Older Americans considering the move into senior living are often faced with both emotional and perceived financial hurdles, which can delay a move or cancel it all together.
As providers try new ways to optimize lead generation opportunities, some providers are addressing prospects’ need for supports that go beyond initial outreach and engagement through partnerships with third-parties.
The sales process doesn’t end with the contract, but once the furniture, clothing and final touches are placed in the new unit. And sometimes, knowing those elements will be taken care of can help to secure the deal with a prospect otherwise on the fence.
Nonprofit senior living provider be.group created a three-pronged program for those considering moving into senior housing that offers assistance regarding financial planning, real estate and the move itself with help from third-party partners.
The be.free Moving Assistance Program includes partnerships with Elderlife Financial Services, a senior living and care financial company; Moving Station, a relocation service that specializes in helping older adults sell their current homes; and Gentle Transitions, a company that helps with the final stage of the moving process.
Prospects can choose to participate in one, all or none of those services at little or no cost to them. be.group pays a fee to Elderlife Financial Services to make their services available to prospects for free, pays Moving Station if a Moving Station real estate agent executes a successful sale of the home, and funds up to a certain amount of fees associated with Gentle Transitions, which is determined on a case by case basis.
In 2014, about 55% of be.group’s sales involved use of Gentle Transitions to support the move process, 10% used Elderlife Financial in evaluating their funding options, and 10% used Moving Station to help with their home sale process. be.group has been working with Gentle Transitions since the 1990s.
The Glendale, Calif.-based senior living provider created the be.free program about three years ago, which is when be.group began working with third-party financial and real estate companies in a more strategic manner.
One of the biggest obstacles to securing a move-in is prospects’ concern that they are making a decision in their best interest, says Dan Hutson, vice president of marketing and communications for be.group
“People are uncomfortable with the unknowns,” he says. “As you answer more questions, people become more comfortable. We remove a lot of the anxiety through consumer education. When they understand their options, then they are going to be comfortable and happy when moving in.”
Giving prospects the tools to evaluate their finances, get the best value for their home when they sell and helping with packing, unpacking and space planning are all important to ensuring the prospect feels confident about their decision to enter senior living.
“Control is a big issue in all of this,” Hutson says. “They are making this major life change, and you want them to feel like it’s their decision, and they’re in control of the steps in making that decision.”
Many prospects have lived in their homes for 40 years or longer, making the decision to move not only a matter of finances, but one of emotion as well.
“Selling your home is an emotional experience,” he says, noting that prospects might also be facing the uncertainty of no longer being able to live independently. “Frequently this is the home where they raised their kids and celebrated holidays. It helps to have a professional third-party who can sit down with them and walk them through the pros and cons [of moving into senior housing].”
Prospects are also often concerned that moving into senior living means they will have to give up a large portion of their belongings, says Greg Gunderson, owner Gentle Transitions, adding that often they are relieved to learn that they can move with much more than they thought.
“When seniors move they are often going to a smaller place, so they need to make a decision about every item in the house — from garden tools in the garage to toiletries under the sink,” he says. “It can be more overwhelming than selling the house.”
Gentle Transitions assists with floor planning for the soon-to-be resident’s new home by measuring the new place and creating a floor plan layout with the client using a magnetic board. The Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based company helps with downsizing by assisting the client with sorting through cabinets, closets, cupboards and more.
“Most have health issues and don’t have family nearby, which makes moving into a retirement community more challenging,” Gunderson says. “People who use a relocation service can start to live when they move-in.”
Working with third-party professionals who understand the senior living industry is key to the success of the be.free program, Hutson says.
“A lot of financial planners don’t have an understanding of the senior housing product,” he says, adding that some people might assume senior living is only for the affluent. “Our three-tier program helps prospects discern if senior living is right for them.”
Written by Cassandra Dowell