As senior living communities rush to create new policies and programs in response to COVID-19, business development teams are left with struggling sales cycles and a newfound hesitancy about community tours with potential residents. A few short months ago, digital integrations and advanced technologies were simply selling points and differentiators for long term care providers. Coronavirus is a catalyst for change in a market that was previously resistant to the capabilities allowed by advanced technologies. Advanced capabilities like interactive virtual tours, Smart technology, and Alexa integrations will be the new expectation for senior living communities going forward.
In today’s market, senior living communities are primarily speaking to two audiences: End Users and Adult Child Influencers. The end user demographic represents potential residents, searching for their own long-term-care solution. While this demographic is becoming more tech savvy, and digitally integrated (46% of seniors 65+ are using Facebook), the Adult Child Influencer is involved in their parents’ transitions 73% of the time, and this demographic is increasingly viewing these technologies as essentials, not luxuries.
By 2050, it is estimated that 22% of the population in the United States will be 65 years or older, compared to only 16.9% in 2020. As Generation X becomes the end user and Millennials become the Adult Child Influencers, they will expect seamless integrations, access to information, advanced technologies, and they will certainly be checking out websites and reviews before making decisions for their loved ones.
A paradigm shift has been looming in the senior living industry and COVID-19 just accelerated and solidified the transition.
This raises the question: What does this new world of Senior Living look like?
Resident Tours are Still Crucial
Regardless of a senior living community’s marketing strategy historically, the end goal seems to be universal: a community tour leading to a move-in date. As of today, most independent living and assisted living communities across the US are shut down to visitors. This includes family visits and new resident tours. While these extreme measures are temporary, as time goes on and advances are made to combat this new virus, restrictions will surely loosen, and in-person tours will be allowed again.However, there will be new expectations regarding the health safety of the residents and the ability to experience the community from a distance.
In markets like real-estate, virtual tour technology has been adopted for quite some time, and is almost considered an expectation these days, especially for high end listings. Some even go as far as to provide 3D renderings of the property and layout. This is a trend that Senior Living Communities have slowly been seeing the value of adopting. However, these technologies are now going to be the bare minimum. . The opportunity now is to take your virtual tour to the next level with options like interactive 3D touch-screen tours and custom branded VR goggles for an enhanced on-site virtual tour experience, without exposing current residents to multiple outside visitors each day. Low-cost options like Google Cardboard, could even be given to potential residents to take home and experience the tour again, or better yet, take their friends on a virtual tour!
LIMITING UNNECESSARY EXPOSURE WITH DIGITAL UPGRADES
As so many organizations in the corporate world have been forced into a remote and virtual shift, so too will senior living communities in this new era. It may be some time before assisted living communities can resume group programs like Happy Keys, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have fun, stay active, and engage with their community. Facilities should be finding new ways to keep their residents engaged and active. Video, live-stream, and even virtual classes and therapy options can help keep residents’ minds and bodies active in a world where physical interactions are necessarily limited.
DIGITAL COMMUNICATION UPDATES FOR SENIOR LIVING COMMUNITIES
Digital communication platforms are another technology that has been emerging on the market in recent years, but will be commonplace in a few short years. Expectations will soon require that senior living communities offer residents and family members access to resident and medication records, community calendars, and more via intuitive online portals, and mobile applications.
Smart capabilities like Alexa integrated communities will even further improve the residents’ experience by enabling them to interact with Alexa for community-specific information the way they have always used it. Companies like Caremerge are combining Smart solutions into one sleek, modular platform. By combining Alexa technology with EHR and Community Engagement platforms they are able to make it much simpler and much more efficient to manage cutting edge senior living solutions.
Devices like the new Facebook portal would be a great way to offer residents the ability to video chat with their family members on a regular basis. A community could give residents access in their rooms or set up a single station, and share the community username with residents and family members, who could then schedule video calls with their loved ones.
THE IMPORTANCE OF AN UPDATED ONLINE PRESENCE
As those who were reluctant to overcome a technological shift later in life are being forced to embrace the benefits of technology, the digital generation is simultaneously becoming more influential in making decisions for their loved ones considering long term care options. With this shift in the industry it will be imperative to have a complete online presence. Both the new potential Residents and their Adult Child Influencers are going to be making more and more of their decisions digitally without ever setting foot in a community. They will be searching the internet for and eliminating communities based on a lack of things like:
- An up to date website
- Video testimonials
- Virtual tours
- Online reviews
- Easy communication
- Social media engagement
In the digital shift, the in-person conversation and tour is going to be substantially later in the decision making process and you have to make sure you are still in the discussions.
A DIGITAL SHIFT IN THE SENIOR LIVING COMMUNITY IS BENEFICIAL FOR EVERYONE
When it comes down to it, making these upgrades is a great benefit to everyone involved. Senior living residents will be afforded more options for communication, engagement, and even comfort and care. New technology enabling virtual nurse or doctor check-ins could not only reduce risk of exposure for residents and healthcare staff, it will also lead to time and money saved with increased efficiency. Families and loved ones will soon be able to be even more involved than before as Smart integrations and digital solutions shorten the distance between residents at senior living communities and their families across the globe.