Resident experience in assisted living isn’t like other experiences, because the assisted living industry isn’t like other industries.
In most industries, it would be a marketer’s dream to be able to target your product to an exponentially growing population of potential customers.
For assisted living, that dream is real – but it also makes customer (resident) experience in assisted living facilities a unique and highly competitive challenge, one imbued with deep, all-encompassing emotion.
A Growing Customer Base
With U.S. seniors experiencing enormous growth, the market is vast. The population age 65 and over expanded from 2010 to 2020 at its fastest rate since 1880 to 1890, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
By 2040, about one in five Americans is will be 65 or older, up from about one in eight in 2000. The increase reflects factors such as aging baby boomers and improvements in life expectancy.
That means expectations for resident experience could not be higher as the competition among assisted living facilities for potential residents continues to heat up. Assisted living communities, often compared to senior apartments, typically provide some assistance with day-to-day act activities but not constant monitoring like nursing homes.
Connecting To Residents With A Deeply Emotional Experience
The assisted living facilities that win out in this burgeoning market need to provide a deeper sort of customer experience, one that by its very nature is 24/7. Not much in life is more emotional for families than taking care of loved ones, and employees of assisted living facilities have been known to share in that emotion too, devoting themselves to care and even attending funeral services for residents who die.
“Every decision and action in this industry has the power to make a real difference in people’s lives every day,” said Amy Silva-Magalhaes, Chief Operating Officer of Ultimate Care Assisted Living Management, in an interview with The Experience Maker. “A positive experience doesn’t just lead to resident satisfaction – it can actually improve their physical and mental well-being, which is our top priority.”
Similarly, Anthony A. Argondizza, president and CEO of Springpoint Senior Living, told Forbes: “What our people do is related to but also transcends a ‘retail’ employee-customer service relationship. The interactions are longer-term; the relationships go deeper; the needs and wishes we strive to meet are more multi-faceted.”
These perspectives provide a perfect example of the “I” in my WISER customer experience methodology – Immersive.
An immersive customer experience is consistent and connected, making the experience journey a continuous smooth ride from the start that ends up making sense as a whole.
That’s just what the best assisted living centers – and the employees who immerse themselves in helping and caring for residents – are known to do.
How Resident Experience Permeates The Culture
Ultimate Care Senior Living Management, which manages several brands including The Bristal, established a corporate vision statement that focuses on resident experience:
“Our Vision: To challenge every preconceived notion of what assisted living is — by creating an environment so uniquely loving, so rich in genuine compassion and so driven by exceptional senior living, that residents and loved ones fully embrace our communities as home,” says its website.
The company’s tagline is “We See You Here,” which, according to Silva-Magalhaes, “reflects our commitment to personalized experiences.”
CommuniCare, which operates assisted living and other elder care communities primarily in the Midwest, also lays out its approach to resident experience in clear and compelling terms on its website:
“Our customer experience is of paramount importance to us. It is, therefore, our unwavering mission to deliver a service-focused environment from the moment our guests walk through our doors to the moment they leave. It’s that simple. Our purpose is to deliver care at every touch point that not only heals but also delights.”
Resident Experience Examples in the Assisted Living Industry
CommuniCare focuses on empathizing with residents and families, quickly answering call lights, and avoiding what the company calls “cookie-cutter care” by providing an array of on-site physicians who design customized care plans.
At Brookdale Senior Living, customer experience is such a focus that the chain’s senior living communities actually celebrate the annual Customer Experience Day, or #CXDay.
“From celebrating a special birthday to keeping spirits up during the pandemic to helping during a wildfire or hurricane, Brookdale associates go above and beyond for others to create memorable experiences and stories that are told over and over,” Brookdale’s in-house expert on customer experience wrote in a blog post.
He explained that Brookdale’s customer experience emphasis includes a focus on feedback through surveys, social media, and a national advisory council of residents.
For its efforts, Brookdale tied for the highest ranking among assisted living/memory care providers in the J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Senior Living Satisfaction Study.
One Assisted Living Facility Creates A Home Run Experience For A Resident
“Bob,” a resident at The Bristal at Englewood, moved in with his wife three years ago. Initially reserved, Bob’s began participating in resident programs when and employee discovered his love for baseball and the New York Mets. She invited him to host a lecture on baseball history, which brought Bob out of his shell. The program turned into a monthly event, and Bob’s enthusiasm inspired other residents to lead their own educational programs based on their individual passions.
But The Bristal wasn’t done. The residence connected him with the Mets’ photographer and arranged his very own player photoshoot, recreating Bob’s cherished baseball card “The Boys of Summer” and even hosting a special card signing event just for him. Next up: a field trip for the entire community to Citi Field to watch Bob’s beloved Mets.
Keeping Up With Demand: Resident Experience Tips In Assisted Living
All of these facilities are fiercely competing in an industry that is rapidly expanding as the population ages. With nearly 30,000 assisted living facilities in the United States, the industry has been growing at an annual rate of 5.48 percent. It is projected to be worth more than $140 billion by 2030.
To keep up and bring residents in the door – and keep them there – experts offer these additional customer experience tips:
- Offer the medical services residents expect. Assisted living facilities can provide memory care and potentially more advanced services such as skilled nursing.
- Don’t skimp on amenities. Seniors want dignity and a feeling of home, and assisted living facilities are known to feature everything from in-house hair salons to housekeeping, theaters, pools, and a variety of social activities.
- Focus on families. Seniors may be dependent on family members to help them with all sorts of tasks or even pay the bill. Which makes it imperative that family members get accurate and timely status updates whenever they call.
- Be compassionate and caring. By definition, these are the basic qualities that should define the industry that assists more and more of America’s seniors in how they live.
Dan Gingiss is a customer experience keynote speaker who loves speaking to assisted living companies and their employees. If you’d like to put a date on hold for an upcoming conference, please contact Dan directly.