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We hear over and over again about the extreme staffing shortages in senior living, and particularly about the lack of interest that younger people have in working in this industry.

But one twenty-something is bucking the trend. Alex Pavone, who graduated from Penn State University with a degree in health policy administration, said, “For many people, especially younger adults, senior living isn’t an appealing field. But for me, the industry is really intriguing. With the older population expanding, it poses a lot of opportunities for a long-term career.”

Alex’s interest in senior living started at a young age. “Volunteering at a community in high school, a college course in long-term care management, shadowing opportunities, as well as close relationships with my grandmothers,” she said. “These are a few of the things that sparked my interest in the industry.”

Alex’s recent visit to the 2023 LeadingAge Annual Meeting in Chicago made her interest even stronger. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to see what kind of resources are available to the industry,” she said. “The most fascinating thing was seeing the innovative products vendors have brought forward to serve these communities.”

Alex particularly loved the technology offerings. “I was especially interested by technology-based viewing of communities that allows you to ‘walk’ through the community without having to be there in person. This is a great resource for adult children as well as potential residents. Another technology I was excited about was robot restaurant servers.”

Currently working as an account manager and analyst, Alex has a strong work ethic, which runs in the family. Alex has seen her father, Michael Pavone, work to expand his business into many areas, including starting Varsity in 1992 to address the needs of the aging Baby Boomer population.

When asked what she has learned from her father over the years, Alex did not hesitate to share these three pieces of advice:

  1. Never give up.
  2. Hard work pays off.
  3. When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.

It’s not hard to see that wherever her career takes her (hopefully to senior living), Alex is sure not to work a day in her life.

 

Over 350 sales and marketing professionals from senior living organizations of all sizes across the U.S. participated in the 2023 Senior Care Marketing & Sales Summit (SMASH) in Henderson, Nevada. Two of Varsity’s roundtable participants attended the sold-out conference. In this post, Mark Hamby, Director of Resident and Family Services at Parkway Village, and Christine Hall, Senior Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Franke Tobey Jones, share with us 11 of the hottest trends that they heard about at SMASH. As you’ll see below, there have been a lot of new changes in the space since we posted about the top 10 senior living market trends during the pandemic.

  1. Occupancy has flattened out. The average occupancy across senior living in 2023 was 80%. 20% of communities are under 60% occupied, so more communities are discounting this year.
  2. AI is transforming the customer journey. Within five years, every webpage and follow-up email will be completely different for each prospect, with copy completely tailored to their interests.
  3. Prospects are aging. 20% of prospects and 25% of new residents are 90+ years old.
  4. Digital marketing is more important than ever. For all communities, 40% to 60% of leads are coming in digitally. One important feature that prospects want to see on websites is accurate, transparent pricing. Also, communities need to protect themselves from lawsuits by including HIPAA-compliant copy that assures prospects their information will not be sold.
  5. The senior living industry is underperforming. According to Forbes, senior living is the third largest industry, but is also the most underperforming. Our space is doing 9% of total business, but we should be doing closer to 19%.
  6. Adult children are shopping online at night. A huge number of adult family members are researching communities between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Communities should consider hiring a call center or using a chatbot to ensure customers can get initial information after hours.
  7. Speed to lead is critical. 70% of prospects will tour a community within seven days of initial contact, and during that time, sales teams complete about 10 touches. The first community to reach a lead is most likely to get the tour. Sales teams must reach out within 20 minutes to an hour, or the lead will go on to another community.
  8. Online reviews are crucial. 91% of people looking for senior living communities are using Google reviews —  the highest percentage of any industry (80% said if the community doesn’t have four stars or more, they won’t consider it).
  9. Value-select premium pricing is on the rise. Pricing of same-sized units is no longer identical. Consumers don’t want to pay as much for an apartment that looks out on a parking lot as one with a lake view.
  10. Fear of COVID-19 is still the biggest obstacle to move-ins. It’s important to educate prospects, letting them know that fewer than 1% of 800,000 residents have contracted COVID and that communities continue to strengthen their safety policies.
  11. Biggest selling tool: a welcoming atmosphere. Prospects put a huge emphasis on how they feel when they walk in to a community. A friendly, engaged atmosphere with smiling staff and residents is the best tool for closing sales.

Guest post by Andrew Lock, author of  Walt Disney’s Way: How to Build a Better Business Using the Magical Marketing Strategies of Walt Disney. We were fortunate to have Andrew as the guest speaker at Varsity’s 150th Sales & Marketing Roundtable.

How My Journey Began

My journey with Disney started when I was a young child. I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room and picked up a Reader’s Digest, which had an article about Walt Disney. His story really resonated with me, to the extent that I’ve studied Walt and The Walt Disney Company ever since. Throughout my life I’ve done a deep dive into understanding the practical lessons from Walt, who has been established as an incredible visionary and dreamer. For those in sales and marketing, there are so many lessons to learn from him.

Disney Today

Disney is an absolute Goliath of a business. They own 12 theme parks around the world, 40 hotels and resorts, movie studios, record companies, TV stations, cruise lines and more. Their annual revenue is $45,000,000,000.

What’s unique about Disney is that not only are they one of the most profitable companies in the world, they are one of the top five most admired companies.

“But Andrew, What Does My Business Have in Common with Disney?”

Since you are in senior living, you may be asking yourself, “What does my business have in common with a Disney theme park?” If you boil down the core aspects of running a business, you can identify a number of things that you have in common:

  • You want to stay profitable
  • You want happy clients
  • You want to see enthusiastic, engaged and loyal staff
  • You face competition and need to stand out from the crowd
  • You continually face rising costs

The key is looking at the principles of what Disney does well, and adapting those into your business.

Principle 1: Deliver a Positive and Memorable Experience

The first principle is most important and it encompasses everything. For many years, customer service was the highest priority for a business. Now we’ve moved beyond it, and experience is the biggest thing that can separate us from other businesses. Customers might not be consciously thinking that they want an experience, but subconsciously, they do.

If we wow customers with a positive and memorable experience, then they will tell their friends. That is the best form of recommendation in any space and the easiest sale you’ll ever have. Walt knew that too, which is why 97% of visitors at Disney are repeat visitors.

Example: Droid Depot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Disney decided to sell remote control droids, from the Star Wars movies, but rather than just sell boxes in a store, they created an experience. A cast member helps you choose parts for your droid, assemble it and operate it. You have fun playing with it on the showroom floor. What’s even more amazing is that, not only does a droid cost $100 plus tax, but you have to make a reservation to have the privilege of buying it. They’re selling something so enjoyable that customers forget they’re there to buy.

The lesson? Think far beyond the normal boundaries in your industry, to realize how much further you can — and should — go to create memorable experiences.

Principle 2: Premium Pricing

Many people wrongly believe that price is the most important factor in making a buying decision. A lot of salespeople have trepidation because they think that customers are concerned about price. There’s a danger in dwelling too much on price when it is not the most important factor for most people.

Disney is proud of owning the highest priced theme parks, because they know that this enables them to provide a better product. This is really the biggest advantage of charging more.

So, sell with confidence and enthusiasm that you’re delivering an enormous value. Don’t be shy that you charge more because it enables you to deliver a better product. Be proud of being a premium provider at the top of your industry.

Principle 3: Mind Your Language

The third principle is all about the words that we use with customers. Walt invented the Disney language that he trained all of his staff to use. He wanted them to remember that they are putting on a show. Employees are called cast members, customers are called guests, a group of guests is the audience, the experience is the show, and uniforms are costumes. Rather than just being clever, Walt found that this terminology made a difference. When staff thought of customers as guests rather just a transaction, they became happier and more welcoming.

We’re not going to use the exact same terminology as Disney, but how can we follow this principle?

Examples:

What most say:                                      What you should say:

“Price”                                                           “Investment”

“Problem”                                                      “Challenge”

“No problem”                                                “You’re welcome/My pleasure”

“Sign up”                                                        “Register/Join”

“Contract”                                                      “Paperwork”

“I don’t know”                                               “Let me find out for you”

The words that we choose and use in our business really do make a difference.

Principle 4: The Power of a Name

Walt encouraged cast members to use guest names as much as possible. One of the ways Disney facilitates this is by giving out badges when you first get to the park. They have pins for birthdays, first-time visitors, honeymooners, anniversaries, family reunions, etc. And they write the person’s name on the badge itself. So later that day, a cast member might come up to a child and ask them by name how their birthday is going. The child may ask how they know their name and that it’s their birthday, and the cast member will say, “Disney magic.”

Disney realized that it’s very powerful when we learn and use clients’ names as much as possible. Even if we’re not good with names, we need to make the effort, as it’s so important.

Principle 5: Pay Close Attention to Details

When we are busy, it’s so easy to overlook the details. But our clients and guests do notice. I went into a chiropractor’s office and the first thing I noticed was there were a lot of marks on the walls. When I went up to the counter, I saw a computer monitor with a thick pile of dust that hadn’t been cleaned in years, and tangled cables spilling onto the floor.

I noticed all of these things as a first-time visitor, but if we aren’t walking in our customers’ shoes, we cease to register those details. But attention to detail matters, because guests do notice. Which is why to this day, on Main Street in Disney World, they repaint the lampposts every single night. Because they’re the first things people see when they come into the park. So, to stand out from the crowd, you need to pay attention to the smallest details.

 

Beyond Walt’s creative genius, he was a master marketer and understood the psychology of how to interact with people. I hope you’ve been inspired, and see how Walt’s principles can be applied in all aspects of your business.

With the right channels and the right content, social media can be an invaluable tool for any organization, especially when combined with a targeted and strategic paid social media plan. But creating and implementing that plan isn’t always easy. For many groups, including senior living communities, social media is a challenge that marketing teams struggle to take full and proper advantage of.

That struggle can undermine your marketing efforts and leave your community without one of the most important and powerful marketing vehicles in your toolbox. The key to success is outlining a channel strategy that accomplishes your goals, using each channel appropriately to reach your target audiences, and then putting a team in place to bring those strategies to life.

Have a dedicated social media manager

The first step in any social media program? Assigning a team member to create and implement your community’s social media plan. A dedicated social media manager will not only oversee your community’s social media strategy — and adjust that strategy as needed — but will also be tasked with the day-to-day duties of content creation for each channel, the posting of content, and engagement with fans and followers on each channel (an important task typically known as “community management”).

Know your competitors

A formal or informal audit of competitor communities will yield invaluable insights that can be used in your own social media plan. What channels are your competitors on? How often are they posting? What are they posting about? The answers to those questions can be used to fine-tune your social media strategy. That audit should be conducted during the initial planning stages, but feel free to keep tabs on your competitors on a regular basis.

Choose the right channels for your community

Each channel has its own advantages. Women are more likely to use Instagram and Pinterest, while Facebook has an older user base than Instagram. LinkedIn has a higher income base. Each one has unique advantages when it comes to reaching different audiences, and knowing your audience will help you decide which channels to use to reach that audience.

Don’t spread yourself too thin

If you have a limited amount of time to spend on social media, spend it on the channels that are most effective at reaching your target audience. It’s always best to choose one or two channels and create great content for those channels, instead of spreading yourself thin by doing mediocre content for four or five channels.

 

Guest post by Van Cluck, President of L4 Lifestyles

Recently, Van Cluck, a leader in senior living for the past three decades, was a guest speaker at the Varsity Sales & Marketing Roundtable. Here are some words of advice he shared.

I have spent the last 30 years, really my entire professional career, in the senior living space. It’s been a true honor to work in this industry. Here is my perspective on what I’ve learned and observed in my 30 years.

  1. It’s up to us to train the next generation.

When I started my very first role in senior living, I was a 24-year-old newly degreed accountant. I didn’t know much of anything, to be honest, when I went to work at the oldest and very first standalone independent living community in Nashville. Thankfully, a mentor came into my life very early on. He was executive director of that community, and he took me under his wing and taught me so much. I still think back on those lessons learned and their value.

That sense of family and mentorship is a real opportunity to impact the spaces we’re in. From that, I’ve tried to develop those mentor relationships, not just with my team, but with the industry as a whole. That has given me opportunities like being the chair of LeadingAge Tennessee. I just think it’s important to develop those who will come behind us. We don’t work in a space that is being trained well or frequently by academic institutions. So it’s really up to us to train the next generation.

  1. Senior living is much more than housing.

One of the things I’ve learned in my career is that senior living is so much more than housing — or it better be, if we’re going to be successful. Layering the dimensions of who we are and what we do is such a huge part of the sales process. When it’s just about housing, we’ll only end up losing to the next community who is surpassing us, and we need to be more than that.

  1. Have a healthcare and hospitality focus.

In my next role, I transitioned to a CCRC in Nashville where I spent 16 years as a CFO and then CEO, originally called Blakeford at Green Hills. There, we not only continued to develop and expand that community, but also grow some ancillary businesses. We launched Blakeford At Home, and our life care without walls product called LiveWell by Blakeford. Both are very successful today, and both also spoke to the dimensions of what we must do outside of just housing, by also being hospitality and healthcare. We want people to desire to be there, and we can create those dynamics where we are the community where people want to be when they need care services.

  1. Help your residents age with purpose.

After my time at Blakeford at Green Hills, I had the opportunity to come home to Lebanon and work with a family group that owns senior living communities. The name of our company is L4 Lifestyles. I came up with the name and I’m very proud of it. As I reflected on the many residents and families I’ve served, I asked myself, “Who are those residents, from a purely anecdotal standpoint, who have aged the best?” And the commonality I’ve found is those who continued to live with purpose at every stage of their life. That was the question I developed to ask ourselves: “What are you living for, and what is your purpose?” So “What are you living for” — “living for” — became “L4.” That became the company brand, to really help us all to focus on the concept of purposefully aging. How are we touching all of our residents? Not just as a nice place to live, not just having great activities, but how are we impacting them purposefully? They are looking at us to be more than just a place to live, but a place to age well.

  1. Encourage each other.

Let me emphasize how much value groups like this bring to us, because just today, hearing you talk, I wrote down three different things to bring back to our communities. We can’t minimize the importance of continuing to encourage each other, because in doing so, we will only serve our residents better.

  1. Learn to overcome challenges and make your residents part of the solution.

Recently at Cornerstone Place, our new master-planning project in Lebanon, someone on my team asked if I had considered the Spring Creek bladderpod in our planning. He said, “You better learn about it, because a lot of the 90 acres of land we’re developing is located there.” It’s a lovely little flower only found in very few areas of the country, and it’s protected by environmental guidelines. As we’re developing this property, we had to ask ourselves, “How will we protect this flower?” So our new logo features the Spring Creek bladderpod, and part of our residents’ role will be the protection of and care for the flower, which appears in various bodies of water on campus. I think the real lesson is that, whatever our challenges are, it is often our residents, who are right there in front of us, who are part of the solution.

In case you couldn’t make it to our December Sales & Marketing Roundtables, here are some of the trends we saw in senior living last month, and a look forward to 2023.

  1. Holiday Conversations. New Year’s Conversions.

Many participants saw sales activity gaining momentum in December. At this time of year, children come home for the holidays and notice that Mom and Dad aren’t getting around as well as they used to, and might benefit from senior living options. Sales and marketing leaders saw leads pick up, which will hopefully become conversions in January now that the busy holiday season is over.

  1. Connecting With Kinless Seniors

A frequent topic of conversation in December was “kinless” seniors, or seniors who do not have family support, whether it be because they never married, never had kids, are widowed, or for whatever reason don’t have a support network nearby. Kinless seniors can be uniquely limited in their caregiving support, and senior living communities can be well equipped to serve them.

“There are quite a few kinless folks who visit us. And I see them as very proactive, coming in and talking to us about their future plans, making sure they have their legal documents in order.” (Washington state)

  1. Nearly Universal Rate Increases — and Tips for Communicating Them

Entry fees and monthly service fees are being raised for 2023 in most senior living communities.

“The industry standard is a 9% to 10% increase, on average this year. (Pennsylvania)

Sales and marketing leaders shared helpful tips on how to best communicate rate increases with residents. It was agreed that it’s best to be extremely transparent with why fees have to go up, and to go into detail about why.

“We were extremely clear about why we raised rates and broke down the pricing for our residents. We were clear on what we spent on renovation and really broke it down. We also showed figures of how the minimum wage is going up, how utilities have increased, how the food bills have gone up.” (Massachusetts)

When using this up-front approach, residents tend to have less pushback and are more accepting of the current situation.

  1. Loneliness as a Public Health Problem

Americans are spending more and more hours alone than ever before. Our time spent alone has increased by over nine hours a week. This trend started well before the pandemic, although 2020 surely exacerbated it, and we know that time spent alone dramatically increases as we age. We discussed that it could be valuable for sales teams to convey that time spent alone can be dramatically reduced for people who live in senior communities.

  1. Competition Changing to At-Home Options

Sales and marketing leaders agree that their competition isn’t necessarily the other community down the road — especially for independent living. More often, they’re competing against home health agencies and private duty care.

“I have always said that I feel like other communities aren’t our competitors. We’re all competing against the home and the prospect staying at home.” (Washington state)

“It’s when the home is no longer working for them that people start calling us.” (Massachusetts)

See what’s new in senior living for 2023 at our weekly Sales & Marketing Roundtables. Join us on Thursdays at noon ET, 11 a.m. CT and 9 a.m. PT.

For login information, email 

 

By Dana Wollschlager,  Plante Moran

This article was originally published by Plante Moran. Reprinted with permission.

The actions senior living leaders take now will set the stage for how their organizations transform and thrive into the future. Success will require a fundamental shift in the way leaders approach their business.

As senior living and care providers slowly pivot away from crisis-mode, it’s clear we’ll be facing a new normal rather than business as usual. The actions leaders take now will set the stage for how their organizations emerge from this crisis. Success will require a fundamental shift in the way leaders approach their business — a shift that may be especially difficult for those used to the slower pace of nonprofits.

Catalyzing Transformation

There are six ways leaders need to adapt their thinking to catalyze transformation within their organization.

Be bold — ask the critical questions

The first step to transformational growth is to ask the uncomfortable question, “What needs to change within our communities?” Leaders should scrutinize their operations, procedures, culture, technology, design and the built environment, unit mix, staffing model, pricing … the list should be exhaustive of every function of your organization. Just because you’ve always done something some way doesn’t mean it should remain that way. In fact, familiarity and longevity might make a process even more suspect.

Be thoughtful — start with strategic planning

Strategic planning is a critical first step toward meaningful transformation, allowing organizational leaders to align on the vision, goals, and objectives that will guide decision-making and hone priorities. This process requires an analysis of internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats to guide planning that will transform your organization into a stronger, nimbler one. As part of those discussions, consider policies and regulations, economic trends, and broader senior living trends that may affect any long-term decision-making.

Be adaptable — consider diversification of portfolio and position

Does your organization have too much of one product and service? Many organizations are evaluating the produce and revenue mix in light of the pandemic. Especially as consumers in the market continue to show their preference for assisted living and independent living over nursing homes, you’ll need to consider reducing the number of skilled nursing beds  on your campus. A market study will shed light on the demand and supply metrics in your market to uncover where you may be overbuilt or missing opportunities.

Be inclusive — prioritize leadership diversification

According to research, diverse teams are better at making decisions 87% of the time over non-diverse teams. Diversity of skillsets, diversity of thought, and diversity of leadership will help make your organization stronger. Consider looking outside of our industry for new talent and broadening your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives  for new leadership candidates.

Be educated — provide ongoing board education

Leaders must make ongoing education a priority for the organization’s board members. Your board members generally do not work in our industry, so they don’t have firsthand knowledge of the day-to-day operations and challenges we face. Making sure they are abreast of current factors influencing the senior living and care industry will go a long way to helping them make informed, timely decisions when necessary. We offer board retreats to bring your board members up to speed on important market trends.

Be prepared — think about succession planning

If you’d like to see your organization remain viable over the next 10, 20, 30 years, successful planning is key. Succession planning is often only addressed when change is imminent or in response to an unexpected crisis or staff departure. Starting early not only allows for better planning but fosters talent development at a more realistic and achievable pace. If your organization has not focused on building a team behind the current leadership, now is the time to build a plan. (Your DEI efforts factor into this as well!)

Leading the Change

Now more than ever, the market is demanding leaders adapt if they want their mission to survive and thrive. This kind of change will not happen overnight. The process to become more bold, thoughtful, adaptable, inclusive, educated, and prepared is one started with optimism and continued with intentionality. Senior living organizations will become healthier and stronger if we commit to shedding the expectations of the past, challenging the status quo, and blazing a trail toward transformation.

 

This article by Seth Anthony, Chief Revenue Officer at LW Consulting, Inc., was originally published at LW-consult.com and is reprinted here with permission.

Let’s be honest with ourselves.

For years, many organizations have viewed having a comprehensive compliance program as “check the box” activity. If there was a binder on the shelf labeled “Compliance Program,” then organizational leadership felt like they were covered.

Then, along came the role of Compliance Officer, and it became that person’s issue. Except, the comprehensive compliance program was one problem among many. While the compliance officer was busy putting out fires, programs moldered on shelves, with few tangible updates. Meanwhile, compliance requirements grew exponentially, with little opportunity for corporate leadership to integrate those changes into their daily operations in a holistic way.

Then, there was the pandemic. Businesses went from “firefighting” compliance into full operational triage. Now, as the pandemic fades, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Department of Justice (DOJ),  are getting serious about enforcing compliance failures.

And they are going to hold you personally responsible.

In the September 15, 2022 policy revision, DOJ made substantial changes relating to personal accountability, outside monitors, misconduct, voluntary disclosures, and expectations around the integration of compliance into the culture of an organization. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco made it very clear that a new era of “personal accountability” has dawned at the DOJ by stating, “[R]esourcing a compliance department is not enough; it must also be backed by, and integrated into, a corporate culture that rejects wrongdoing for the sake of profit.”

That is certainly some tough talk! But what should it mean to operators and leaders, especially those working in healthcare settings?

DOJ has said that when bringing a criminal complaint, their agents will consider a broad range of issues, including reward and compensation metrics tied to compliance, the imposition of financial sanctions for compliance failures, and the role leaders play in allowing those failures to occur. Active participation is no longer the key issue; passivity or inaction will likely be just as damning evidence going forward.

What’s a provider to do?

The answer is simple. Pick up that Compliance Program binder and get to work!

DOJ shared that an effective, updated, and independently reviewed compliance plan is the best strategy to ward off misconduct and such a plan will likely be considered if a compliance breach comes before DOJ officials. If your plan does not include actionable compliance incentives, such as those tied to compensation, promotion, and hiring practices, you are likely already behind the proverbial “8 Ball.”

Ethical behavior and compliance are no longer a “corporate” problem. It’s a “you” problem. Your career may be on the line for compliance failures if you do not take an active role, right now, in making sure your programs are comprehensive, effective, implemented, and enforced.

Is your Compliance Program up to date, or do you need assistance with reviewing your Compliance Program? Contact one of the experts at LW Consulting to learn more about how they can help.

 

 

 

The Varsity team attended the National LeadingAge Annual Meeting + EXPO, which was held October 16–19 in Denver, Colorado. In case you weren’t able to attend, here are some of the top themes we heard.

  1. Workforce recruitment. This remains a hot topic of conversation and a major struggle for much of the field. However, it seems as if the situation is slightly improving and there are some signs of hope.
  2. Raising rates. How much and when? People talked about how they had to raise rates twice in a year and deal with the issues that go along with that. Given that Social Security will increase by 8.7% in 2023, there is hope that residents will be (somewhat) understanding.
  3. Technology. Some people said they were excited by all the technology they were seeing. However, others said they just keep hearing a lot of buzzwords and no real substance. Technology is great; it can replace the tasks that don’t need human interaction (e.g., waiting for food and delivering it to residents), so team members can focus on relationship building. But high tech alone is not enough — we need high touch as well.
  4. Marketing content development. We saw fresh ideas from old and new vendors alike. Marketers are looking for new ways to redefine perceptions of Life Plan Communities in the marketplace.
  5. Cherish the moment. We’ve all been through a lot with COVID-19. We’ve all lost people in our personal and professional lives. It’s been hard, hectic and long hours of work, but let’s cherish the moment and cherish the people we do have.

What moments have you been cherishing during these challenging times? Please share your thoughts on the Varsity Facebook page.

At last week’s Sales & Marketing Roundtable, we had a very special guest. We celebrated Martha B.’s 105th birthday! Martha has been an independent living resident of Parkway Village in Little Rock, Arkansas, for over 17 years.

After we sang Happy Birthday to her, Martha shared her perspective on life at a senior living community, her fondest memories, and some wise words on how to live a vibrant life, no matter your age.

Here are some questions Martha answered from participants, who were participating virtually everywhere on zoom.

What’s your favorite thing about being 105?
“I like to watch my grandkids and great-grandkids. It’s fun to watch them and see what they do. I have seven total grandchildren, and three are married now. I like to play bridge. But my big problem is being able to see, so I can’t do that as much any longer. Getting around is harder, too, but I always make it to bingo.”

What is the secret of staying so young and vibrant?”
“Well, I’ve always been active. I was always active in organizations at church. I knew the local high school principal well. After my children were grown, I went to work over there as a secretary for 22 years. Then, my husband had a small business and I kept the books. So, I did two or three jobs over the years and kept real active. I play bridge a lot, and I’ve always loved knitting and embroidery. After I retired, I did a lot of that.”

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen over the course of your life?”
“I’ve seen the invention of radios, TV, cars — my first car was a Ford that my dad had to crank in the front to go forward! That was the first car I can remember.  I’ve also seen a lot of change in home appliances. I didn’t have a washing machine or a dryer growing up, and those kinds of things are wonderful to have around the house.”

Do you have any fond memories of the last 105 years you would like to share?
“I have just enjoyed my life. I’ve always gone to Sunday school and church, and I’ve always stayed involved there. I love knitting, I do a lot of that at church. I play lots of bridge, and they say that’s very good for your mind. And I try to play bingo! When I moved here, I was very active and knew everybody and enjoyed all of the activities. Nowadays, things have slowed down because I can’t see as well, but I would still be doing everything if I could.”

What is the biggest historical event that stands out to you in the 105 years you’ve lived?
“Oh, goodness. It’s hard to think of one … I watched our church burn. I lived close enough to see the smoke. When I went over with my family, I saw it burning. That was ‘history’ to me.”

What is life like there at Parkway Village?
“It’s great, they’ve really taken care of me here. It’s been a perfect place for me. I moved here after I developed macular degeneration and I could no longer drive, so my son said I needed to be somewhere with people. Since I moved here, everyone has been wonderful to me. We have excellent security. The maintenance team comes as soon as you call. I have a housekeeper who comes to my apartment once a week, but other than that, I take care of myself and live independently. And I hope I can keep doing so!”

Do you have any advice for us on helping people make the decision to move to a community?
“People always say, ‘I’m not ready.’ But what I try to tell them is, ‘You will never be ready.’ But you just have to pick up and move. My son is a psychiatrist, and he made sure I left home, because I wouldn’t have been able to get along when I couldn’t drive anymore. So, you need to move somewhere to be with others. I think a lot of people wait until it’s too late.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
“I wanted to mention that Boston University has contacted me. They do work for a lot of senior organizations. They asked me to volunteer for their Alzheimer’s research, so I’m working for them. They have a number of people in my age group in the process of testing.”

Happy birthday to Martha! We are so grateful that you were able to join us on the roundtable today. You are a testament to all we do!

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