In Part I of this series, we learned that forward-thinking leaders are focused on transcending market expectations. They are keeping a close eye on market trends to ensure they don’t fall behind the competition. From assessing the condition of their physical plant to building consensus among board members and community residents, they are firmly planted in the present while preparing for the future.
In Part II, we will explore the essential elements of the modern CCRC and how communities are focusing on branding to distinguish themselves in a crowded marketplace.
The Essential Elements of the Modern CCRC
Current trends and market expectations have communities exploring ways to address choice, hospitality, wellness and programming. These are the essential elements customers are evaluating as they make decisions on what senior living community they want to call home.
Residents want things their way. Having the ability to choose what they do, how they entertain themselves, when and where they eat are essential components needed to allow residents to customize their experience.
Do your residents have opportunities to make choices and live life their way?
When it comes to resident care and service, a “hospitality-mentality,” as opposed to a “care-mentality,” is leading the way. Residents want the feeling of a concierge experience and a sense of service that is integral in the culture. When this is truly integrated, people will feel the difference.
“The modern CCRC will always be rooted in meeting the physical, health and financial security needs of older adults,” says Stuart Jackson, first vice president at Greystone, a Dallas-based company that focuses on the strategic planning, project planning, business improvement, repositioning, development, marketing, and management of continuing care retirement communities. “The CCRCs that separate themselves from the competition will be those that embrace a full hospitality culture. The CCRCs that integrate hospitality through every level of care within the community will undoubtedly achieve excellence as they respond to newer generations of residents who seek personalized service and demand satisfaction.”
How does your community create a feeling of hospitality?
Wellness components are no longer a trend, they have become an expectation. Residents want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But the definition of wellness goes beyond physical aspects to include occupational, social, intellectual, spiritual and emotional concerns as well. Whether a designated fitness center, life-long learning programs with a local university, or state-of-the-art rehab facilities, a community’s approach to overall wellness can be a true differentiator.
According to Jeff Evans, president and CEO of Cross Keys Village in New Oxford, PA, “The modern CCRC always was and continues to be all about resident satisfaction. It should be planned and operated to deliver on that through embracing holistic wellness in an atmosphere of hospitality and customer service. The physical environment is a critical component and should include boutique hotel-style amenities—beautiful and uplifting spaces, wonderful dining options, fitness center and day spa and cultural and educational venues.”
How does your community support resident wellness?
As communities make decisions regarding their approach to addressing the definition of the modern CCRC, it is not just about which renovations, additions or building projects to tackle. They need to consider the programs and services necessary to truly make these physical spaces a success on campus.
“You need the appropriate programming around the bricks and mortar, as it is the service, quality and care that will help distinguish you in the marketplace,” describes Kevin Meehan, a principal with Sawgrass Partners, a company that offers a broad range of development and advisory services tailored specifically to the needs of the senior living industry. “If you can’t invest in the bricks and mortar, you can still impact change with the right programming.”
When it comes to transcending market expectations, Evergreen Retirement Community in Oshkosh,Wisconsin, stimulates creativity on site with a variety of activities including a lapidary. They have also instituted the Learning in Retirement (LIR) program in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh. In addition, they have made a connection with the Oshkosh Public Library to become a book drop location.
“Every decision we make always comes back to care, services and programs,” says Ken Arneson, president and CEO of Evergreen. “How we impact those areas, is how we can be our absolute best.”
Does your community offer programs and activities that enrich the lives of your residents?
Focus on a Brand
In order to help communities determine the best way to integrate new amenities and address market trends, they need to be clear on who they are as an organization and how they are communicating that message to the community at-large. The ability to recognize and communicate a brand can impact occupancy and financial success. Consultants such as GlynnDevins, retirement community marketing specialists based in Overland Park, KS who specialize in occupancy solutions for senior living communities, are committed to helping senior living communities focus on their brand and uncover what differentiates them from the competition.
“Each community has their own personality, and it’s our responsibility as marketing consultants to uncover these differentiating points and communicate it to prospective residents and the community at-large,” says Susan Bogan, executive vice president/client service for GlynnDevins. “Sometimes it’s the little things that define a community and the creative way in which these features are shared.”
While Bogan feels many communities focus on listing all of its features and trying to be everything to everyone, she believes that uncovering the unique aspects and clearly communicating those benefits is important. “It’s important to ensure a community’s brand is clearly communicated to prospective residents and other decision makers through all points of the sales and marketing process which helps to better position the community in the marketplace and ultimately lead to a sale.”
“Many sponsors distinguish themselves in the marketplace by who they are– Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, Masonic, retired military, nonprofit-hospital affiliated, etc,” says Jackson. “But it’s no longer enough to differentiate yourself by the type of organization you are. Proven CCRCs distinguish themselves in the marketplace through relentless focus on three areas — real estate, health care and hospitality. Without one of these three legs, the stool will fall. If the physical real estate that you offer is dated, the market will pause when considering you as an option. If your reputation for quality care is in question, you could see reduced occupancy. If you are not known for high-quality customer service or for your focus on the resident, you might develop a negative brand perception. Each one of these facets is critical to success. “
At Saint John’s On The Lake in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, their tagline is “A Better View on Life.” According to President & CEO Renee E. Anderson, they have identified seven points of positioning, but they focus on “Location, Lifestyle, and Lifecare.”
“We’re fortunate to be located on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, our life enrichment programs and amenities are unparalleled, and no one else on the east side of Milwaukee offers a Lifecare contract.”
While uncovering key brand attributes, it is equally important to understand the market your community is serving. By looking at both your brand and your market Greystone believes a community can then see how to prioritize product, program and pricing to match existing gaps in the particular market they serve. “With existing communities and even new locations, it can be overwhelming to determine the best approach to serve the market,” says Jackson. “There are so many alternatives and different approaches to meeting seniors’ needs. A market-driven planning effort creates focus.”
Providers that have a solid grasp of the essential elements of the modern CCRC as well as a clear understanding of what differentiates their brand in the marketplace are ready to create a master plan and to begin implementing it.
Part III of III – Steps for creating a strategic master plan to accomplish your community’s goals