As senior living developers are discovering that constructing a new community no longer holds true to the “if you build it, they will come” mentality, they’re finding there are five must-have criteria to maximizing occupancy at their communities.
Amenities are key not only for attracting new residents, but for retaining current ones and are essential to any repositioning strategy, said experts from the LCS family of companies during a Senior Housing News webinar.
Harnessing various dimensions of wellness, shrinking the size of dining venues and plugging a community into the digital age are just a few of the top-of-the-mind preferences for both the senior living residents of today and tomorrow.
The results that follow derive from an LCS market research survey, which gauged the most-desired preferences of age and income-qualified residents as well as their adult children when looking for a senior living community:
Repositioning a senior living community that captures residents’ wellness wants and needs goes beyond merely building a fitness center or recreational space for social gatherings and programming. Rather, wellness in senior living is founded on an multi-dimensional approach that addresses residents’ physical, spiritual, emotional, environmental, intellectual and health services needs.
“It is important to understand where your organization stands on the eight dimensions of wellness,” said Ted MacBeth, director of project development with LCS Development. “Are you providing programming on these areas?”
The most important wellness amenities that garnered the largest share of survey responses included fitness centers (73%), walking/bike paths (73%), indoor pool (55%) and garden/green house (37%), according to LCS survey data.
Also, incorporating spaces that can house multiple-programming activities on campus known as “flex spaces,” can help senior living providers increase their wellness offerings economically if budgeting is tight. An example would be a large gathering space which could play home to classrooms and educational seminars, even religious events.
“Providers can really reduce costs by creating these flex spaces in wellness areas, and dining areas as well,” MacBeth said.
Eating is an essential event in everyone’s daily life, and for senior living residents that is no exception. Dining programs that allow choice and flexibility are some of the biggest trends LCS has noticed.
Multiple dining venues that offer different options such as elegant and casual environments, be them white tablecloth restaurants or quick service bistros that give patrons the ability to order-and-go, are just a few draws to prospective residents and their families, who may likely be joining them for meals in these types of settings.
Choice and flexibility also extends to the community’s menu offerings in terms of what is being offered on a daily basis, as well as various dining venues on campus. Outdoor dining areas, bistros and coffee bars are just a few popular establishments LCS has noticed gaining popularity in repositioning projects.
Whether it’s Wi-Fi availability, room keycards, dining point of sale (POS) cards or electronic health records (EHRs), technology is an area poised for “significant growth” in LCS communities in the future, said MacBeth.
With more residents moving into senior living communities equipped with tablet devices, providers are tasked with the challenge of creating Wi-Fi hotspots in places like community common areas where residents can connect to the Internet.
“Many residents are carrying around handheld computers, you want that connectivity around the campus,” MacBeth said.
Dining POS cards help further the flexibility residents have, MacBeth said. In a similar fashion to a meal plan college students might use, the POS cards utilize a credit card-like payment system that allows residents to choose how much they want to spend on a monthly basis.
On the healthcare side, LCS sees a lot of the EHR systems being implemented, along with personal emergency response and telemedicine devices.
Personalization and flexibility are key when it comes to transportation not only at a CCRC, but any senior living community, according to LCS survey respondents.
“We find that people are looking for more personal transport options rather than having one bus that goes on medical visits,” said MacBeth. “It’s about personalizing that and creating flexibility and options.”
From a repositioning perspective, on-campus parking is another essential component and one that should be strategically planned during the development phase, MacBeth said, so as not to develop over an existing lot that may cause parking shortages down the road.
“Challenge your design teams to allow for not only sufficient parking, but convenience as well,” he said.
Part of this convenience factor can be building parking lots near entryways or underground parking, if there is the price elasticity to build these types of structures, MacBeth added.
5. Health services
The health services components of a CCRC, or any senior living community for that matter, provide the care critical to an individual’s quality of life, independence and privacy, LCS notes.
“Household” models of care embody all three of these aspects and are a major trend LCS has seen among other providers taking on repositioning projects.
Also called “greenhouse” models, these types of households are smaller on-campus dwellings that house anywhere between 15-18 beds within a “home-like” setting. Each household has a dedicated nursing staff that cares for the residents under each roof, its own dining rooms and activity areas solely for the residents living within that building.
On-site health centers and areas that provide larger spaces for therapy are also catching on
“The focus is on staying well, but residents also want to maximize their quality of life when they’re at the health center,” he said.
Whether the repositioning is for a CCRC or building any new community, providers of all shapes and sizes will have to consider these top-5 if they want to evolve their communities to a changing consumer.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re building a new community or repositioning an existing one, these are areas that need to be addressed in order to appeal to both the residents of today and the future,” said MacBeth.
Written by Jason Oliva