Retirement Communities: Think of Them as College Campuses
Source: Selling to Seniors www.cdpublications.com
Steve Gurney of Reston, VA, knows a thing or two about retirement communities. At age 43, he has lived in two of them this year.
As a consultant specializing in the senior market, Gurney moved into two communities in the metro Washington, D.C., area to gain perspective on what a senior is actually faced with when moving into a facility. He lived in Paul Spring Assisted Living and Retirement Community in Alexandria, VA, for one week in February. Then, in August he checked himself and his six-year-old son into the Residences of Thomas Circle, a continuing-care retirement community in downtown Washington, D.C., for another week.
Gurney tells Selling to Seniors that he has gained tremendous insight into what it takes to market senior communities to prospective residents.
Introduce Prospects to Residents
“Here is the main thing that I have all of my clients visualize when marketing their communities, from active adult to nursing homes. I tell them to imagine they are not marketing senior housing anymore, but they are marketing a university or college instead. Many of my clients have recently had to go through this firsthand with their children. I remind them that kids looking for a college couldn’t care less about crown molding or the square footage of their dorm room. They are focused on one thing when they visit a college: the other students. It may seem like an irrational way to make an expensive decision, but I urge my clients to try to replicate this process and get their prospects into an ‘irrational’ state of mind.”
Gurney says that involves learning everything possible about prospective residents — who they are, what they did in their career, where they lived, hobbies they have had in the past and still have, and clubs and churches they belong to. Then find residents with similar backgrounds and interests, and introduce them to one another.
“This enables the prospect who is refusing to move because she feels she can get more for her house when the real estate market rebounds to think ‘irrationally’ about the decision. Now that she has met two other ladies who share her love of collecting Beanie Babies, how can she go another day without living in the community?”
Location and Convenience Big Factors
Another revelation Gurney had during his stays was that many people move into senior living because they cannot or do not want to drive. Facilities in the suburbs isolate them and disconnect them from their sense of purpose — and from grocery stores and other amenities. So, when planning his second project, he decided on a facility in an urban, pedestrian-friendly environment and discovered that residents had many more lifestyle options available to them in that setting.
Gurney, author of the blog “Everyone Is Aging,” has been regarded as an elder-care expert since he published the Guide to Retirement Living SourceBook 20 years ago while his grandfather was living in a retirement home. Since then, he has regularly given talks on the subject, and he estimates that he has visited more than 500 senior living communities to assist them in overcoming various challenges.