‘Big Potential’ for Senior Living Operators to Improve Lead Time, Unit Turnover 

Senior living operators must speed up lead times and manage resident turnover more swiftly to keep pace with the changing sales cycle amid rising acuity and rising demand. The good news is, they have plenty of opportunities to do so.

From engaging prospects on community waiting lists more thoroughly to changing technology systems to support staff, operators have taken different approaches to reach the same goal: Reducing the time it takes for a prospect to move into a community.

“There’s a big potential to help be the provider of choice and really shorten the sales cycle to make the decision easier for families,” said Trilogy Health Services Chief Growth Officer Staci Woods during a panel at the SHN Sales and Marketing summit in Tampa, Florida.

Merz Photography on behalf of SHN and WTWH Media

There’s no single solution to speeding up the pace of move-ins, but operators must get creative to improve the cadence as demand for senior living remains elevated in the post-2020 market.

Goodwin Living, Trilogy Health Services and Ascent Living Communities have had recent success in improving the pace of move-ins, but the operators agree that tough challenges remain to engage with prospects sooner, while juggling higher acuity of residents and also supporting staff along the way.

Succeeding on lead time with emphasis on engagement, technology

Operators have changed how they interact with new residents, along with speeding up the time it takes for units to be renovated amid quicker resident turnover.


The leaders of Alexandria, Virginia-based operator Goodwin Living were tasked by CEO Rob Liebriech to reduce the amount of time between reservation to contract from 90 to 100 days to less than 60 days in order to keep pace. Since then, Goodwin has hit a “sweet spot” between 45 and 55 days average between a contract signing and move-in, according to Goodwin Living Senior Living Product & Marketing Manager Meg Tinklepaugh.

That comes as Goodwin Living acquired and turned around a rental community in 2021 to its senior living portfolio alongside its two traditional life plan communities. To reduce the time from contract signing to move-in, Tinklepaugh said Goodwin living retooled how the sales staff interacted with waitlist members.

“We worked closely with a variety of outside partners, mostly downsizing, move management and trusted realtor referrals to provide those resources,” Tinklepaugh said.

Louisville, Kentucky-based Trilogy Health Services first focused on technology to improve move-in and lead times, digitizing aspects of the process to make it easier for families to access the needed documentation to get a loved one into a community. That led to “a ton of efficiency and in the sales time,” said Staci Woods, who serves as the chief growth officer for Trilogy.

Trilogy is in the midst of reviewing potential concierge services similar to how online concierges serve as virtual assistants to hotel guests by allowing communication via a chat function.

“The next frontier for us when it comes to connecting is being available across those channels for people who are considering the move,” Woods said during the panel. “There’s real power in responding to what people are used to in other lines of business and they’re making this decision.”

Trilogy is also looking into designating a “space planner” for designated markets that work with prospects and families to offer interior design touches and to facilitate the move of heirloom furniture.

Typically, move ins and transition of residents is shorter in memory care and assisted living settings. That’s been no different for Colorado-based operator Ascent with the pace of memory care resident turnover is “smoking hot” currently, according to Area Director of Sales and Marketing Gary Stephens. In contrast, Stephens said the sales cycle and pace for independent living is “much, much longer.”

Merz Photography on behalf of SHN and WTWH Media

“We have to create that level of urgency and continually be in contact inviting [prospects] to events,” Stephens said. “We’ve got a number of challenges that we need to meet.”

Improving length of stay to reduce lead times

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, senior living operators have needed to show their value proposition in greater detail as people held off moving into communities longer. That coincides with prospects demanding greater choice and more highly-amenitized communities with an emphasis on wellness, lifestyle and independence.

Ascent recently launched a new assisted living program known as “Bridge to Belonging” for those with cognitive impairments that puts a high staff to resident ratio with 10 total participants at a time. 

“It’s helping us maintain our length of stay in assisted living where they don’t need to go to memory care quite yet and hopefully don’t have to,” Stephens said. “We’re hoping this program is going to enhance our ability to have folks stay healthier, longer and not have that advanced need.”

Internally, Goodwin Living focused on cross-communication between departments to speed up the time it took a resident to move into a recently-vacated unit, from renovations to final move.

“When an apartment vacates we’re also getting a reservation deposit agreement and the move-in coordinator is meeting with the prospect and they’re moving in in 60 days or less so it’s truly a team effort and the process requires constant communication,” Tinklepaugh said.

Between 2022 and 2023, Woods said Trilogy reduced the time prospects spent in the sales cycle by 15% led by training staff in connecting with prospects during the crucial discovery phase. Another way the company improved its lead time was through offering tours at a half-hour notice for walk-ins rather than prospects needing to schedule a tour in advance.

“Being ready at that moment has been a big game-changer for us,” Woods said. Since 2023, length of stay at Trilogy communities has improved 3%, Woods added. But for other operators, length of stay continues to be a nagging issue, especially among assisted living and memory care communities.

Recently, Ascent realized one of its best months in regard to conversions for February, Stephens said, which is a credit to the company’s online presence, along with pairing sales and clinical teams more closely together to accelerate the pace at which a new resident assessment happens.

After realizing that prospects funneled to Ascent by paid-referral third-parties, Stephens said the company now enters into universal agreements to ensure staggered commission payouts if a resident does not stay within a certain level of care over a 90 day period.

Shortened length of stay is having dramatic changes on the move-in process, Stephens said, which adds to a community’s lost revenue days which led to Ascent building out its environmental services team to handle minor renovations like new carpet or appliances to reduce vacant unit times that results in move-ins by 24 to 48 hours, he said.

Having recently reported 95% occupancy at its newly-acquired rental property, up from 60% at acquisition three years ago, Tinklepaugh said the success came from recruiting and implementing an experienced sales staff to highlight the community’s benefits to prospects.

“The key to that success was really our sales manager and the team that she’s cultivated under the direction of our corporate director of sales,” she added.

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