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If Every Senior Community Did This One Thing, Occupancy Would Never Be a Problem

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By Steve Moran

We have this huge architectural problem in Senior Living and it is actually an architectural problem that is and was not created by architects, but rather it results from a programming/marketing/conceptual problem.

Why We Build What We Build

We build what we build because we think it will do two or three things:

  1. Serve the needs of residents

  2. Impress prospective residents and their family to the point where they will choose senior living over other options and choose our senior living rather than a different senior living

  3. And, to some degree, make design decisions to create efficiencies that will make operating costs manageable

These are all good and reasonable goals, but consider this:  


Not An Ordinary Story

Every week here at Senior Housing Forum, we get press releases and other pitches for stories, most of which are not a fit for us. But once in a while, we get a story that just screams to be told. This is one of those. It is the kind of story, the kind of idea that you can use to serve residents better, to serve your teams better, and to make more money.

This is fundamentally an article about thinking about what you do differently.

The Town Square

I recently interviewed Joe Carella, the executive director of the Scandinavian Living Center in Newton, Massachusetts, a 40-unit assisted living community. They have taken a very unique approach to senior living that they call community-centered living.

What It’s Not

Most senior living organizations are resident-centered or team centered, but even with team-centered organizations the primary focus is on meeting and exceeding the needs of residents. Community-centered living is not that.

What It Is

Community-centered living is based on this improbable idea that the goal of the senior living community should be to do a deep dive into the needs of the community and then figure out how to be an important part of the solution.   

The big idea is that with this approach the Scandinavian Living Center, any senior living community, your community can be a significant community hub. To accomplish this, their community is 50% common area and most of that area is made available to the broad surrounding area for clubs, receptions, and all kinds of gatherings. In any given month they will have an astonishing 2,000 visitors and this does not include a resident family member or other resident visitors.

What It Does

The most important thing it does is ensure that residents remain completely engaged with and integrated into the broader community. It also means that when community members seek out senior living, they have a place they know and are already comfortable.

A Couple of Details

Because it seems too good to be true, a couple more things you might be interested in:

  • They do charge rent for the space, so it is not a money sink

  • Their occupancy is consistently above 95% 

  • They are located in a high population area and not a little town where this would seem more logical

There are two videos below, the first is a three-and-a-half minute sampling of our interview. The second is the full interview, which, I caution, has some sound quality issues.



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