Senior Living Marketing Tactics That Will Engage Today’s Prospects

In my constant quest to keep up with all things senior living marketing, I recently read an article published by Senior Housing News called “The Secrets To Growing Senior Living Sales & Occupancy.

In a nutshell, here are the so-called secrets:

  • Do deep discovery.
  • Ask the right questions to get the right information.
  • Understand the difference between senior living marketing and sales.
  • View marketing as an investment, not a cost center.
  • Get the executive director involved in the sales process and train employees to understand the sales process.

Really? These are “secrets”? This same article could have been written 10 years ago!

Here’s the REAL secret: the way prospects engage with senior living communities has dramatically changed.

As such, our senior living marketing and sales tactics need to evolve, too.

We can’t keep recycling old “insights,” like the ones outlined above from that article, because our prospects expect more today than they did 10 years ago – or even three years ago.

So, what can your teams do to better engage with today’s prospects?

Keep reading…

1. Remember that your senior living website is your #1 sales tool.

According to the Senior Living Research Study, online research is the preferred method for gathering information about senior living options. It even ranked 35% higher than the second ranking method: recommendations/ word of mouth.

Other industry studies report that 87% of your prospects will visit your website before initiating any contact, like calling or walking into the community. And 37% of prospects will eliminate communities based solely on the quality of the website.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: It’s time to change the website experience from focusing on community features and benefits (in other words, the “let me tell you about me” model). Instead, re-position your site so that it becomes a valuable resource that seniors, caregivers, and professionals will visit often as they research options. Need ideas for improving your site? Choose our affordable senior living website audit, which will deliver clear action items.

2. Live chat can turn websites into lead generators.

Organic leads are great, but unless you quickly engage them, they will bounce over to a competitor’s site or a paid referral site. (The latter means providers will be buying back move-ins who had initially visited their website!)

Live chat, on the other hand, can quickly engage website visitor by demonstrating empathy and helping visitors access the info they’re looking for. An effective live chat host can generate qualified leads that can be transferred directly from the chat host to a community representative or turned into a scheduled tour. Chat can also provide evening and weekend coverage at a very low cost.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: There are many chat options available, but we typically recommend SiteStaff, because the chat hosts are US-based with specialized training in healthcare settings, like senior living.

3. Videos can help convert prospects into sales.

Here’s a stat for you: 80% of website visitors will stop and watch a video. Talk about engagement! There are many ways to use video, too, from background b-roll to video testimonials from happy residents to virtual tours.

And here’s the even better news: not all video has to be professionally shot. Smartphone videos can work well, especially on social media channels, like Facebook.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Pick up your phones and start shooting! Yes, you need to keep privacy laws in mind, but start shooting video. Short and sweet (think 30 seconds to a minute) can work well. Online editing software can allow you to add in calls-to-action, but you don’t even need to go to that far when sharing on social: just post with a brief intro.

And don’t underestimate using video for more formal things, like tours or room planners. One product we particularly like: DesignFloorPlan.com.

4. Transparent pricing matters.

“By far the most important senior living concern is cost” states the Senior Living Research Study.

However, most communities make it impossible to find pricing info on the website, leaving prospects to bounce over to a paid referral site who will not only provide your pricing information, but also your competitors’ info.

We understand that you want to sell your value first before providing prices, because you’re concerned prospects will experience sticker shock, particularly if they don’t have the full context. But the lack of pricing transparency is not helpful to prospects or professionals looking for information.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Consider making your pricing available through a short opt-in form with basic contact information. This scratches two itches: visitors get the info they want, and the sales team has the ability to follow up to establish value and offer resources to help fund senior living.

5. A better “template strategy” can reduce senior living marketing and sales costs.

One of the biggest marketing spends in senior living today is print. Think event flyers, invitations, incentives, direct mail, and postcards, just to name a few items. The problem is that the cost of graphic design, printing, and mailing continues to climb. Not to mention that the shelf life for these items is days or a few weeks TOPS.

The good news? A smarter “template strategy” can reduce these costs. Imagine having all the print items you regularly use at your fingertips as templates that are already outfitted with your logo and brand colors. All you have to do is customize them with the relevant details for that particular marketing campaign. Goodbye, design costs! Goodbye unnecessary printing!

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Check out our SMARTbrand and SMARTbrand+ options. We have a free version and an affordable subscription service that allows you to easily create the materials you need. Or if you like the idea of creating a full-blown template strategy, check out our SMARTstores.

6. Senior living events still work!

“The majority of people who know someone in senior housing have been influenced by this experience (73.0%), most often in a positive way (57.0%)” finds Imagination in their research study. Bottom line: senior living events still work!

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Make sure you include the following in your senior living marketing plan:

  • Friend & family referral programs
  • New resident welcome events for friends
  • Address change cards for new residents to send to friends and neighbors
  • Coupons for meals, salon services, weekend stays, and community events

Need help? Check out our senior living event management solutions.

Senior living marketing has changed. Work with an agency that’s evolved, too.

We’re not just any agency. We’re a senior living marketing agency. Our staff has industry experience, which sets us apart from other agencies (even the ones who also “specialize” in senior living marketing). Get in touch today and request your complimentary 30-minute brainstorming session.

5 Steps to Successfully Managing Your Online Reputation

5 Steps to Successfully Managing Your Online Reputation

According to Google, 70% of Americans online say they use reviews before converting to customers. A Harvard Business School Study found something they call The Yelp Effect. According to their study published in 2011, “A one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue.”

The senior living industry lags behind most other industries in creating and managing a strong online and social media presence. Online review sites will force an increase in awareness and action in ensuring that their communities are positively represented.

Here are some quick tips to pro-actively manage your online reputation:

  1. Review & Enhance – check out all of your online profiles for accuracy and utilize all available opportunities to provide content. Photos continue to be the most viewed components and virtual tours are also very effective.
  2. You can’t manage what you can’t see–get online and read reviews of your community. Check out Senior Advisor at https://www.SeniorAdvisor.com and Caring.com at https://www.caring.com, also Google Maps as well as Google, Yahoo! and Bing Places pages. (Whether you know it or not, your senior living community has a listing on all these sites.)
  3. Engage & Respond–regardless of the positive or negative content of the review. The more comments and responses that are posted about a community the greater the increase in revenue. Keep your tone positive and conversational, never defensive. A bad review is not the end of the day, as long as there are some positive reviews that put it in perspective and provide balance.
  4. Respond quickly–If there is a pattern of negative comments, respond quickly to address the issue. One negative review can be neutralized by counter balancing positive reviews, but there will be major damage control needed for unresolved complaints
  5. Be pro-active–encourage reviews throughout the resident’s stay. After a prospect chooses your community, send a link to review sites and ask them to comment about why they chose your community. After a successful resident and family event, a great state survey or nomination to a local “Best Of” award, reach out an provide links to online review opportunities. Post the best reviews on your website, acknowledge the review site and provide a link back to improve SEO.

The bottom line is that your families and prospects are already talking about you so now is the time to listen, respond, and join the conversation.


Free Download

The case for online reviews goes stronger by the day. Customers are increasingly searching online and referring to reviews before making a purchasing decision.

Members can download the ‘Why Online Reviews Matter’ tipsheet, or non-members may download the resource by filling out form in the link below:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Marketing Campaigns

Thanksgiving Marketing Campaigns

The holidays are the ideal time to market your community! Seasonal decorations make a community sparkle and there is a lot of energy generated by special events and family visits. It is also a time when families visit and notice changes that precipitate interest in checking out senior living options while they are together. With planning, every community can increase inquiries and tours. Here are some ideas:

Nothing Says Thanksgiving Like a Homemade Pie!

A pie drop-off or pick-up works for busy professionals, prospects, and families. Create an order form (paper or online) with a selection of pie choices so everyone can choose their favorites and order via phone, fax, or email. The day before Thanksgiving, you either can deliver the pies or arrange a pick-up at the community. Brand the pie boxes with stickers featuring your community information and logo. This provides a creative follow-up opportunity for your leads as well as referral sources—and it shows off your culinary department!

Show Your Heart & Hospitality

There are seniors in every market who will be alone on Thanksgiving. This year, work with local elder law attorneys, trust officers, senior centers, senior agencies, guardians, and geriatric care managers and have them nominate some local seniors to come to your holiday dinner. “Adopting” some new friends for the holiday feels good, builds relationships with referral partners, and allows more seniors to experience a community living lifestyle. There is usually room available in the dining room since many residents go out with their families for the day.

Dash & Dine

For those who cannot get out for the holiday dinner, your team can prepare meals and make them available for pick-up or deliver the meals to the home or rehab facility. This is a great way to reconnect with prospects and previous respites and definitely bring a home cooked meal to all residents in a hospital, rehab, or skilled nursing facility.

Weekend Open Houses

Make it easy for families to stop by after shopping by hosting an Open House for one or two days over the holiday weekend. Tour volume is usually high over Thanksgiving weekend and can be increased by offering an opportunity to stop by without a scheduled appointment. Make sure there are holiday themed treats available and activities planned. You can offer wrapping services to entice weary shoppers to visit or host a boutique craft event at the community with an interesting assortment of unique gifts. Have something fun to give out such as a great “leftovers” recipe!

Send Thanksgiving Cards Instead

This is a perfect time to give thanks to prospects, families, staff, and referral sources! The December holidays are so overwhelming that your card and thoughtfulness may get lost but a Thanksgiving card is less common and it will help you to stand out.

Remember the Warriors!

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to reach out to first responders from your local fire department, police department, and ambulance services. They are on duty 24/7 and would welcome a dinner, dessert, or special basket of goodies. It’s also a perfect time to stop by your ER/ED and urgent care centers. All of these community contacts know seniors who are home alone and those who would most benefit from a more supportive environment.

Thanks to all of you who have chosen to serve seniors!



senior living marketing

How To Execute The Perfect Senior Living Grand Opening Event

Recently I was able to attend the Grand Opening of Belmont Village’s newest community in Houston Texas: Hunters Creek. I have attended many similar events and have rarely experienced the level of planning, preparation, and execution as I did at Hunter’s Creek. So what separates a good event from a memorable one?

Planning The Flow

Belmont Village set the tone for this event before attendees even entered the front door. A professional valet service and traffic control and direction kept the stream of cars moving smoothly to the entry. Additional parking had been prearranged nearby, and all of the Belmont employees parked offsite to leave all the parking spaces for their guests. Tours were available with little to no waiting, and these tours were provided by community team members, sister community support teams and most importantly, the executive team.

Using The Tour to Share Your Better & Different Story!

At the Hunter’s Creek event, there were experts stationed at key points along the tour route to speak to unique characteristics of the community and the Belmont Village brand. This allowed the Belmont team to share their “better and different story” with their visitors. Visitors were able to better understand their early stage memory care program, Circle of Friends, their philosophy and approach to secured memory care programming (including a dedicated full time Program Director), rehab capabilities and 24/7 on-site (awake!) nursing. Tour guides had notes to incorporate the unique features about the community and have answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Keep The Focus on the Senior Living Residents

The entire event was resident focused. Belmont Village does not use any stock images in any of their creative pieces, so pictures displayed throughout the community were of actual residents. The photos were beautiful and expressed life, laughter, and relationships. Residents who were Veteran’s were honored throughout the community with displays in Assisted Living, Circle of Friends and Memory Care neighborhoods. Instead of the usual corporate and political posturing that usually is the focus of these events, Patricia Will, Founder and “Mother” of Belmont Village spoke of the resident experience, lifestyle and “honoring this experience of aging.”

It’s A Party – Make It Fun!

Belmont showed off their outstanding culinary expertise with a mouth-watering spread of food that represents their commitment to healthy and delicious options. An open bar featuring a signature cocktail, attentive wait staff and plenty of seating completed the setting. Live music (classical guitars) set the stage of a sophisticated event, without overpowering conversations.

It’s a Business – Collect All The Attendee Information

The community team made sure to get complete information to begin developing their referral network. Registered guests were able to quickly pick up a nametag and unregistered guests had a separate table so all attendee information was quickly and easily collected.

event planning template

Looking to expand? Let’s Chat!

senior living marketing

Do You Know Your Senior Living Net Promoter Score?

Let’s talk about customer satisfaction. At the end of the day, isn’t it all about how the residents and families feel about the services and care they receive in your community? So let’s first answer the question, “Why conduct satisfaction surveys?”

Word of Mouth

Residents and families are talking about you – to friends, relatives, neighbors, and healthcare professionals. Do you know what they are saying?

Customer Issues are a Great Way to Make a Positive Impact

Listening to customer concerns and following through on making positive changes, can turn unhappy customers into loyal customers.

Gain Insight into Your Customer

Asking your customers for ideas and identifying patterns based on their responses, gives you insight into opportunities that can benefit current and future residents. These insights can give you a competitive edge.

The knowledge from customer surveys can help assure that you don’t lose customers and that your reputation doesn’t prevent you from winning new customers. Your customer experience has a direct impact on your occupancy. There is a simple question that is found on most surveys that provides valuable insight and directly impacts your business results.

“How likely is it that you would recommend your community to a friend or colleague?”

 

This is your Net Promoter Score. The Net Promoter Score, or NPS®, is based on the fundamental perspective that every company’s customers can be divided into three categories: Promoters, Passives, and Detractors.

  • Promoters

    (score 9-10) are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth.

  • Passives

    (score 7-8) are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings.

  • Detractors

    (score 0-6) are unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth.

To calculate your company’s NPS, take the percentage of customers who are Promoters and subtract the percentage who are Detractors. Now what? Once you know your number– What do you do with this information?

Lynn Ackerman, PhD, Co-Founder and Chief Delight Officer at Sensight Surveys offers insight into how to translate the number into a plan that positively impacts your customer experience and business results.

“Your net promoter score basically represents the percentage of customers who are willing to advocate for your community offset by potential naysayers.  This number can be very useful, but by itself holds little value.  Your survey process should include the collection of more detailed information to help you pinpoint customer experiences and views that drive your net promoter score and allow you to take targeted action.

There are three things you can do:

  1. Include questions on your survey that ask customers to rate specific areas of service.
  2. Provide comment space on your survey, so customers can back up their willingness to recommend you with a positive comment or recommendation for improvement.
  3. Hold feedback sessions with your customers as part of post-survey action planning to understand their specific accolades, concerns, and ideas for improvement.

With this additional information, you will have what you need to identify top improvement opportunities and implement a targeted plan of action.”

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senior living marketing

Senior Living Leads: The Real ROI of Internet Leads

Internet leads represent 50% of all new lead generation in the senior living industry. There are many flavors, including organic lead generation from your own website, subscription (monthly flat fee) models, pay-per-lead, and pay-per-move-in options. If you need to increase lead generation, which model should you choose and how do you measure the ROI?

Here are the results from a six-month evaluation of every internet lead model, the financial results, the occupancy impact, and lessons learned about internet lead management.

Senior Living Leads: Evaluation Structure

We formed two groups of communities representing every possible combination of IL, AL, ALZ & CCRCs. One group received senior living leads from every internet lead model and managed the leads on their own. Another group received leads from the identical sources. A call center managed their leads for 30 days. Our goals were to measure the cost per lead, the cost per qualified lead, the cost per tour, and ultimately the cost per move-in. We also wanted to measure the impact of allocating dedicated resources to responding to internet leads on conversions, revenue, and occupancy. The two groups had almost identical occupancy (an average of 83.75%).

Senior Living Leads: Lessons Learned

If we skip to the end of the story, the call center results were significantly better than the community results – even though the call center staff had no experience in senior living. What they did have was a mindset to . . .

  • Respond immediately to every lead
  • Believe that every lead was viable (no pre-conceived beliefs that internet leads were low quality)
  • Ask every question on the Discovery form
  • Follow a 30-day lead nurturing process to look for opportunities if the prospect was not ready to tour on the first interaction

Here are some lessons learned from the call center results:

  • Day-one immediate response is critical for internet leads.
  • Having dedicated resources available 7 days a week led to improved opportunity.
  • 56% of “connects” (voice-to-voice contact for Discovery) happened on Day 1 (Day 2 dropped to 10%).
  • 53% of tours scheduled occurred on Day 1 (8.6% Day 2).
  • Quick response allowed the call center to connect with more urgent leads (28% looking within 30 days).
  • Following a consistent process for follow up with call outs & email nurturing for 30 days creates opportunity.
  • Although 75% of tours were scheduled in the first 7 days, 131 tours were booked Days 8- 30.

Senior Living Leads: Show Me The Money!

The communities who had the call center support grew their occupancy by 52 units in the six-month pilot. The communities that managed their own leads lost 28 Units of ADU.  This translated into over $3.5 million dollars in estimated revenue for the call center cohort based on an 18-month length of stay – even after paying the call center expenses.

Which Internet Lead Model Produced the Best Results?

The best results are always generated from organic senior living leads. Prospects who visit your website are not only interested in senior living, they are also interested in your community. The lowest cost to lead, tour and move-in and the highest conversions are from organic leads.  This is why investing in SEO and live chat on your website is a great investment.

Pay-per-move-in models performed significantly better than either subscription or pay-per-lead.  A Place For Mom produced the very best conversion rates across the board.  The cost per move-in ranged from a low of about $3700 to a high of over $11,000 so it is important to choose wisely!

Need help getting the most out of your community’s senior living leads? Let’s Chat!

senior living marketing

6 Components of a Successful Senior Living Social Media Strategy

Using Social Media to Create a Fully Integrated Growth Strategy

For growth-oriented senior living communities and health-related organizations today, a sound social media strategy should be an integral part of the total marketing program. Your community events and outreach activities should now be viewed in the context of how they fit into your overall social media strategy. They represent an ideal opportunity for positive social interaction with the surrounding community. Social media becomes a vehicle that can take virtually anything positive that is happening and turn it into a valuable marketing opportunity. Social media, which is increasing in usage and popularity every day, becomes a way to supercharge and magnify your marketing efforts.

The overarching goal for senior living organizations today is to become the recognized “go-to” resource for all things related to senior care and senior lifestyles. This involves a strategic shift from an “advertising/event mindset” to becoming a valuable and valued educational resource for your community. Ultimately, your social media strategy is not just about getting your name in the marketplace, it is about getting prospects to visit your community and to choose your community as the best option over competing communities or remaining in the home.

Specific Goals that Support Your Senior Living Community’s Growth

Sage Age works with our client-partners to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy that includes social media as a vehicle to accomplish the following key goals:

  • Building Credibility – Even if never spoken, families have two questions: Will mom or dad be safe here? Will mom or dad be happier here above all other options? When social media is effectively implemented, it will build credibility, trust, and confidence – the keys to the “purchase decision.”
  • Storytelling – Storytelling is the oldest and most effective form of marketing that exists. It grabs the heart, builds credibility and is most powerful when it is a resident or their family member that is telling the story. Social media is the only effective way to tell fresh stories to a large audience.
  • Crowd Sourcing – This is a business term for “viral marketing.” If you tell compelling stories and provide useful information, the crowd will tell your story for you. They will pass the stories on to their families and friends, to people you might never be able to reach directly through traditional marketing approaches.
  • Content Marketing – For most communities, finding time to write, knowing what to write, and actually writing it effectively is often a significant challenge. Yet creating valuable content on a consistent basis is a powerful way for you to stay personally connected with your prospects, your family members, and your referral sources. Sage Age excels at creating relevant, compelling and engaging content that will garner your customer’s interest, attention, and response.
  • E-mail — E-mail is the tool that supports and reinforces the above tasks. It is how you get the word out.
  • Assessment – Finally, it is essential to continually assess the effectiveness of your efforts and to make minor adjustments or radical changes based on the findings.

Does your senior living community have a social media strategy? Let’s Chat!

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value proposition

Senior Living Marketing Strategy: Creating Your Value Proposition

When it comes to devising a killer senior living marketing strategy, we need a new shtick.  I’m tired of listening to recorded calls and mystery shops and hearing the same things: We have the best people. You’re going to love the food. We’re resident-focused.

If every senior living community is saying the same thing, then what’s the point? How can you possibly differentiate? To stand out, you and your team need to agree on your community’s value proposition.

How do you go about creating one?

Well, when was the last time you spent time with your team to honestly discuss your senior living marketing strategy? Have you recently looked at your place in the market, your differentiators . . . and then figured out a story that conveys those things? Remember, people are more engaged with stories than information. Finding time to brainstorm can be a great team-building exercise. It will also help get everyone up to speed with what your community’s value proposition is. (And how to communicate it.)

Senior living marketing strategy: Start with a thorough competitive analysis.

This involves going on a tour of each competitor and acting as the prospect. Ask all the questions that prospects ask you to see how the community sales person answers them. How are they are positioning their community? Do they explain their pricing, levels of care, amenities, lifestyle, memory care program, etc.?  Pick up a full marketing packet to see how your community’s presentation compares. Make notes of your impressions right away while the experience is fresh in your mind.

Senior living marketing strategy: Do a SWOT with the team.

Schedule an hour or two to strategize as a team about your community’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).  You can go online to get an outline, training, and tools on how to do a SWOT. But for now, here is a quick overview.

Strengths & weaknesses refer to internal aspects of the community

  • Demographics, location – close to cultural, community & healthcare resources, on a main road, easy to find? What are the characteristics of your current residents and families? Why did they choose your community?
  • Physical plant – first impressions, age & condition of interior & exterior, updates needed, does the model apartment Wow? Size of community, apartment mix, etc.
  • Amenities – dining, activities, transportation, recreation, social, spiritual, intellectual activities, pool, spa, etc.
  • Care – survey results, memory care program, levels of care available, niche programs, acuity management, training, technology
  • Team – stability, experience, turnover, leadership, culture, mission, values, etc
  • Other – reputation, ownership, customer service, friendliness, family engagement, history of community (who built it & why?)
  • Price/value – drill down into competitive analysis

Opportunities & threats refer to external aspects of the community

  • Marketplace Changes – new communities in development, competitors adding on units or products (i.e. memory care), hospital closing, businesses coming or going?
  • Competitors – running specials, renovating, creating niche programs, have an ACO relationship with the local hospital that could reduce your referrals? Changes in leadership/ turnover/ stability?  Acquisitions?
  • People Changes – have key referral sources moved, are there new relationships that have to be nurtured, are there new docs in town, new homecare companies?
  • Regulatory/Economic – Did the state create a grant program to encourage homecare?  Is the hospital forming an ACO?  Are there new state regulations that may affect you?

When the SWOT is completed, your team will be able to identify unique characteristics that will create your “better and different story.” In other words, your value proposition. So, when someone asks why they should select your community, you have your answer at the ready.

Here’s an example: “We’re locally owned, and we do business with our friends and neighbors. Our owner built this community because he wanted his mother to have a lovely place to live. And she lived here for six years until age 92! Our owner is here every week to speak with our team, the residents, and their families. And because we don’t own hundreds of communities, we can make sure that this community runs well. Our residents develop strong bonds with our staff. We have very low turnover! Our staff has worked here an average of 5 years. We got a perfect score on our most recent state survey and a 92% satisfaction score from residents and families.”

Now THAT’S a story, right? And certainly much more compelling than “We have the best people and great food.”

Need help with your senior living marketing strategy?

You’ve come to the right place. We have deep expertise in senior living and marketing. Set up a complimentary brainstorming session today.

reputation management

Strategies for Better Senior Living Reputation Management

Why is senior living reputation management so important? Well, let’s face it: people rely on online reviews more now than ever before. So, what people say about your community MATTERS (regardless whether you agree with their assessment or not).

Consider the following stats:

And that’s just the tip of a very large iceberg when it comes to stats about consumers and online reviews.

This shouldn’t surprise any of us senior living marketers. After all, we’re consumers, too. We seek out reviews (and judge businesses accordingly) just like everyone else.
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Labels Are for Jars Not for People

elderly people are not jarsEver since we entered this world we have been labeled. Newborn. Cute. Colicy. Chubby. Then as we grew our labels grew along with us. Fast, small, smart, tall. Rich, poor, weird or a bore. And we labeled others because there is a natural tendency to put people that we meet in categories.  The further we travelled in life the more the labels – mother, sister, wife, doctor, nurse, shy, lazy, etc. These labels become stereotypes – and these become judgements and biases.

The word label refers to the paper or identifying marks on a jar that tells you something about what’s inside the jar. Based on that label you make assumptions and judgements for what is inside that jar.

lI’s ok to put a description on a jar so you know what’s inside , but it’s not okay to judge people by attaching a label, or description to them, such as “nerd,” “jock,” or “burnout.” Sometime labeling is very useful. It would be impossible to catalogue the information we process during our lives without the aid of labels like “friendly,” “deceitful,” “tasty,” and “dangerous.” But many labels can be harmful, even to the point of limiting people’s abilities just based on assumptions we make from that label.

We need to be very careful in how we label our residents. In a Focus Group that I was a part of we asked seniors who were in “independent living cottages” on a IL/AL campus what was the biggest struggle for them day to day. The top answer was meals. They often found it difficult to make 3 nutritious and tasty meals a day. They were asked why they didn’t go over to the “assisted living” dining room which they could access for free as part of their monthly fees. The overwhelming answer was “I don’t want to be with those people. They are in assisted living! They can’t carry on a conversation and are boring.” I looked around the room at the walkers, wheelchairs, oxygen tanks and other than where they lived on the campus would not have thought of this group as independent. But they would rather eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner than be labeled as “assisted”.  We talked with the participants of the focus group about being labeled – and they did not like it at all. But if they had to be labeled – it was going to be independent!

There is definitely a stereotype and bias for residents in “assisted living” from other residents, staff and healthcare professionals. There are many stereotypes that come with just getting old – can’t drive, slow, doesn’t like change, can’t understand technology. Everyday we meet seniors who are breaking those stereotypes.

No one likes a negative label. I challenge the industry to be person-centered when meeting a new resident and look forward to a time when we don’t put labels on our residents that may negatively impact their independence and fulfillment.