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A Different Kind of Activity Program

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To improve resident quality of life, increase length of stay and improve occupancy you need to radically restructure your activity department.  

In the first part of this series,  “Let Us Entertain You to Death”  I took a shot at how activities programs operate today in senior housing communities.  I was only a little surprised that everyone who commented on the first article agreed with my assessment. In this second part of this two part series I am proposing a radical shift in how the activities program fits into a senior housing community. Hierarchy In virtually every community, the activities director reports to either the executive director or the person in charge of care coordination.  This makes no sense to me.  In my theoretical, well-functioning community the activity director would report to the marketing director.  Here is why:

  • The marketing director, more than anyone else is the community, is in touch with what makes prospective residents get up in the morning.  They understand that a big part of why a resident chooses to move into (or not move into) a community has to do with what day-to-day life looks like.
  • The marketing director is already involved in planning several major events each year in the community.  When the activities department program does not report to the marketing director, those activities become less important than the routine activities and this should not be.
  • Not a single activity should be done without specifically asking the question:  What impact does this activity have on marketing?  If the answer is not a positive impact it should not be done.  This will never happen unless the activity director reports to the marketing director.

The Activity Director

Over the last twenty or so years most of the newly developed senior housing communities have been targeted at the upper middle and upper income marketplace.  It makes a lot of sense because ihat is where the profit margins are.   So far, so good.  The building gets near opening and management starts looking for an activities director.  What are the criteria? A high school education and a certificate or perhaps a two year degree.

It makes no sense to me.

If I am marketing my community to people who, for the most part, have at least a bachelor's degree and many will have masters level or higher degree, it makes no sense that someone with limited education is going to be well equipped to create a meaningful, fulfilling activities program for those well educated residents.  This does mean that you will have to pay higher wages and yet we know for sure that low cost employees can be some of the most expensive employees in the whole world. There has been a movement to change tite activity director’s title to something that sounds perhaps more hotel or cruise ship like which is fine, but does not represent a real change. The End Game Here is why this is so important.  We need to shift the paradigm.  We need to create a senior housing culture that really is better than living at home in isolation.  We have not yet done a very good job of accomplishing this.  I believe that this is a significant reason why only 10 percent of the potential senior housing market is choosing to live in a senior community. Steve Moran If you like this story it would be a great honor to me if you would subscribe to our email list.


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