While many aspects of senior living have made recent strides, from dining services to interior design, one relative newcomer is targeting a specific aspect of senior living that many communities share, but often is not the first target for new resources: the salon.
Launched in 2008 through a partnership between two co-founders — John Polatz, who brought a background in business, and the other, Scott Fisher, who brought experience in hair styling — the company is aiming to renovate outdated salons and manage them on a national basis. Specifically, the concept includes a passion for the work of famed hair figure Vidal Sasoon, and how it can be brought it to the aging population through senior housing establishments.
“I thought it was a crazy idea, but thought I’d see if I could help,” recalls co-founder John Polatz, who brought his business sense to the operation that quickly became Salon PS.
Reinventing the Model
Six years later, the company manages salons in more than 400 communities, spanning 23 states and some of the industry’s largest operators from high-end continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) to full-service memory care communities, from non-profits to for-profit businesses.
There are regional and local providers in the space, but prior to its entry into the market, Salon PS’s founder says, salons were operated largely on a community-by-community basis, and fell into a business that is dominated by location.
“Salons are zip code-based, and there was no higher quality provider to push the industry any differently,” Polatz says.
When contracting with a new community, Salon PS takes an individual approach to the existing salon and identifies possible improvements and upgrades. Some of those changes cater specifically to the younger residents who are moving in to senior living communities today, and others cater to a higher-acuity, needs-based population. The company also trains all of its stylists and works to ensure they are a right fit for work with the senior population. That includes both a screening during the interview process, as well as third-party dementia care training contracted through a third-party organization.
The company also works with a supplier that creates equipment that is geared toward people who are more inclined than the average to have difficulties with mobility, or arthritis, or who may be confined to a wheelchair. Salon PS typically invests $2,000 to $10,000 depending on the level of renovation needed.
And the model looks to be gaining traction among providers in the market: The company operated 67 salons across the senior living industry in 2010; a number that rose to 200 in 2012 and has since doubled to 400 this year.
Aside from working to promote amenities, Salon PS has also introduced some of its own innovations to make the salon experience more engaging for senior living residents as well as their families.
About a year ago, that involved launching a magazine geared specifically toward the aging population that includes distribution through the salons, where patrons are likely to pick up something to read while they receive their salon services.
“Being in a salon culture, we went a step further to introduce something to make people even more interested,” Polatz says. “A lot of material out there talks to seniors like they are children and we paid attention to the press—it’s always negative. It’s a disservice to the residents today as well as a de-motivator for those who live at home, to move in.”
In addition to outreach through the magazine, PS Lifestyle Magazine, which now counts five issues to date and is gaining interest among independent subscribers in addition to the salon distribution, Salon PS has also implemented a platform to help get family members involved.
Individuals — regardless of their location — can access an online platform that allows them to purchase a gift certificate for a salon treatment at any Salon PS salon. The gift certificate is delivered to the resident with an optional photo of the sender and a personal message.
“If you’re a family member living 400 miles away, there’s very little you can do unless you fly to the building,” Polatz says. “Seeing how nationalized the market was, we developed this idea where families can log in, select services, create a message, upload photos, and then we print it and give it to the resident and email the family to let them know. It’s really important for families who don’t have the ability to communicate to have a tool to help them do this through the salon.”
Ultimately, Salon PS aims to make the salon experience like dining, or any other amenity outside of health care that improves the experience of residents.
“What we are trying to do is promote amenities,” Polatz says. “There’s another whole aspect to the 22 hours a day when a resident is not in health care. It can be energetic.”
Written by Elizabeth Ecker