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The Big Buzz of Creating Community -- Except That . . .

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By Steve Moran

I am writing this while at the Environments For Aging Conference in Savannah. A recurring theme of this conference is that achieving success is tightly coupled with success for residents and owners. This is a sentiment that really resonates with me.

Except that . . .

My friend Ryan Frederick was a keynote speaker at this conference. He talked passionately about this subject and reminded the audience that when senior living got its foothold more than 100 years ago, most communities were faith-based, which -- particularly at that time -- meant the residents had a lot in common.

Today

Today, we build senior living communities that are more or less the same. They mostly have only two differentiators: 1) where they are located and 2) what residents and their families can afford to pay.

Oh, and one more thing . . . 

The residents are all old people.

Big Problems

This is a big problem due to the fact that being old does not say very much about who you want to hang out with. If I am an old atheist, I am probably not very excited about hanging out with an old fundamentalist Christian. If I am an activist Democrat, I am probably not very likely to find a bond with a bunch of right-wing conservatives.

I know one senior living resident who hates where she lives, in large part because she was forced into senior living by her family. Her number one complaint is that she hates hanging out with old people. I know several other seniors who are in the right age and income demographics to live in a senior living community, yet they won’t move to a senior living community for the same reason.

They don’t want to spend their days hanging out with a bunch of old people.

I Can Only "Imagine"

The chorus for the John Lennon song goes like this:

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

It is a wonderful sentiment, it just is not how the world is or will ever be. Somehow we have to figure out how to better attract and nurture communities of residents who have similar interests and passions. There are a few examples of this -- such as there continue to be many very vibrate faith-based senior living communities -- and there is also the Arts Community for Seniors in Long Beach.  

Maybe someday there will even be a senior living community for old senior living professionals . . . I am thinking that is the community I would want to move in to

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