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The Scariest Moment in Senior Living

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By Steve Moran

I am about halfway through Chip Conley's Book “Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow” and in one of the chapters, he talks about how customers baselines have changed over the years with expectations growing. This led me to think very specifically about what kind of experience we create in senior living and more specifically what kind of a first impression we make.

My Very Favorite Senior Living Communities

I have been in thousands of senior living communities and skilled nursing facilities. There may be a few people who have been more senior living communities, but I’ll bet not many. I have four favorites that jump to the top of my list.

  1. Mirabella in Portland, Oregon

  2. Bayside Park, a Watermark Community in Emeryville, next to Berkeley, California

  3. Willow Valley in Pennsylvania

  4. All Seasons in Orangevale, California

While I could give specific reasons why I like each of them you would find those reasons fall short of being compelling or even remarkably different than what you might say about other, not so spectacularly appealing, communities.  

At the end of the day, it is this completely fluffy thing. They just feel good from the moment you walk through the front door.

The Scariest Moment of Any Senior Living Visit

I am thinking about this and come to realize that mostly, the first impression visit of any senior living community is not very good . . . the same is true with most hotels, by the way. As I continued to think about it, I realized it is actually worse than that.

And I am talking about me, who visits many dozens of communities each year. And in many cases, I am visiting as an invited guest. And yet those first moments are scary, anxiety-ridden experiences . . .

  1. Will I be able to find a parking spot?

  2. Or -- even before that -- if it is a Life Plan Community (CCRC), will I be able to get past the front gate and how much hassle will I have to go through to get through the front gate?

  3. Will I be able to figure out where I need to go?

  4. Will there be someone at the front desk?

  5. Will I have to wait in line?

  6. Will the front desk person be friendly?

  7. Will I have to wait? How long will I have to wait?

  8. What will it be like while I wait?

Now maybe I am just totally neurotic and no one else has these feelings but I bet I am not that uncommon. And at the end, too often I discover that at least some of my anxieties are well founded. Though mostly the experiences are just very ordinary.

Now imagine you have never been to a senior living community or just a few, and you are visiting thinking this might be my next home, or this could be mom’s next home.

This is scary stuff. It is also a fantastic opportunity to blow the socks off every visitor . . . though only rarely does that happen.

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