God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
So, you built a fabulous community but now lease-up is slowing down and the real estate market is not strong. What can you control? This is a critical question that deserves brainstorming by your team. Then, prioritizing, resource allocation, and establishing time frames.
As we have learned, the real estate market is back to 2002 levels on average throughout the country.
Stop panicking. Start breathing. Most of our buyers have lived in their homes 15 years or more. So… they are still able to make a decent return on their investment. The best strategy for them to access the value of their home is to sell now, move to your community, and invest the rest.
Also, it is time to contact the condo sales experts in your market. What are they doing to make the sale happen? You may not be able to copy all their methods, but if you learn of just one or two ways they are helping get buyers to the table, that could be key. Some approaches I have seen lately include a price freeze on the monthly condo fee; guarantees of equal money back if the buyer sells a property in the first five years, and give-aways of condo upgrades (and even cars!) if people act. Lots of creativity.
What about renting? One interesting outcome of a market where people are struggling to sell is that more and more people are opting to rent their homes. In markets like Washington DC, Chicago, and Seattle, renting is fetching a very decent monthly income, and renters have to act quickly in order to get a home that may be of interest as demand for rentals is high.
Focus on what you can control and find success waiting for you along with a pleasant dose of serenity.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is clear in that one must cover the basics before moving on to areas such as self-awareness.
So, can you afford food? Do you have a safe place to live?
If the answer is no to these first two, please seek out family, friends, or a local charity to help get you back in a position of self-sufficiency and strength. Unfortunately the gap between the have and have not is growing just about as fast as the number of baby-boomers turning 65 each day.
A recent Volunteers of America report found that: “40% of survey respondents are worried about saving enough for their own retirement, but they are not clear on the true costs and there is a lack of excess income to put toward future goals.” http://www.voa.org/Media-Center/News-Releases/Volunteers-of-America-Releases-Report-on-Aging.html
According to another article, “Women find it significantly harder than men to achieve a comfortable retirement. They live longer, earn less, and typically lag in savings and financial awareness.” http://articles.boston.com/2011-05-07/business/29520810_1_retirement-baby-boomer-women-cindy-hounsell
In the coming years, unless we formulate stronger and more comprehensive community support measures today, the number of homeless baby boomers will rise dramatically. In addition, those baby boomers without health insurance will also rise, relying on local hospitals to provide emergent care on a more regular basis. Overall, the current systems are not in place to handle the influx of health care needs that poverty-level seniors will have. It is becoming more and more of a reality in today’s economy that for those who can work, retirement may not be an option.
One way to stave off expenses is to find a way to share costs among a group of individuals. Religious institutions are now pulling together their resources and needs and purchasing health services at more of a bulk rate that can shared amongst the masses.
In addition, it seems that large-scale lifestyle communities are coming back in fashion as these locations offer a way for seniors to pay a predictable amount each month while sharing expenses among several hundred people.
At a time when people would prefer to focus on self-actualization in their later years, challenges are ahead for many. Through community and coming together we will have to work towards a solution.
Go Blazers! This is the cry from our household as we cheer on the Portland Trailblazers in their National Basketball Association (NBA) Playoff battle with the Dallas Mavericks.
Growing up, I fondly remember going to Trailblazer basketball games with my grandfather. We would eat peanuts out of the shell, he would quiz me on how to spell certain words, and we would enjoy cheering for our beloved team.
Tonight, my son asked “Why do you cheer for the Portland Trailblazers?” This is a good question considering we live across the country and have a professional NBA team in our own market-area.
The answer: “When I was your age, my grandfather took me to Blazer games, and I have cheered for them ever since.”
Grandparents are doing more and more for their grandchildren these days. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2007, 6.2 million grandparents reported that a grandchild under 18 lived with them, and 2.5 million grandparents provided direct basic needs for their grandchildren beyond housing. http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb09-ff16.html
Like grandparents, grandchildren also highly influence the lifestyle of their grandparents. Why are women 55+ one of the fastest growing demographics on Facebook? One reason is connectivity with grandchildren who rely increasingly on text messaging and social networking sites like Facebook.
Why are grandparents moving to age-restricted communities even if they never had roots in the area before? A key reason is so the grandparents can play an active and meaningful role in the lives of their grandchildren who live near that area.
What impact does this information have on lifestyle communities around the country? Want to win the allegiance of your addressable market?
Make sure you can engage both grandparent and grandchild (or even great grandchildren when it comes to the Silent Generation). Good places to start: provide interactive art centers; multi-generational zones throughout the community; and menus that also cater to younger tastes. Also, create programming that invites generations to come together, such as Grandchild Movie Days, Grandchild Pancake Breakfasts, Game Nights, Buses to professional sports events, and the like. Communities that are thoughtful about these connections can really differentiate themselves in the market.
If only my grandfather was still around to take my son out for peanuts at a Blazers game!
Historians William Strauss and Neil Howe in their book Generations: The History of Americas Future, 1584 to 2069, define the “G.I. Generation” as the cohorts born in the United States from 1901 through 1924.
In recent days I am confronted with the loss of a friend in this cohort. He was a man who extended open-arms to all. He engaged with a smile that penetrated language barriers. He always was upbeat and hopeful even when hope was in doubt. Each time I saw him, we welcomed each other with a handshake and an acknowledgement that everything would be all right. Such hope. Such optimism.
After you have survived the Depression and a major World War, I must believe your view on life changes. The impossible seems possible. The worst situation is behind you.
Each day we are all touched by hundreds who influence us in ways known and yet to be realized. I am fortunate for the opportunity to have known my friend and thank him for impacting my life in such a meaningful way.
In 2002 when I started my education in the senior care and housing industry, I was blessed to be introduced to some wonderful thought leaders. Early on, I started to hear the name Dr. Bill Thomas. Through his personal connection to a nursing home in 1991, he dedicated himself to ensuring that people see the world through the eyes of human connectivity, human purpose, and the power of combining these two in a positive way for the benefit of elders.
His book “What are old People For?” published in 2004 is a comprehensive read that brings forward the strength of elders through their adaptation while presenting the idea of Eldertopia. You can even find this book by clicking here to go to our Choice Selection area of this blog. For less than $20, you can engage in the mind of the founder of the “Green House” nursing home experience. To gain perspective, do you want to receive care in a highly medical environment or one where people ask your opinion as a resident, engage your senses each day through food preparation in front of you, and seek to elevate your purpose each day? This is the choice Dr. Thomas offers. Read even more at his site ChangingAging.org.
Then in 2008, Dan Buettner working with teams from National Geographic introduced “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.” This book is filled with practical feedback on how to infuse some life quality and longevity lessons into each of our lives. Shared with staff, residents, and family members alike, transformative living can start taking place. Each action throughout the day starts to have more meaning and intention. He then followed this book up with a focus on exploring the keys to happiness in “Thrive.” A visit to BlueZones.com is worth it today. Both books can be found in our Choice Selection area.
What books are inspirational for you when it comes to the world of senior care and housing?
When I first entered the senior care and housing industry I came from the world of technology. I was involved with a high-speed Internet start-up. I also worked for what is now one of the largest communication companies in the world, Verizon. Hence, it was natural for me to want to blend my previous and current careers.
I knew from traveling abroad how well the Instant Chat functionality worked because that is what we used to communicate with family on a regular basis. Pay a dollar or two for Internet access in anywhere-that-had-a-connection location, and “Hi mom and dad!”
Today, it is less unusual to find those aged 50 and better with iPADs and other technical wonders. For one thing, this demographic has the ability and wealth to support discretionary technology spending. Second, technology companies are getting smarter and smarter about making products very easy to work with regardless of age. Add in that more and more families are efficiently staying connected through sites like Facebook where family picture albums can be viewed by many, and clearly communication technology is coming of age in the senior living industry.
Three big opportunities: One, those 50 and better are looking for education on how to engage with technology. Recently, my parents (who fit this demographic) signed up for several hours of tutorials regarding their cell phones. More and more lifestyle communities for those 55 and better are scheduling Facebook Tutorials as part of their scheduled programming. Learning is big!
Two¸ keep it simple technology companies. Jitterbug phones have done well by staying focused on large buttons and easy access to the main functions a user may want.
Three, it is time for the youth of the world to learn how to knit in exchange for a lesson on how to use the computer. Inter-generation engagement is bolstered by technology and both groups involved in such an exchange feel great by the end of the sharing.
Ability to provide value. Check.
Okay, time to rev up the body, mind, and entrepreneurial spirit, and bring people together in an effort to create amazing________(you fill in the blank).
Maybe it is time for lifestyle communities for those 55 and better to take a page from Israel and its Kibbutzim. This is a collective community traditionally based on agriculture but now coming together to support high-tech and industrial businesses.
These communities involve shared responsibilities, and having responsibilities at any age provide a sense of purpose.
The responsibility need not be elaborate, merely consistent.
What about creating a cooperative retirement artist studio? A vineyard?
Welcome to Retire With a Purpose Inc. Ready to invest?
Sure women age 55 and older are one of the fastest growing segments for Facebook, but why? Primarily, Facebook is a great tool to stay connected with grandchildren.
Over the last several months, my own baby-boom mother commented that she really wants to leave a tangible lasting legacy for her children and grandchildren. To this end, she enrolled in glass-art classes and produced several items she has provided as gifts that will indeed remind us of her for some time.
Of course for me, I feel she has provided so many life lessons; created so many life experiences, and is part of so many memories that I wondered from where this desire to “leave a tangible legacy” sprouted?
No clear answer yet, but I know she is in good company.
Recently, I visited a very “high-end” 60 and better condominium structure. There, the amenities included an indoor pool, a playground, pool table, and ping-pong table, but the amenity that received the most interest from grandchildren according to my tour guide was the arts studio where children’s art was showcased on one side while resident art was on the other.
So what does the Independent Living and Assisted Living industry need to do to provide what our residents really want?
- Encourage residents that sing to generate a recorded music CD (done very inexpensively these days)
- Sponsor an art show that showcases inter-generational art from residents and young family members
- Engage residents that sew in an effort to create meaningful memory blankets to be donated as art to local government offices or not-for-profits
- Create a cook book from the residents, employees, and families members
- Publish a book of poems, short-stories, and alike created by the residents
- Record the living history of residents (again, quite inexpensive to-do and may be able to get a local high school or college Intern to manage)
- Become the hub of “community-based” art classes
Once you start on this art path, remember to post the pictures on Facebook and such for all to see!
The Internet is the first place the consumer looks today to find information on a potential provider of choice. If our websites are not inviting, then we lose the chance to engage the consumer and they move on to another option.
Top considerations to avoid broken websites:
First, make sure the landing page is easy to navigate. Remember the audience. When someone 55 or better finds your website, they do not want to select from “pull down” options that are difficult to use. Instead, they want be greeted by a website that is warm in colors and images, but very easy to find the information of interest. This means decrease the clutter; review the site with several age-appropriate consumers to gauge ease-of-use feasibility, and then make sure your web-designer is focused on your needs instead of creating the next Internet masterpiece.
Second, where is the call to action? Yes, the consumer made it to your site, but is that the goal? Most likely your goal is to have them visit your site, but then make a call to set-up a visit or an appointment. Make sure your website’s call to action is clear and easy to find on every page.
Finally, all the effort spent on your site will be of little use if your site cannot be found. There are a lot of ways to make your site visible, and some key free ones include:
Consumers want to find out what you have to offer, let us commit to making it easy for them to do so going forward.
Americans like choice. Regardless of the product or service, choice is one factor that we tend to thrive on be it selecting a restaurant to eat at, a car to drive, or clothes to wear on any given day.
For the senior housing and care industry, choice can be a curse. With occupancies in senior housing running roughly 87% according to NIC http://www.nic.org/press/2011/Feb2.aspx, for an average 100 apartment location, 13 apartments are available. Some in the industry want to show consumers all their options. However, this can be detrimental to achieving the ultimate outcome.
One study that reviewed something as simple as consumers purchasing jam showed that when consumers were given a more limited number of choices, in this case 6 flavors to choose from versus another test group who had 24 flavors to choose from, consumers with less choices were 10 times more likely to make a purchase. http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun04/toomany.aspx
Some time back, A Place For Mom founder Pamela Temple shared information based on an on-line survey they conducted of consumers that were searching for a housing option. One key take-away was that consumers visited on average 5 providers before making a choice.
As the scenario plays out, a consumer who visits 5 providers, if they are shown 4 apartments at each location, now deals with 20 different options to sort through and figure out. This can make decision making overwhelming, and some consumers opt not to make a decision at all.
Optional Close, Our Hero!
When a consumer visits you, please avoid the curse of choice and instead turn to the hero of the story, Optional Close (Wait, keep reading, please do not be afraid of a sales term. It is harmless and very helpful).
In the world of optional closing, you learn how to channel the energy and desire of the consumer while still providing them a sense of control within the process.
As you book the appointment on the phone, instead of saying: “What time next week works well for you?” this is similar to a limp handshake, shift to “It would be great to visit with you either Monday morning or Wednesday morning, which works best for you?”
Once you agreed upon a day, now it is: “Does 9:30 am or 11 am work best for you?” See, early on, you are setting up an environment where the consumer will trust that you will always give them an option and they will retain perceived control of the situation.
When they arrive at your location: “Would you like some fresh brewed coffee or fresh squeezed orange juice?”
As you sit down to learn about their true desires so you can prioritize your approach, you avoid: “Great, we have 10 different apartments available and through a quick tour we can see them all.” Instead, strive for: “Based on what you have told me, we have two apartments that sound ideal for your specific circumstances, and it would be a pleasure to show them to you assuming your schedule allows.”
Throughout each of these, an option with only two choices is given in an effort to direct the attention of the consumer. Just like consumers buying jam, when they have fewer flavors to choose from, they buy more. This approach works and really helps to slay the curse of choice in senior housing and care.
Use it in good health!
Looking for a good choice of senior care and housing provider, please visit www.seniorDECISION.com, and see what consumers are saying about a place of interest. Are you a provider? Please make sure your information is correct in this free consumer database of over 79,000 providers throughout the United States.