Should a senior living community spend money on improving their real estate or on programs and activities?

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I raised a question recently at the presentation to a group of activity directors, “If the owner of a senior living community had a choice to spend $1 million on improving the real estate or “invest” the same amount of money on programming to improve the lifestyle and culture of the community – which would be better?” Obviously the group of activity directors was somewhat dumbstruck by a hypothetical question like that; you would be amazed at how slim many of their budgets are in nursing centers and senior living communities.

After a few statements like “it would never happen”, we had a great discussion on how much better an investment would be for the residents, staff and families in a community.

Since then I have posed the same question to several groups that have included management and marketing staff at a variety of senior living communities. I have received a few comments that the consumer who is shopping for these settings would prefer real estate improvements like granite countertops, updated furniture or an elegant lobby over programming at the point of the initial transaction.

Do you think this is accurate? If so, is it possible to better market the programming and culture of a community to the point that operators might consider investing more in this area?

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