2023’s Top 11 Senior Living Sales & Marketing Trends
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.
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.
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.
Prospects are aging. 20% of prospects and 25% of new residents are 90+ years old.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Google Analytics GA4 will be the only way to track website activity after July 1.
Don’t worry, we have the details you need and options to make your old data useable.
By now you’ve probably seen this banner or heard that if you use Google Analytics you need to migrate to GA4. If you haven’t, get in touch with your agency of record to make the move to GA4 today!
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About GA4
Q. Who is affected? A. Any property (website, software, app) using Google Analytics’ Universal Analytics (UA).
Q. Why do I need to be concerned?
A. GA3, more commonly known as Universal Analytics, is going away. Three things will occur when that happens:
UA data will stop collecting on July 1, 2023.
You will lose UA data. (No specific date has been given, other than October 14, 2023.)
If you haven’t already set up GA4, you will need to do so in order to continue to track and measure website activity
Q. Why is Google doing this? A. Google is moving toward Google Analytics 4 (GA4), the next-generation measurement solution, because it takes a privacy-first approach to follow people the way they use technology today.
Privacy was just a glimmer in the eyes of web visitors when UA was released over a decade ago. Now more protections are expected and included. For example, GA4 tracks first-party cookies — meaning cookies placed by a website’s owner, not someone other than that site’s owner — thereby protecting visitors from invasive third-party cookies, which pose a security risk.
When Universal Analytics was created, we primarily explored sites using just one device (usually a desktop or laptop). Consumers are now more likely to start a website journey on their smartphone while watching TV, then move to a bed cuddled up with their tablet, and conclude their journey the next day on their laptop. GA4 is built to capture this entire cross-device consumer journey, giving marketers a complete and insightful picture of their online habits.
Q. What happens to my old UA data? A. Google will only store your UA data for a period of time (not yet disclosed by Google at the time this article was published) and then poof, it is gone. To retain historical data, Google recommends that you export it. Can you imagine looking through spreadsheets to glean insights? Even in a pivot table would be a fast “no” from many people.
Many people started to record GA4 data by July 1, 2022, to have access to year-over-year data on the GA4 dashboard. However, if you didn’t — or if you want data that precedes GA4 (before October 14, 2020) — we have a solution for you.
Data expert/dashboard options
Before you start worrying about your data going to the spirit in the sky, relax — we have you covered. Varsity has partnered with our sister company, WildFig, which offers three GA4 solutions to fit your marketing needs and budget. Our plans capture data from the beginning of your Google Analytics history until the current day of export. Two options include an easy-to-use dashboard that displays standard metrics.
Standard metrics included (old GA terminology)
New sessions %
Average session duration
Pageviews per session
Goal completions (if applicable)
Additional metrics may be added to the dashboard for a one-time fee.
Data will be aggregated to a monthly granularity
Medium (Organic, PPC, Direct, etc.
Data export/dashboard cost
$500 Straight export of historical UA data
$2,920 Export and historical UA data dashboard + $50/month for dashboard storage/server costs
$8,750 Export and historical UA and live GA4 data in one dashboard + $50/month for dashboard storage/server costs
If you have not yet migrated to GA4, the train is leaving the station soon. Make sure that you make the move before July 1 in order to keep from losing your organization’s valuable data, and continue to be able to track and measure activity from your website visitors.
October 22 is National Make a Difference Day! To honor this day of service, we asked our staffers, “What is one thing you are doing to make a difference?”
Here are some of their answers:
“I’m building a sanctuary for nature and its creatures.” “l live on a farm, where I compost just about everything possible, plant bee and butterfly favorites like milkweed, bee balm and butterfly bushes, and tend a flock of chickens that give me great nutrients for my gardens. I also maintain a small pond that attracts frogs, insects and butterflies, and build and install birdhouses around my property.”
— Jace Dawson, Project Manager
“I join 100 women in making a bigger difference together than we could alone.” I belong to 100 Women Who Care, and each of us donates $100 per quarter and awards the aggregate $10,000 to a nonprofit in need. We nominate the nonprofits to be considered, they each present to us, and then we vote for who should receive the funding.” —Jackie Stone, Sales Consultant
“I serve as an election judge in my own precinct.” After the murder of George Floyd, I wanted to do something that would make my community fairer and more equitable. I looked around for ways to do that and determined one of the best ways was to get involved in the election process. I wanted to be a poll watcher to ensure everybody was able to safely and confidently vote. However, I was told the greatest need was to be an election judge in my own precinct. I’ve served in that capacity since 2020. — Derek Dunham, VP Client Services
“I support organizations that support the community.” “I donate to local organizations and am mindful of the environment, because we all live downstream.” — John Bassounas,Partner
“I’m going a year without purchasing new clothing.”
“At the end of 2021 I did my routine closet clean-out, and by the end of the day I was donating more bags of clothing than I care to share the final number of. Seeing that much clothing was humbling and disturbing. I probably was only wearing about 20% of my clothes. I took on the challenge to see if I could go an entire year without purchasing any clothing, and I’m well on my way there. Remake has been a great resource, and is packed with information about huge flaws in the fashion industry, from labor issues to the huge amount of clothing that ends up in landfills.” — Renee Kelly, Art Director
“I volunteer my time to a nonprofit theatre company and a community college’s graphic design program.” “For over 35 years, I’ve supported the local arts community by volunteering my time to a nonprofit theatre company — producing posters for The Harrisburg Shakespeare Company’s main stage events. I’ve also dedicated time to the local community college’s graphic design program, as a member of their advisory board, a guest lecturer and mentor to students, assisting them in preparing their portfolios and honing interview skills prior to graduation.” — Robinson Smith, Creative Director
“I focus on reducing plastic use and recycling, buying locally and composting everything I can.”
“I compost everything (including buying compostable diapers), have planted bee- and butterfly-friendly flowers, use biodegradable cleaners, recycle all that I can, and use Terracycle for items that aren’t traditionally recyclable. I also buy local eggs, meat and produce at the farmers’ market one mile from my house that I walk to.” — Natalie Groeger, Senior Account Strategist
That’s what we’re doing to make a difference! Here’s to helping each other, our communities and the planet!
What Is a Resident Advocate, and Why Does Every Community Need One?
Q&A with CC Young Resident Advocate Dess Rolfe
Can you give an overview of what a resident advocate does?
The role of the resident advocate at CC Young is to represent the residents and their families in expressing unresolved issues and concerns, taking them to management, and bringing those concerns to a timely solution. I listen, observe, interact, communicate and resolve.
How do you get in touch with residents?
I attend meetings and functions where they are present. Because I conduct surveys on the services we offer, I am in touch with many of them daily. Also, for the convenience of residents and families, we make information about me and the advocate position readily available on our website, in the resident handbook, and other CC Young publications on campus. I also hand out a lot of business cards, and my cell number is on the card.
My goal is for our residents to view me as a friend. If they have an issue that cannot wait until business hours, I want them to feel free to call me anytime.
How was the resident advocate position created?
Shortly after Russell Crews became CC Young’s President and CEO, he talked to me about a role he had in mind for me. We had worked together at another company, and he knew my background and work history. We talked about what he envisioned and what this title might be for this particular role. At that time, he said my main responsibility would be “to make the residents happy.” We began there and went forward. Over the past eight years, my responsibilities have evolved around this original concept.
Why is it so important to have a resident advocate?
The residents respond in a positive way to having their own advocate on campus — someone they know and trust who will always have time for them. In being available and listening to the residents and sometimes families, issues can be broken down and resolved before they grow in dimension.
What do you hear from residents?
The residents tell me they are happy that I am here to help them. They know they can call me, and together, we can get to the bottom of any concern and solve it quickly. They also tell other people. Many times, when I meet a visitor or new resident, they say, “I’ve heard of you. You helped my relative when they were here at CC Young.”
What is a typical day?
There are no typical days. While there are scheduled meetings, events and activities, the balance of my time is spent in relationship-building and problem-solving.
What advice would you give communities?
To have an advocate who is immediately available when an issue arises and one who proactively reaches out to residents and families very quickly. It’s important in this role to be a good listener, have empathy for the situation, look into the matter, and follow up with an answer.
What is your background?
I’ve been at CC Young for 12 years, and in this role for eight. I believe many of my previous positions have prepared me for the resident advocate position. My first summer job in high school was at a small hospital of 25 beds. Later, I became a certified medical secretary, and was a family service counselor at a local funeral home. I’ve also worked for several physicians and psychiatrists. A few years ago, I became a Texas certified mediator.
Most recently, I was asked by CC Young to teach the customer service/hospitality module in orientation to all new employees.
What is CC Young’s point of view on customer service?
Our vision is to enhance the quality of life for all we serve. We put the residents first. It is very important to build relationships through our respectful and caring approach.
What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?
Seeing that the residents and families are happy, with as little stress as possible, and that their issues are resolved quickly — to serve in such a manner that their lives are enriched because I was there to help.
Latest NIC Survey Findings: More Move-ins and Rent Concessions
At our weekly sales & marketing roundtable, we all shared creative tactics we’re using to attract prospects as COVID-19 rates spike in some areas. We’d especially like to thank Lana Peck, senior principal at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) for sharing the latest insights from executive surveys completed since the pandemic hit.
Check out the insights and survey results below. We also invite you to our next roundtable this week.
Not the same 70 for every wave, but 60–70% are repeat takers, so there is some continuity.
Geographical dispersion of respondents:
There’s a slight underrepresentation in the Northeast compared to national coverage of the NIC map.
For the most part, participants are coming from all over the country.
We’re promoting this more strongly with operators, as we’re getting some national media exposure.
It is important for operators to know that, by participating in the survey, they have the opportunity to ensure that the narrative is accurate.
We went from ⅓ in wave 10 (early August) to just under ⅔ in the most recent wave — a lot more organizations are offering rent concessions.
90% of organizations are paying overtime to mitigate staffing issues.
Staffing/temp agency usage has grown throughout the pandemic.
About ⅔ of organizations that have IL in portfolio are offering rent concessions.
Organizations with nursing care are less likely to offer rent concessions.
Discussion from the group:
We are giving concessions on entrance fees and support on moving services.
We are offering $3,000 toward moving expenses and incentives to get people to move more quickly.
Organizations reporting no change in pace have been growing. It’s the highest it’s been in wave 14.
Deceleration of move-ins is lower in IL, AL and MC in wave 14.
Most respondents are citing increased resident demand (increase in move-ins).
Fewer organizations with nursing care beds in wave 14 reported acceleration in the pace of move-ins, with the fewest respondents citing hospital placement since wave 7 surveyed mid-May — presumably due to anecdotal reports of hospitals sending patients straight home to recuperate from surgeries or illnesses with in-home health care.
A quarter of organizations have a backlog of residents waiting to move in.
Organizations may be providing incentives. The month-over-month change in occupancy has been starting to rise.
About ¼ of the organizations that have IL in their portfolio; ⅓ of those with AL; ½ of those with MC; and about ½ with nursing care are seeing an upward change in occupancy rates in the past 30 days.
Fewer folks that have IL are seeing a decrease in occupancy.
48% in nursing care are seeing increases, and 37% are seeing decreases.
Please join our next roundtable discussion on Thursday, November 5, at noon ET.
How a Small Care Home in England Gained 11 Million Views by Recreating Famous Album Covers
Robert Speker, Activities Coordinator at Sydmar Lodge in Edgware, North London, UK, and his residents have passed the time through lockdown by recreating famous album covers. Posing while wearing similar clothing, makeup and expressions, the residents (and the caregivers as well) have redone album covers by the Beatles, Lady Gaga, Adele, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, The Clash, U2, Elvis Presley, Madonna and others. And they’re still going.
Robert started this project to keep residents engaged and entertained during social distancing. Rather than passing the time playing bingo or watching TV, he felt they needed something more inspiring to do. It was a huge surprise to all of them when the project quickly went viral on social media and gained international recognition. Robert has done 80 to 100 TV and print interviews, and was gracious enough to talk to Varsity. See his ongoing artistic collaborations with residents at @RobertSpeker on Twitter.
Why did you begin this project?
It was something I’d long thought about, but I don’t usually have a lot of time. However, during lockdown, I had more time to put on different activities with the residents particularly when no family visits were allowed. That was the impetus for me actually starting the project. Once I had explained to each resident what I wanted to do, they got on board really quickly, with great enthusiasm.
What have been some of the highlights of the experience?
Midge Ure challenged me to do the Ultravox album cover of Vienna, which was just celebrating its 40th anniversary. So I felt the need to be able to do it. After I sent the photo out, he sent a really lovely message. As a special surprise for resident Sheila Solomon’s 92nd birthday, I’d arranged for her to meet Rag’n’Bone Man backstage before one of his concert. He was really lovely with her. He is a huge guy… he gave her a signed album. It was the one with the tattoo, so I knew that I had to get her doing this cover, complete with tattoo, temporary in Sheila’s case.
Sheila also recreated the Clash cover (a redo of an Elvis Presley album). She’s a real character. There’s not many 94-year-olds that still like going to rock concerts! She’s just waiting for lockdown to end so she can go and see Ed Sheeran.
How did you choose the residents and carers for the photos?
It was partly on their look, say, if they had a similar hairstyle, but also based on music preference. They had heard all of the artists⎯they might not know exactly the song, but they all know and have listened to all of the different artists. So it was a case of showing them the album covers. It was interesting to discuss different covers and see how the image appears to someone in their 90s, and then it was a case of matching it in that way and taking some photos.
How did you choose the album covers?
I wanted the covers to be ones which were easily recognizable ⎯ the word “iconic” springs to mind. Even if the photo won’t have the name of either the singer or the group, you’ll know almost immediately who that artist is.
What impact has your project had on morale among residents and staff?
Well, they really have loved doing it. And obviously the global response has just been overwhelming. It’s been absolutely awesome, really phenomenal and so positive. They loved seeing the coverage on TV and in the press. For the residents and the staff to receive such warm wishes from around the world is really heartwarming ⎯ especially in this time when we are still in lockdown. Residents are only seeing their families maybe a couple times a week, if that, literally for 20 minutes, at two-meter distances, with masks on. The positivity was really needed. And while I was doing it just to create some smiles, it has also raised awareness of care homes—the people who are living and are working in them.
Did that play a role in changing the perception of older individuals?
It certainly did, because it made people realize that care homes aren’t this stagnant environment where residents just sit around in a circle, either sleeping or watching television. We try to encourage them to do as much as they possibly can. My mantra is: Use it or lose it. So often I say, if you can do it yourself, do it, because you don’t want to get to that stage where you actually aren’t able to do it; so once you can still do something, do it. And with these photos, they were all able to do it, they all enjoyed doing it. So it was that kind of feeling of knowing how care homes are perceived not only in the UK, but obviously in America and other countries, and we’re trying to knock that theory out of the window.
Are there any residents who said, “Hey, I want to be included”?
Yeah, we had a few, and their family members would get involved by saying, “I think Mummy would be good at this.” Or, “Why don’t we use Dad for this?” Then we’ve got residents saying, “What am I going to do? When am I going to be photographed?”
How did people find out about it?
Initially I sent it out on Facebook, to the families, and then posted on Twitter and Instagram. On Twitter, that’s where it went really completely crazy—just to learn who had seen it and how many people had seen it. I said to the residents, over 11 million people have seen these photos. It’s quite unbelievable.
How were you able to do all the makeup, hair, body painting, photography and editing?
When I’ve got an idea such as this in mind, I like to do it myself, because I know what I need to achieve, rather than trying to explain it to someone else. Also, I didn’t want a lot of people knowing about it, just so that it could be focused on that individual. I could just take them off quietly. There’s no hoo-ha about it. I’d spend 30 minutes or an hour with them. Doing the makeup or the set or the hair.
Can you talk about why you made some of the details in the photos different?
Martin, the gentleman in the Springsteen photo, he’s got his own baseball cap, so I thought, I’m going to use that cap. And I’ve tried to do that throughout, so if there’s an item of clothing that the actual individual has already, then I want that to be in the photo. Sheila had a jumper similar to Rag’n’Bone Man’s, so that’s what I got her to wear. For Hilda and Blink-182 — the model is wearing a red bra, which wouldn’t have been appropriate for her. I showed a lovely red jumper of Hilda’s. Whether it’s an item of jewelry or a piece of clothing, I use things that belong to the residents, to make sure that it’s about them in the photo, not just their body, but also other aspects of their personality.
Have other communities reached out to you about your project?
Yes. Another care home messaged me and said, “We hope you don’t mind, we saw what you did, and we’ve also tried to have a little go at that.” I think that’s a wonderful thing — especially during this time, when other care homes are in isolation — we need to be sharing ideas. And if this can work in other settings, then I’m all for it. It’s not a competition about who can do the best; it’s about making sure that seniors are engaged and have activities to do.
What has been your favorite thing about the project?
Suddenly, our residents are in the spotlight; they are the main talking point, having done something absolutely phenomenal. They have been able to talk so much about this to their peers, to family, to staff. It’s amazing that it’s still carrying on. Which is a beautiful thing.
It’s not only just making somebody smile, it’s the fact that residents are talked about. And it’s not about the famous singers, it’s about our residents. It is really humbling personally for me. I never expected the impact and the response. I’m really overwhelmed, and the residents just absolutely love receiving the messages and can’t quite believe that people in America, Australia and all over the world have seen these photos and want to connect with us.
It has been a lovely ride that we’ve all been on. I’ve really shared it, the whole way, with the residents, which is just a lovely thing.
During COVID-19, Robert and the residents of Sydmar Lodge Care Home are helping others by raising funds for three charities: DementiaFriends.org.uk, Alzheimers.org.uk and AgeUK.org.uk. You can join the cause by donating through their GoFundMe page or by ordering a charity calendar they’re creating. Watch Robert’s Twitter page (@RobertSpeker) to see when the calendar comes out and how to order it.
Compassion Is on the Menu at Morrison Living During COVID-19
Today I’m talking to Joe Gorman, Division President East at Morrison Living. Morrison Living provides culinary, design, wellness and environmental services to 450 clients in 41 states, including some of the most prominent senior living communities in the United States.
How are you keeping things safe at the communities you partner with?
At Continuing Care Retirement Communities, we have an in-depth checklist to make sure that associates are safe; that the environment is clean, sanitized and effective; and that we’re thinking through all the elements so that, when communities are getting ready to restart and reopen, they’re in the best possible situation.
We’re doing some unique things—working with different types of communities that are having challenges. They’re looking for the expertise, help and compassion we can provide.
If they need to make design changes, they can turn to our subject-matter experts. We can also help them as they make labor changes so that they can be both efficient and sensitive to what residents need.
Communities may have had two dining services a day. Now, to keep people socially distanced, they have four or five services, as well as a dining room functioning at 25 to 50 percent capacity. They need resources and tools to manage these challenges. We have a robust restart program that addresses these areas, so no one feels alone.
We’re also getting calls from clients asking, from an environmental perspective, what should we be doing? What about disinfectants? We’re enhancing our environmental teams and restructuring to make sure that we can fulfill the needs of all these communities in various geographic areas.
How does your parent company, Compass Group, help you support your communities?
Compass Group, a best-in-class organization, provides food and support services to millions of people across the globe. They’ve published a guide to helps their 25 business sectors deal with the COVID-19 environment. Called “Stay Safe, Eat Well,” the guide is comprehensive, because it has to address the COVID-19 issue in every sector. It gives us resources, technology, design and wonderful tools that can cross over every sector. One of my favorites is ChefNet, a network of local and celebrity chefs who make virtual appearances at communities. They teach kitchens to lift residents’ spirits and show them how to make exciting new dishes.
How are you restarting and reopening communities?
We have a robust platform: ReSTART + ReNEW. In our industry, as the virus changes, reopening practices have to match the needs of different states and counties, at different times. Our plans have to be flexible in addressing the ever-changing environment. When COVID-19 started, we collaborated with our best subject-matter experts in all categories. We immediately looked at how to handle this situation. Now, we have an in-depth formula that we follow depending on the level of care required.
We’ve reopened multiple communities in the middle of this pandemic. One innovation is at The Templeton of Cary, a brand-new CCRC, where residents are moving in right now. We’re introducing a robot that is helping staff by clearing plates, so employees aren’t handling multiple plates, and they can spend more quality time interacting with residents. Learn more about Penny, the self-driving robot.
What kinds of design changes are you making?
We have a robust team of culinary innovators and designers. They work with design companies and architects to enact multiple changes. As self-service, with beverages and salad, goes away, for social distancing reasons, we’re coming up with different innovations and platforms to solve those problems. Morrison Living’s team is critical right now. People have to make major decisions in a very short window of time.
You think about the pressure that communities are under right now—what they’ve gone through is unprecedented, unbelievable. We want to give them tools and resources so that they don’t have to feel that they are alone, and that they are getting the help they need.