Among senior communities today, competition is stiff to provide satisfaction to residents and their families while grappling with dwindling budgets and rising costs. Baby Boomers have more discriminating tastes and a wider variety of experiences than generations before them. They are actively looking for thoughtful, engaged communities when considering retirement and care options for themselves and their parents. Here are five of the most effective and unique ways to build resident satisfaction into senior living.
Design space for community
In shared spaces, community can flourish or languish based on organization and design. Architecture and urban design expert Robert Koch encourages senior living providers to think in terms of neighborhoods when planning amenities and daily task flow.
Koch says that “neighborhood common areas,” even transient ones like hallways and elevator lobbies, “can emerge when [spaces] are configured to serve a limited number of dwellings and designed with natural lighting and comfortable seating.”
Koch also maintains that daily functions like laundry and meals can be enriched by incorporating them into social venues. With attention to design, amenities can also “transform a community from one in which residents are passive observers to one in which they are active participants.”
Creating thoughtful spaces for activity and engagement in turns leads to more opportunities for resident interaction and higher levels of satisfaction.
Incorporate cutting-edge technology
More seniors today are technology-friendly, and more technology exists today that is made for aging bodies and brains. For several years now, ambient assisted living tools have been helping aging adults live more independently. Ambient technology is embedded in the environment and functions without much input from the user, so it can collect data and notice deviations that will alert families and caregivers of changes in daily movements or routines.
Another proactive technology, video games have been shown to have positive, lasting effects on aging brains. Many Baby Boomers have caught the video game bug, spurring research and innovations in brain-friendly gaming technology. There are now links between “playing a complex strategy game like Rise of Nations and improved memory and cognitive skills,” writes Jennifer Soong in WebMD.
Even technologies now considered more basic, like good internet service and adaptive applications, help aging residents stay close to friends and family and active online. This provides increased feelings of connectedness and personal agency.
Embrace genuine hospitality
We’ve seen in the area of dining how senior living enterprises increasingly take their cues from the food and beverage and hospitality industries. PJ Dempsy, writing for McKnights, points out that “resident and prospects’ expectations of an upscale senior living facility. . . are greatly influenced by their prior experiences in hotels, restaurants, country clubs, and the resort and cruise industry.”
Dempsey also notices that “assisted living amenities increasingly include beauty salons, spas, indoor swimming pools, and beautifully appointed dining rooms with crisp table linens,” and that “these standards become choice influencers in resident and prospects’ senior living facility preferences.”
For seniors, having access to amenities they are used to fosters the sense of being truly cared for and catered to during a time when they may otherwise feel shuffled around or downsized out of environments they have comfortably inhabited for decades.
Senior living communities that make use of resident surveys and regular, solicited feedback are also winning the satisfaction game. The Abbey at Westminster Plaza in Houston gathers an extensive social history, along with diet and wellness information, before residents even move in.
Barbara McMahan-Cage, marketing director for The Abbey, says this practice allows them “to satisfy [residents] with activities, socialization, diet, and exercise. Should there be a concern, the staff – including reception, concierge, resident services, activities, food services, wellness, marketing, and administration – can share in the solution.” Other communities hold regular listening groups and regularly seek out resident questions through suggestion boxes and in face-to-face and town-hall-style meetings.
Build employee engagement
Extensive, two-way communication between residents and staff also contributes positively to employee engagement. The more information staff have, and the more they share it with one another, the more they are collectively empowered to act on residents’ behalf to make their experience of communal living the best it can be.
A recent Gallup study confirms that employee engagement continues to be a top driver of company success. In the senior living industry, that engagement takes the form of a friendly and knowledgeable staff who share a sense of purpose and mission in their work. In an industry challenged by dropping retention rates, senior living communities simply can’t afford to allow detachment to become the status quo.
Paying attention to professional development at all levels and putting necessary information into the hands of employees builds a solid network of trust in a community that will feed the satisfaction loop between residents and staff.