It’s often hard for seniors to transition from living at home to entering an assisted living facility, but marketers say it’s important to stress the necessity of the services they offer in order to get people to make the leap sooner rather than later.
“Sales people will focus on benefits of assisted living, and all the ways it can improve the life of the senior,” says Jamison Gosselin, a spokesperson for the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA).
The problem, however, is that seniors are often unwilling to give up the lifestyle they’re accustomed to, and the economic crisis isn’t helping, says Jim Janicki, the senior director of marketing for Riverside Health System, located in Virginia.
The poor housing market and adult children worrying about costs—which average $2,575 per month—are two huge factors that delay entry into assisted living facilities, he says.
“We’re seeing people waiting longer to enter assisted living until their health has really become compromised,” says Janicki. “It’s unfortunate, because the sooner they come, the longer they would be able to live independently and enjoy the lifestyle.”
Delaying too long means a shortened stay in assisted living, as residents must transition into facilities better equipped to provide higher levels of care, says Janicki.
“We offer free health screenings from health services staff,” he says. “The nurses can show them (and the adult child) results, and let them know that they’re going to risk being no longer qualified for assisted living.”
When seniors stay for a short period of time, it presents upheaval not just to the resident, but also to the facility, he continues, and this has been happening more and more often.
“Our turnover has increased dramatically over the last couple of years. The average length of stay in ALFs has decreased,” says Janicki. “Then we have to remarket available units more often.”
According to the State of Seniors Housing 2011 report, the median annual resident turnover across all assisted living residences increased to 46.8% in 2010, up from 42% in 2009.
This puts more pressure on everyone, he says, from the marketing people who have to resell the unit, to the sales team who are forced to find a larger volume of leads, to the maintenance crew preparing each unit after turnover.
“We drop an average of $4,000 into a residence for each turnover, plus staff time and costs of marketing, for additional advertising,” says Janicki. “If you look at all that, and figure that increased turnover is going to cost you tens of thousands of dollars each year, we want to do what we can to get people to come to us sooner so we can give them a longer stay.”
Too often, sales staffs spend too much time selling aesthetics—how the ALF appears to prospective residents, says Gosselin. Instead, they should let the amenities speak for themselves, and focus on the services being offered.
“What people don’t understand is, more importantly, the people who are going to be caring for the senior plays into the quality of life for people,” he says. “We as an assisted living community need to explain why people should not wait, and we need to explain it better.”
Written by Alyssa Gerace