and services is the hole we are trying to fill, Woolford says.

Many people who could benefit from SHAG housing do not apply because of the belief that they will not qualify: people either think their income is too high or too low to qualify. This is one of the misconceptions that everyone—including legislators— have and they also do not recognize the increasing need for affordable senior housing, and SHAG works to change these perceptions, explains Rebecca Winn, SHAG’s communications coordinator. The reality is that many seniors do meet the requirements; for example, the income limit for a one person household for a SHAG community in King County is $37, 080.

Life at a SHAG community is resident driven. With residents determining the activities being offered, this makes each community unique, Woolford explains. Activities can vary from community to community. For example, the New Haven community in north Seattle offers a movie night and line dancing, Titus Court in Kent has cards and games, and Courtland Place in south Seattle offers women’s arts and culture workshops. A recent initiative at Courtland Place is developing intergenerational programs with local school groups, connecting SHAG residents to the larger community where they live, or as Woolford describes it, “find[ing] ways to break down that barrier in a good way.”

For the past five years, SHAG’s Courtland Place at Rainier Court has participated in the Rainier Valley community festival. They recently received a grant from the city of Seattle through its SouthEast Effective Development (SEED) program to sponsor a musical/art program that allows residents to share their talents with school children. Woolford sees SHAG communities playing a vital role in creating vibrant neighborhoods, with everyone, including their residents, engaged in the pursuit of this goal.

Spokes for Folks bike ride fundraiser for the SHAG Community Life Foundation Saturday Sept. 28, 2013 in Seattle.

The first-annual Spokes for Folks bike ride fundraiser for the SHAG Community Life Foundation

In 2012 SHAG formed the Community Life Foundation whose mission is to “connect seniors living in affordable housing to resources that support their independence.” Through the 2013 Spokes for Folks fundraiser—their first major fundraiser which Woolford described as having a real great energy and bringing the community together—the Community Life Foundation funded a pilot program that combined a health and wellness program with resident services coordination at The Terrace in downtown Seattle.

By partnering with existing community resources to seamlessly connect seniors with services, Woolford and his staff are working to deliver a continuum of care to their residents. This is the least expensive way to serve people,” Woolford explains, and Winn adds that SHAG wants to be on the “forefront of finding solutions for this pocket of [seniors] who are aging.” Some of the challenges faced by the foundation include obtaining funding for services, identifying providers for both health care and housekeeping, and getting residents recognize when they need assistance. Winn states that many middle class residents perceive services such as housekeeping assistance as a luxury, and not something they would consider spending money on.

Through this new pilot program, resident services coordinators are the eyes and ears at the community level. They can help identify residents whose behavior may put them at risk for eviction, whether due to mental health issues or an inability to maintain safe and sanitary living conditions resulting from failing health. Woolford describes the program as absolutely essential, but faces challenges such as maintaining adequate funding and scalability to other communities. Expanding outreach to their veteran residents is also a priority, and Woolford sees a need for SHAG to be more proactive in providing support and connecting them to resources to which they are entitled.

SHAG also offers an internship that allows college students to shadow resident services coordinators and assist with the community engagement program. Not only does this program promote the benefits of working with seniors, which is a growing need, but the residents enjoy seeing new faces. We have received lots of positive feedback about the program, Winn says.

While SHAG is pioneering these new initiatives, they aren’t losing sight of their core mission of providing affordable senior housing. In their most recent annual survey, nearly 100 percent of their 5,000 residents reported that they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the physical upkeep, the management of their community, and their quality of life. With the persistent demand for more SHAG communities throughout western Washington, Woolford pledges that “we will continue to develop with partners to find ways to operate affordable housing.”

To learn more about SHAG housing, visit http://www.housing4seniors.com.

Andrea Watts is a Seattle-based freelance writer who covers senior living, sustainable forestry and agriculture issues. Her writings have appeared in publications that include TimberWestThe Forestry Source and Acres U.S.A.

Promoting Wildlife-Friendly Habitat at Retirement Communities

Wildlife-friendly habitat at retirement communities benefits both seniors and wildlife alike—from providing relaxing scenery to offering a much needed green oasis for birds in an urban environment. For seniors considering creating wildlife-friendly habitat at their community, there are several of organizations that provide expertise  and certification.

In Rethinking the Value of Your Community’s Landscapes, posted on Assisted Living Federation of America’s Member to Member Solution page, I highlight the benefits of wildlife-friendly habitat and senior living provider, Erickson Senior Living, whose residents and staff embrace the idea of creating wildlife-friendly habitat at their communities.

These are photos of Oak Crest in Parkville, Maryland showing wildlife-friendly habitat in action.

Oak Crest Village Parkville, Maryland

Wildlife-certified habitat that residents enjoy every day while strolling through the campus.

Cherry Trees on Oak Crest Village's Campus

Wildlife-friendly habitat adds to the beauty found on the Oak Crest campus.

Residents and Staff Participating in Spring Clean up

Residents and staff participating in the annual spring clean up of the garden area.

Green Roofs on an Oak Crest Village building

Other sustainable practices include green roofs on several campus buildings.

The SeniorHomes.com 2014 Best Senior Living Awards is Open for Nominations

We’re excited to announce the launch of this year’s SeniorHomes.com Best Senior Living Awards! Nominations are being accepted today through April 14th.

Phase 1 of the Best Senior Living Awards identifies the best websites, newsletters, blogs, organizations, and more. Phase 2 of the Best Senior Living Awards: Best Senior Living Communities will be launched in May 2014 and will identify the best senior living communities in key cities across the U.S.

This year, we’ve added a few exciting new categories to the Best Senior Living Awards – Phase 1, including:

  • Best Books for Aging and Caregiving– Includes books written for seniors and caregivers, which may be collections of inspirational stories, ground-breaking ways to think about aging, and humorous anecdotes to brighten your day. Tell us about your favorite books!
  • Biggest Senior Living Advocate – These are organizations that fight for senior citizens’ rights on Capitol Hill, advocate for increased funding for diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, and raise awareness about issues facing the growing aging population. What organizations are making the biggest impact in the lives of seniors? Tell us about them!
  • Best Large Cities for Senior Living – Which large cities boast tons of senior-friendly services like public transportation, access to prestigious hospitals and advanced medical care, and senior-friendly recreation? The Best Large Cities for Senior Living include those with populations of 200,000 or more and have at least 10 assisted living, independent living or memory care communities.
  • Best Small Cities for Senior Living – Not everyone enjoys the big-city atmosphere. Small cities are sometimes desirable for seniors who want to be away from the fast pace of city life and enjoy the beautiful scenery in the countryside. The Best Small Cities for Senior Living have a population of less than 200,000 and have at least 5 assisted living, independent living or memory care communities.

We’ve also brought back the most popular categories from the Best Senior Living Awards programs in past years. Here’s a look at the full list of categories included in this year’s Awards.

Vote for your favorite nominees for the best places, resources, websites, blogs and more in the categories below.SeniorHomes.com 2014 Best Senior Living Awards

Vote for the most influential, inspiring and innovative people and organizations in the categories below.

Voting ends on April 28, 2014, and finalists will be selected based on popular vote as of that date. Finalists will be judged by a panel of leading senior living experts based on a carefully crafted set of standardized, category-specific rating criteria, and winners will be announced on May 19, 2014.

For full contest details and information about the ratings and judging process for each category, visit https://www.seniorhomes.com/p/2014-best-senior-living-awards/

Interested in serving on our panel of top-notch senior living experts? Email Angela at [email protected] for details!

 

A Trend Toward Living Green in Retirement

Free-range chickens, organic gardens, certified wildlife habitats and ENERGY STAR© certification are just a few of the sustainable features increasingly being found in retirement communities across the United States. In spite of the debate as to whether the upfront costs of building green are worth the investment, the senior living industry is trending toward developing more green retirement communities—which is good news for seniors who want to continue a green lifestyle during their retirement.

“All the modeling show significant savings” said Senior Lifestyle Corporation’s Vice President of Development & Acquisitions, Bob Gawronski, but he cautions that there isn’t the history available yet to show the actual savings. He saw the move toward building green senior communities begin in 2006-2007 as a result of public financing requirements, with the government promoting the addition of green features in affordable housing.

A Helping Hand From Uncle Sam

Senior Suites of Fay’s Points uses a geo-thermal system to provide heat for the community.

Senior Lifestyle Corporation’s Senior Suites of Fay’s Point is one such community that has the green features required to receive public financing. Heating and cooling is provided by 28 geothermal wells and with its flexible, two-pipe heating and cooling system, the geo-thermal system uses less energy and costs less than other HVAC systems to maintain. “To those who understand the technology, our project is exciting, but for most of our residents, the geothermal heating is more of a mystery because they can’t see it,” Gawronski said.

Because of the upfront building costs, Senior Suites of Fay’s Point was a project Senior Lifestyle Corporation wouldn’t have pursed had the public financing provided by the Illinois Housing Development Authority not been available. This public-private partnership resulted in a senior community that is not only affordable but also meets LEED certification design standards, though it wasn’t certified at the time of construction. Gawronski said they chose not to pursue LEED certification at the time, something he would change in hindsight because people do recognize the LEED designation and its usefulness as a marketing tool.

A Little Education Goes A Long Way

Green senior communities require an educational component. While Baby Boomers are savvy in recognizing the value of green building elements, their parents may be unfamiliar with these features, which may defeat the purpose of building green. “Our residents were confused by the green stuff,” Grawronski admitted. The permeable asphalt was greeted with comments of the developer being “full of hot air” and the native grasses were considered weeds that weren’t being cut. “You do have to have an educational program for residents and staff so they understand the building’s design, such as how it is cooled and heated and why native prairies grasses are used,” he said.

With three Senior Lifestyle Corporation communities scheduled for LEED certification next year, Gawronski has learned that it is a lot easier to be green and meet certification requirements than people realize. But while being LEED certified may be the most prestigious designation to showcase sustainability, there are other certifications or recognitions available that demonstrate a community’s commitment to being a responsible steward of the environment, even in well-established communities.

An Influential National Brand

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program is an “influential brand recognized by over 85 percent of Americans” and certifies more than just energy–using devices, said National Program Manager Clark Reed. Since the Environmental Protection Agency created the ENERGY STAR program in 1992, it has morphed from focusing on energy-efficient computers to certifying energy-efficient buildings. Administrative offices were the first of 16 building types receiving certification in 1999.

In 2009, the EPA reached out to the Assisted Living Federation Association (ALFA) to develop a partnership that encouraged ENERGY STAR certification of the senior care communities sector. An energy survey conducted in 2010 identified the energy drivers, which weren’t known prior to 2010 according to Clark.

Using the survey’s results, Reed’s office developed a rating system that launched in 2011; the rating system accounts for variables such as location and size of the community. To achieve ENERGY STAR certification, a senior care community must earn 75 or better out of a 100 rating score. To ensure that the rating system is applied equally, if a community consists of 50 percent or more independent living units, it may not be eligible for ENERGY STAR certification depending on metering. “Since the energy performance scale’s launch in 2011, it became possible to identify the senior living industry leaders in the country,” Reed said.

Gaining Recognition With Industry Leaders

These industry leaders include Sunrise Senior Living and HorizonBay (now owned by Brookdale Senior Living) who were among the first participants in the ENERGY STAR program. Becoming a leader and recognizing the value of energy efficiency within operations is why Sunrise Senior Living joined the program. “We had the systems in place to collect the data required to achieve certification and 30 communities were certified in 2011,” said Jim Shaffer, Director of Maintenance and Capital Programs at Sunrise Senior Living. At the end of 2013, 33 communities became ENERGY STAR certified, and Sunrise’s 248 communities in the United States are now entered into the EPA’s Portfolio Manager®.

“The early efforts of Sunrise Senior Living and HorizonBay were recognized at the 2011 ALFA conference,” said Acting Vice President, Marketing & Membership, Jaclyn Allmon. ALFA also added a “Going Green, Saving Green: Energy, Recycling, and Expense Reduction Strategies” category to their Best of the Best contest in 2013, and awardees included Orchards at Southington, Benchmark Senior Living and Brightview Senior Living. These companies are making valuable improvements to their operations and doing what we hope all senior communities will do to develop and implement green programs, Allmon said.

Sunrise of Edmonds was the EPA’s Top in Category for Senior Care Facilities in 2013 and was also their internal Sunrise Energy Star winner.

Sunrise Senior Living developed an internal energy reduction competition modeled after the EPA’s national Battle of the Buildings competition which rewards communities that achieve the highest reduction in energy usage. “When the competition was unveiled in 2011, the reaction was positive, with communities seeing the competition as a way of being recognized within Sunrise as a top performer,” Shaffer said. Last year, the company recognized the top 2 performers, and for the 2012-2013 competition cycle, the top 3 performers will receive recognition. He too emphasizes that education is key to encouraging staff and residents to adopt energy-saving best practices. “[It’s] changing everyone’s mindset as it comes to your daily routine,” Shaffer said.

How to Find Sustainably-Built Retirement Communities

For seniors seeking future retirement communities for themselves or their parents, there are a number of searches available to find communities practicing sustainability. The U.S. Green Building Council has a directory of certified projects, and searching under the terms “retirement communities” or “senior living” displays the communities that have achieved LEED certification. Searching in the ENERGY STAR directory under “senior care communities,” displays the communities who have achieved ENERGY STAR certification and their annual ranking. The National Wildlife Federation also provides a list of certified communities so seniors can see if a retirement community’s surrounding grounds are providing habitat for wildlife. Other national recognition programs include the International Council on Active Aging® Green Award that recognizes a community’s environmental stewardship practices.

Allmon sees the possibility of prospective residents and their families seeking out LEED or ENERGY STAR certification, but it’s just a question of whether it will be in their top list of priorities for selecting a community. For Clark, he is optimistic this will be the case with retiring baby boomers having a very strong environmental ethic, and this sentiment isn’t just limited to the United States’ seniors. In the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)’s October 2013 report, A Sustainable Community for Older People:  Case Studies of Green Retirement Village in Australia, authors found that “most retirement village residents understand and recognize the importance of sustainability in their lifestyle.”

Over 2,300 Senior Care Communities Benchmarked by the EPA

This might prompt more communities in the United States to apply for awards that recognize their green efforts. For ALFA’s 2014 Best of the Best award, there weren’t any submissions in the “Going Green, Saving Green: Energy, Recycling, and Expense Reduction Strategies” category. “Senior living companies are likely integrating best energy practices, but out of nearly 100 Best of the Best submissions, we unfortunately didn’t receive any submissions in the green category this year,” Allmon said.

What is known is that over 2,300 senior care communities (188 million square feet in size) have been benchmarked in the EPA’s Portfolio Manager®, according to Clark. And both Shaffer and Gawronski also said that during renovations at their communities, efforts are made to incorporate sustainable materials and energy-reducing designs. “During capital improvements, we partner with the building’s owners to replace outdated assets with higher energy-efficient models and are willing to invest more upfront in capital expenditures that will yield significant energy savings,” Shaffer said.

One example he cited is installing a white, reflective roofing system with a high insulation rating to reduce the cooling costs during the summer and keep heat inside the community in the winter, consequently decreasing the energy usage of the community. For Senior Lifestyle Corporation communities, Gawronski said that when they renovate existing communities, recycled content and FSC-certified products are used.

The Green Choice in Town

In Australia, the retirement village industry is now realizing the need of providing sustainable communities for seniors, and in the United States, Gawronski anticipates many communities will be marketing themselves as the “green choice in town” within five years. With market-rate investors expressing more interest in green development, seniors can expect to see the sustainable practices found in affordable housing becoming commonplace in market-rate communities.

Andrea Watts is a Seattle-based freelance writer who covers sustainable forestry and agriculture issues. Her writings have appeared in publications that include TimberWestThe Forestry Source and Acres U.S.A.

It’s Time to Talk About Holiday Trends in Senior Living

Around this time of year, every year — and particularly right after the New Year — something happens: Senior living communities, and our amazing team of care advisors at SeniorHomes.com, start getting tons of phone calls from seniors and families starting the process of searching for senior housing options. senior living inquiries

There’s a reason this happens during and immediately after the holiday season. Today’s world isn’t restricted by geography. We’re interconnected with friends, loved ones and even total strangers located around the globe. We can Skype for face-to-face contact with grandchildren, aunts and uncles, and BFFs who live thousands of miles away. For this reason, there are more and more families who are spread out by thousands of miles, and many of these families gather together over the holidays.

When adult children visit their aging parents over the holidays, a harsh reality sometimes sets in. For the first time, you may realize that your parents really are getting older.

Sometimes, you observe some worrisome things like outdated prescriptions, forks in the refrigerator, a cluttered home that’s starting to show significant wear, overgrown lawns and other circumstances that make it clear dad’s not getting around as well as he used to. Maybe you see your mom holding onto the furniture for support as she navigates through the living room. Whatever the case, you’ve realized that it’s time to worry about your aging loved ones’ safety at home.

Typically, there’s a large spike in the number of senior living referrals right after Thanksgiving. Closer to Christmas, it winds down a bit as families are focused on preparing for the upcoming holiday — but after the New Year, things pick up and persist through the month of January as families settle in to a new year and start putting plans in place to make sure their aging loved ones are safe and adequately cared for.

Take a look at the following graph, which illustrates the ebb and flow of senior living inquiries SeniorHomes.com received during and after the 2011 holiday season.

Senior Living Inquiries 2011

The red lines in the graph above represent Thanksgiving and Christmas 2011, giving you a clear picture of the significant increase in inquiries that happens right after the Christmas holiday and continues throughout the month of January.

With the pressure on senior living providers to provide exceptional care, it can be a stressful time as providers work to ramp up staffing levels in order to meet the increased demand for services. Providers may need to allocate additional support staff to handle incoming phone calls, meet with families to discuss care options, and give tours of the facility.

But while the phone calls are increasing at this time of year, there aren’t a lot of move-ins happening. Most families opt to wait until after the holidays to make the official move.

With family members in ample supply during this time of year, it’s not necessary for many to make the move right away. Additionally, most seniors prefer to enjoy one more holiday season in the home they’ve known and loved for many years. That’s why many senior living communities offer incentives, hold open houses and other events and provide special year-end offers to encourage families to make their decision prior to the official close of the year. Check out our recent blog post for some ideas for marketing your community during the busy end-of-year season.

For families, the holidays are actually a good time to investigate your options. This is especially true if you’re traveling to visit an aging loved one — if time permits, adult children have the opportunity to visit potential senior living communities in person to get a better feel for whether it’s a good fit for mom or dad.

Being able to have face-to-face contact with your aging parent’s potential caregivers and taking an in-person tour of the community provides a little more peace of mind than relying on verbal communications, brochures and photos to make an informed decision. You can also take advantage of the year-end discounts and special offers, such as a free month’s rent, that senior living communities are offering.

But what if you’re in town for just a short visit and there’s no time to make personal contact with area senior living providers? Fortunately, the increasing popularity of the internet as a senior living research tool has led to more options for seniors and their families searching for senior living options.

SeniorHomes.com, for instance, has implemented a comprehensive rating system for senior living communities in many cities across the U.S. That means you can search for senior living options in your area and get information on state inspection results, read the opinions of local experts who have worked directly with these communities, and read reviews from residents, families and staff members. It’s an excellent resource for long-distance loved ones, as well as for those who live locally but aren’t sure where to begin the search.

Images by Franque and Mei Teng via Stock.xchng

Fill Your Empty Rooms This December With Help From SeniorHomes.com

With Thanksgiving now officially behind us, there are only four more weeks until the end of 2013 and the pressure to fill those empty rooms in your community by the end of the year is starting to build. While year’s end may not be the most popular time for move-ins, a little creativity and some inspiration from Black Friday can help you reach your sales goals.

Here are some examples of what our clients are doing this month to fill their communities:

1. Discounts

By far the most popular tactic to rent apartments late in the year is to offer significant discounts for those who sign a lease and/or take possession in December. From waiving move-in fees to locking in rental rates to a free month (or two or three) of rent, the key word consumers hear is “savings”!

2. Promotional Add-Ons

Some communities create additional value for prospective residents by offering concierge services, such as moving, packing or decorating, for free. Handing out gift cards, upgrading apartment finishes and even giving away free appliances are just some of the incentives we’ve seen communities use to entice new residents.

3. Respite Stays

Another approach to increasing occupancy at the end of the year is to encourage more short-term respite stays. By doing this, you are not only able to increase residency at the end of the year, but also build a solid pipeline of prospective residents for the next year. Our experience has shown that consumers who complete respite stays convert more frequently into permanent residents than consumers who come in sight unseen.

4. Holiday Events

Organizing a holiday-themed event for the public is a great way to get people in your front door and see what your community has to offer. Popular events have included fundraisers, raffles, silent auctions, food donation drives and photos with Santa.

If you have a featured listing with SeniorHomes.com, don’t hesitate to publicize your community promotions and events! Contact your Account Manager to take advantage of this free service.

If you are not currently working with SeniorHomes.com, find out how to list your business with us today!

Announcing the Best Senior Living Awards Top-Rated Communities

We’re thrilled to announce the Winners and Top Rated Communities for the 2013 Best Senior Living Awards!

The Best Senior Living Awards program aims to identify the top senior living communities in major metro areas across the United States. With the goal of providing a central, objective resource for comparing senior living options in a local area, the SeniorHomes.com Best Senior Living Awards program uses a combination of resident and family reviews, opinions and ratings from local senior living experts, and state inspection data to determine Winners and Top Rated Communities in each metro.

Our panel of esteemed experts in each metro area consists of senior living professionals who have thorough familiarity with many of the senior living communities in their respective geographic regions.  These experts have generously lent their experiences and expertise by providing an expert perspective on the senior living communities in their local areas. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to each and every expert who participated in this year’s Best Senior Living Awards!

It was a positive experience for our experts, as well. “The personal references and postings appearing on SeniorHomes.com is an effective way for people to gain insight into the senior communities which excel in service.  I am pleased to have offered my support as an expert resource to SeniorHomes.com,” says Les Ostermeier of CHOICE Advisory.

Many congratulations to this year’s Winners and Top Rated Communities!

Today we’re announcing winners and top-rated communities in the following metropolitan areas. Click through the city name to view a list of all the Top Rated Communities in that locality. Winners are listed directly below their respective metros.

Austin

Best Senior Living Community in Austin: Parkwood Meadows

Greater Saint Louis

Best Senior Living Community in Greater St. Louis: Aberdeen Heights

Greater San Antonio

Best Senior Living Community in Greater San Antonio: Blue Skies of Texas

San Jose

Best Senior Living Community in San Jose: The Atrium at San Jose

Greater San Diego

Best Senior Living Community in Greater San Diego: Belmont Village of Sabre Springs

Denver Metro

Best Senior Living Community in the Denver Metro: Atria Inn at Lakewood

Charlotte Metro

Best Senior Living Community in the Charlotte Metro: Brighton Gardens of Charlotte

Orange County

Best Senior Living Community in Orange County: Atria Woodbridge

Detroit Metro

Best Senior Living Community in the Detroit Metro: Pine Ridge Villas of Shelby Senior Living

Inland Empire (Riverside)

Best Senior Living Community in Riverside: Sunrise at Canyon West

Los Angeles County

Best Senior Living Community in Los Angeles County: Sunrise of Claremont

Las Vegas-Paradise

Best Senior Living Community in Las Vegas-Paradise: Willow Creek Assisted Living at San Martin

Atlanta Metro

Best Senior Living Community in the Atlanta Metro: Dunwoody Pines

Dallas Metro

Best Senior Living Community in the Dallas Metro: Meadowstone Place

Greater Sacramento

Best Senior Living Community in Greater Sacramento: Sunrise of Fair Oaks

Greater Houston

Best Senior Living Community in Greater Houston: Tarrytowne Estates

Be sure to congratulate our 2013 Winners and Top Rated Communities in the SeniorHomes.com Best Senior Living Awards by tweeting them, liking them on Facebook or giving them a shoutout on Google+!

Why Technology Matters in Senior Living

Earlier this week, we revealed some details about how our call center technology works. But why does it matter? Does it really matter at all? It’s actually critically important – both for seniors and their families who call us and the customers that we, SeniorHomes.com, serve. Here’s why.

Families are desperately seeking help

Searching for senior housing can be a grueling, frustrating experience. Families are faced with so many options, so many choices, and given so much information at a time when they’re already filled with guilt and trepidation. It doesn’t take much to push a family over the stress threshold during this time, especially if the need for senior living came about suddenly and unexpectedly.

Sometimes, clients call us with urgent needs. Maybe a loved one fell and injured herself or suffered another setback that makes it unsafe for her to remain in her current living environment. When family lives in another state, it’s no simple matter to arrange someone to stay with an aging loved one. They often don’t know where to turn to get the best, most reliable information – or even any information at all, especially when they’re at a long-distance disadvantage, making it impossible for them to tour communities. They need help now, and nothing is more frustrating than making calls only to leave endless voicemails.

We provide immediate support and information

When seniors or their loved ones call us for help, we’re often the first contact they’ve made with anyone in the senior living industry. And we’re right there, ready to help them at the drop of a hat, providing prompt, courteous and friendly support and understanding when they need it most. So when that call is made, we’re doing a number of things:

  • Helping them decide what type of housing is the right fit
  • Helping them navigate through the various features and amenities that they need
  • Helping them determine the features and amenities that best suit their lifestyles or personal preferences
  • Putting them in contact with facilities who can provide tours and in-person interviews and evaluations with ease

When we do all that, we’ve just made things a whole lot simpler. Quickly.

And many of our callers breathe a sigh of relief. Finally – help!

Starting things off on a positive note

Now we’ve started them out with a really positive experience, and they’re going into tours and interviews with an open mind. They don’t have any preconceived notions about the quality of a senior living community simply because their initial experience wasn’t a pleasant one. But they certainly could, if their experience with our staff here at SeniorHomes.com didn’t meet our quality standards.

If a client has a negative experience with a company like SeniorHomes.com, they’re probably suspicious and untrusting of any other representatives of the industry. They might go into a tour looking for things that are wrong. And they may pass on the perfect senior living community for their aging loved one just because they carried over those negative emotions.

How many times have you had an unfortunate encounter? A bad experience, say, shopping at the mall? It only takes one poor customer service experience to sour your mood for the whole day. And if you visit subsequent stores after having a bad experience, don’t you find yourself looking at other store clerks with a little more suspicion – even though they’re not the person who treated you poorly?

The same principle holds true here. By starting our clients off on a bright, friendly and positive note, we’re setting the stage for them to have a great experience throughout their search for senior housing. Because where they end up at the end of their search may very well be the place they call home for the remainder of their Golden Years.

This is just one example of the ways technology helps companies create a better customer experience. In the senior living and healthcare industry, technology is bringing things to light that were never-before possible, such as monitoring home care patients remotely, diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease earlier than ever before, creating new, more effective and fun methods for delivering physical therapy, and so much more. Technology matters, and it’s shaping the future.

Article by Angela Stringfellow

Image via Stock.xchng by intuitives

Gearing Up for National Assisted Living Week – September 8 – 16, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013, marked the beginning of National Assisted Living Week 2013. This week happens every year, and assisted living communities across the U.S. have jam-packed calendars filled with fun events and activities for residents. But it’s also a week during which other providers take time to recognize the value the assisted living industry adds to the senior living continuum of care.

This year’s theme is “Homemade Happiness,” so we expect to see lots of hand-crafted memory-making events across the country. It’s about the special connection that develops between residents, senior community staff, and families. The goal of National Assisted Living Week is to recognize those little efforts — the small things, the things that on the surface seem insignificant yet make the biggest difference in the life of a senior each and every day. These are the things that turn a senior living community into a warm, loving and comforting home for hundreds of thousands of seniors across the U.S.

Many assisted living communities plan for this week all year long in order to bring a special, one-of-a-kind experience to each resident they so lovingly serve. The NCAL has put together a guide packed with ideas for activities and celebrations to recognize the efforts of staff and to help residents build more of those precious memories that will last a lifetime. Even if you’re behind the planning curve for National Assisted Living Week, there’s still time to put some fun stuff together, such as:

  • Recognize a “Happiness Hero” each day of the week, awarding a deserving staff member who goes above and beyond to create a home-like atmosphere and bring joy to the faces of your residents. Or, give your residents small ribbons to pass out to the staff that makes their days a little brighter, and fill up a “Heroes Board” overflowing with recognition for good deeds.
  • Make memories with homemade goods. With a “Homemade Happiness” theme, the cooking and craft possibilities are endless. Simple cooking tasks are actually ideal for residents with dementia, because it’s a basic skill that’s often retained even when concrete memories are gone. And, the process can bring feelings of happiness by activating deep memories, much like the effect familiar music has. Have a contest to choose the best jams, cookies, pies, ice cream, or whatever your community decides to make to evoke sweet memories from the past.
  • Go crafty with an art show. Have your residents put together Happiness Boards with photos of friends and family, special events, or even magazine clippings that represent special moments in their lives. Art is a favorite pastime for many seniors, and the sensory experience of painting is pleasant even for those who aren’t artsy by nature. Why not let your residents’ inner creative genius out for a day and have a painting festival, culminating with an art show with prizes for the best homemade masterpieces.
  • Don’t forget the four-legged friends. Homemade Happiness isn’t complete without recognizing every member of the family. Beloved four-legged family members are loyal servants to many seniors, providing companionship, easing stress and anxiety, reduce depression and just simply make live more fun. So how about a pet show? Include your community’s resident canines and felines, invite residents’ families to bring their pets, and invite the local shelter to bring some of their current furry friends in seek of homes. Display photos of your residents’ most beloved furry friends from years passed and share stories. If you want to go big, make it a whole community event and invite the public for a pet extravaganza. You might just secure homes for a few local shelter animals while you’re at it.
  • Homemade applies to wellness, too. So get out and get moving with some fun senior fitness classes to show your residents how they can stay happy and healthy right at home. Have everyone share their best staying-in-shape strategies from their younger years.

These are just a few of the many possibilities for celebrating National Assisted Living Week with this year’s “Homemade Happiness” theme. And we can’t wait to see what you’re all up to this week! Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter as we share some of the best National Assisted Living Week celebrations we find around the web throughout the week. And, if your community is doing something amazing, let us know! We’d love to share your creative events with the world, too.

Post by Angela Stringfellow

Image via AHCA/NCAL