How Vi Is Going Bigger on Memory Care With New Tech, Staffing Efforts

Life plan community operator Vi has not necessarily been known for memory care services alone, but a new effort to stand out from the competition may be changing that.

The Chicago-based senior living operator has always offered upscale memory care services to residents through its full-continuum care model, and there are no current plans to add additional such units at the company’ 10 life plan communities. Instead, Vi is looking to achieve its goals by going bigger on branding and marketing for memory care.

The aim of boosting memory care visibility is twofold, according to Vi Assistant Vice President of Living Well Tony Galvan: To make residents living at Vi communities more aware of the company’s specialized memory care services, and to bring in more private-pay memory care residents from the outside similar to what the company already does for short-term rehab and skilled nursing.


“We feel that we have really good memory care engagement and care, and Vi has an opportunity to roll that up in packaging and branding in a way that allows our communities to tell that story more effectively,” Galvan told Senior Housing News.

The company’s leaders are focusing on four operational “pillars” — technology, care, engagement and staffing — to help inform the kind of stories it tells and how the effort is positioned and branded. And as they are working with sales and marketing teams on campaigns and logos, they are also preparing the Vi team in the field to put action behind those words and images.

“We want to be able to talk the talk, but we want to be able to walk the walk, as well,” Galvan said.”


Standing out in memory care

In general, memory care operators in 2023 are positioning themselves for a potentially years-long period of growth and high demand for the needs-based product type. Marketing is sure to be a cornerstone of their efforts to attract new residents.

But memory care can be a hard-to-describe service in senior living, and prospective residents and their families aren’t always easily able to discern quality prior to move-in. That can leave life plan community operators at a disadvantage due to their tendency to market long-term safety and security over specialization of services.

“There is a disconnect sometimes — ‘You’re a CCRC, do you even offer this?’” Galvan said.

Vi has indeed earned a reputation for luxury care over the years, not necessarily for memory care specifically. But Galvan believes that “it behooves us to make sure that we are able to stand out.” That process starts with the four pillars.

Regarding technology, Galvan said Vi is working to incorporate into its memory care offerings technology including virtual reality. In fact, Vi has already launched VR offerings at some of its communities, and thanks to completed 90-day pilot programs, has data showing “statistically significant improvements” in health and wellness among residents.

The company also is going bigger on its tech concierge for residents concept, including by piloting it as a new full-time role at communities where resident demand would allow for it. At other communities, Vi is additionally looking to give extra tech concierge responsibilities to employees who are more tech savvy and boost their pay accordingly.

Vi also is focused on boosting person-centered operations so as not to make both care and engagement for memory care residents too “cookie-cutter,” he added.

While not memory care specific, Vi is already making strides to give communities more freedom to decide how they interpret and execute on the company’s annual “themes,” such as “living well” in 2023.

For example, Vi’s community in the northern Miami area has interpreted that theme to mean positivity through the finer arts; while the company’s communities in Scottsdale, Arizona, prioritized lifelong learning.

“Something we’ve been really honing is having a more universal approach and then allowing for communities to create some sub-themes that resonate more with their respective resident base,” Galvan said.

Vi also is investing in turnkey programs and giving community teams more tools to advance evidence-based programming for residents.

Senior living operations run through the efforts of workers, which is why Vi is “level-setting” training and certification for staff, including those who work in memory care.

In May, Vi began presenting its plans and pillars to community leaders, and Galvan said the goal is to bring the company’s communities up to speed on the effort over the coming year and a half.

“We’re going to work with communities and establish some priorities … and over time hammer away at sub-components of some of these pillars,” Galvan said. “That way, as we get some of the collateral, packaging, and some of the messaging completed as well, we can feel good about how it looks and feels and how it’s branded.”

Although the company has no current plans to add to the number of memory care units at its life plan communities, Galvan said it will be ready should that be an eventual outcome.

“This future-proofs us in a way should we ever want to do that,” Galvan said. “Whether it’s in an existing life plan community or another sort of product type, we feel like we could really just plug and play this.”

‘Connecting the dots’ on staffing

Earlier this year, Vi President Gary Smith noted the company had shot past an average community occupancy of 90%. As of the mid-point of 2023, those trends are still on an upward trajectory both for Vi and for the wider industry.

Meanwhile, Vi is “spending more than ever” on its portfolio of 10 life plan communities, including $65 million to update community units and common spaces. In general, Galvan said he has noticed a “collective exhale” this year as the senior living industry continues to recover and evolve from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Still, it’s no secret that staffing remains an area of pain for many senior living operators in 2023, both in terms of hiring and turnover and in expenses. Both are still challenges for Vi, according to Galvan.

Like other companies, Vi is seeing more challenges with hiring certain roles, including in dining, housekeeping and frontline care.

But the bottom line is that Vi’s efforts in memory care marketing could also help with hiring new workers and retaining existing ones, Galvan said.

“You might have a great food and beverage program, you might have a great housekeeping maintenance program — how can you connect the dots with where you’re excelling and allow that to influence your recruitment and retention strategies?” Galvan said. “That’s the gist.”