When I moved my mom into an assisted living community in 2021, I was disappointed with the experience. This was a big life change for her, and yet the community failed in those early days at making her feel truly welcome.
Some things that jumped out at me . . .
- On the day of her move-in, no one from the community had been assigned to help us unload the car (we’d moved in all the large furniture in advance).
- Her name hadn’t been logged into the resident portal, so she could not “sign in.” This impacted her sense of belonging.
- No one had put a sign on her door or anything else, like a wreath or balloons, which would have helped create a sense of excitement.
Sadly, my experience isn’t uncommon. Too often, there’s a big gap when senior living sales reps “hand off” the family to operations.
And this gap isn’t going to magically fill itself.
Make move-in day special, like the first day of college.
I always use the analogy of first-year students moving into college. During move-in day and the early days after move-in, resident assistants and resident directors are likely popping in to say hello. Plenty of orientation and welcome events are planned in those first few weeks, including family weekend. Welcome packets with helpful info are left on students’ beds (or, in today’s age, sent as a digital packet on people’s phones).
Colleges are invested in keeping students engaged, safe, and happy because it’s not only in students’ best interest—it’s in the school’s best interest as well.
Your community has to make the same effort. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.
Remember, every move-in is a win. But a move-out can be a bigger loss.
I remember hearing a stat from the Massachusetts Assisted Living Association, and it has always stuck with me: Approximately 17% of move-outs happen within the first 30 days.
Think about that. Think of all the effort and money that goes into turning prospects into residents. And poof! Just like that, 17% move out within a month. (I wouldn’t be surprised if that number increases over the next decade as more Boomers enter the fray. Boomers will have even less patience for lackluster experiences!)
So what’s a senior living community to do? I bet a lot of those move-outs could have been avoided if the community took the time to extend a sincere, warm welcome to each new resident (along with a little extra TLC).
Here are some strategies for creating a true “red carpet” welcome for new residents.
Have move-in day checklists.
Give each department in your senior living community an internal checklist for making sure they are ready for the new resident. For example, apartment readiness checklist, dining/meal plan checklist, activities checklist.
Prior to move-in, provide the family/ future resident a list of helpful resources to reduce stress.
Consider things like a list of local movers, a packing list, downsizing tips, downsizing resources (e.g., junk removal and donation pick-up services), and a paperwork checklist (e.g., what to bring to the lease signing).
Develop move-in day protocols, such as . . .
- Leaving a welcome basket on the kitchen counter
- Providing a welcome packet in people’s apartments with helpful info
- Issuing a senior living resident handbook
- Assigning a staff member to greet the new resident and their family—and to check on them a few times throughout move-in day
- Assigning a resident from the Welcome Committee (more on this below) to be the new resident’s go-to person during the first few weeks
Create a formal Welcome Committee.
Remember the first day of school or camp when you walked in feeling scared and overwhelmed because you didn’t know anyone? But once you made that “first friend,” you knew everything would be OK? The same feelings happen whether you’re eight or eighty.
Remember, new residents have to navigate a new physical space, figure out meal times, make friends/ find someone to have meals with, know where all the activities are taking place, know how to sign up for transportation or salon services, and so forth. It’s a lot of change and a lot to keep track of and remember. Other residents are often the best source to help a new resident fit in and to create a real sense of belonging.
Having an active Welcome Committee in your community is an excellent way to connect warm, friendly residents with the newbies. My mother joined her community’s Welcome Committee so that others would have a better experience than she had. (She said that she wanted to show new residents how things really worked around here.)
Be intentional about creating a positive sentiment in the first 30 days.
- Week 1: Deliver a gift card for salon services.
- Week 2: Deliver guest passes for meals to invite family & friends.
- Week 3: Provide a voucher for something special (for example, offer free private transportation to go shopping or pet service for Fido).
- Week 4: Host a housewarming event for the new resident’s friends and family. Give the resident a choice of a nice private lunch, cocktails and appetizers, or coffee and donuts. Let them know this won’t cost them a dime.
- Week 5: Send flowers to mark the first month with a heartfelt note that expresses how happy you are that they’re part of your community.
Keep in mind that there is a compelling business value to creating a positive move-in experience.
When you foster a wonderful, welcoming environment where people can easily become raving fans, well guess what? Raving fans will more likely . . .
- Write a positive review.
- Refer their friends and neighbors and/or participate in your referral program (you’ll enjoy very high conversion rates on those referrals!).
- Not move out! Don’t forget that stat I quoted earlier about 17% of all move-outs happen in the first 30 days.
Getting all of these different moving parts and programs to work in harmony takes work, but I’ve seen it done successfully before.
Need help? Guess what? We’ve got a special program.
I believe so strongly in creating a warm welcome for new residents that my team and I have created a turnkey “red carpet welcome program” that’s waiting for your branding and customization. Get in touch today and we’ll show you how it works!