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95% Occupancy & A Waitlist of 300: The Perks of Innovative Thinking!

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By Susan Saldibar

When Steve Moran comes across senior living community operators who are doing innovative things, he likes to get them into a video conversation so they can share some of their magic with others. That’s how he got Linda Bowman, Chief Communications Officer for Western Home Communities, to sit down and talk about some of the cool things they are doing. You can watch the full video here.

First of all, they’ve been around a while! Founded in 1912, Western Home has been a Cedar Falls, Iowa, staple in senior care ever since. They branched out about 25 years ago to provide a full spectrum of care ranging from at-home services to IL/AL and skilled nursing. Today they have 2 major campuses in Cedar Falls with multiple communities serving approximately 1,050 residents.

Want to bring in more of the local community? Put in an events center with three restaurants!

What Steve found really cool is what Western Home is doing with their new Jorgensen Plaza for Wellbeing, which opened last year. First, the configuration is unique. There are two wings; one independent living and the other skilled care. Joining the two in the center is the Diamond Events Center, which seats 400 people and houses events ranging from business meetings to Chamber of Commerce events to weddings. And it’s doing really well.

“It’s been a fun year,” Linda tells Steve. “Jorgensen Plaza has the feel of a hotel with lots of amenities. And it includes three public restaurants as well.” She adds. They provide all levels of dining; a casual café, a pub, and Table 1912, for a fine-dining experience. The restaurants are geared to serve both residents and the greater community. And, yes, word of their great food is filling up their tables. Linda recently ran into a neighbor at one of the restaurants who works nearby and was told she should try it out. The formula appears to be working.

So, the question Steve ask is: why aren’t more communities adopting this kind of model? Operators talk about bringing more of the greater community through their doors, yet continue to build in the outskirts of town, turning senior living communities into virtual islands with little to no natural path to interact with the public. The Western Home model located squarely within Cedar Falls makes the act of engaging with the greater community much more organic, and therefore much easier.

Good for the residents, good for the community, and even good for the bottom line.

Steve was also impressed with Western Home’s revenue model, noting that by creating restaurants for both residents and the public they are basically creating a revenue stream, brought in by the public, to pay for the outreach they are doing (not to mention helping pay for food services teams.

“That’s exactly what our CEO says,” Linda tells Steve. “If we’re going to build this, let’s let the community enjoy it and let the revenue help pay for it as well.”

As for occupancy, they average about 95%, according to Linda. And, yes, there is a waiting list across communities of about 300. Kudos to the folks at Western Home Communities. When you do things right, good things happen. And everybody wins.

Watch the full video below:

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