Marketing Assisted Living Today

client-target-imageMany assisted living facilities are experiencing higher vacancies since the economy and the housing market crashed in 2008. Long considered a need-driven choice, the assisted living model of care is now viewed as more of a discretionary purchase. Adult children—themselves financially distressed—are keeping their elderly parents at home longer in an effort to save money or because home sales are sluggish and prices devalued. Increased options in home care and a renewed emphasis on aging in place spurred by technology advances in home monitoring and long-distance caregiving have also impacted assisted living occupancy.

Today, increasing numbers of frail older adults are moving in with adult children to preserve assets and support children. As a result, there is rising use of emergency room services, physician offices, home- and community-based services and other venues as the frail elderly or their adult children seek needed services to keep the older adult at home longer.

Delayed entry into assisted living usually results in the elderly person’s diminished physical and mental health, often to the point where he or she is no longer a candidate for assisted living and may need skilled nursing or memory care services instead. Family caregivers need to understand the consequences of delaying entry into assisted living. They also need to recognize that assisted living is not simply a custodial level of care. Its activity programs, good nutrition, medication monitoring and the security of an age-friendly environment can go a long way toward helping a frail elderly person flourish and thrive in the assisted living setting.

Freddi Flax, principal with RickStephan & Associates, senior living specialists in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, says marketers must be able to demonstrate the benefits of assisted living versus remaining at home or risk losing the admission. She has observed that the assisted living communities that are doing well despite the economy are the ones that have made adjustments to their marketing plans, including expanding their networking, using their websites as sales tools and just plain “working harder for the same customer.”

MARKETING CHALLENGES

Marketing senior living communities of all types has become increasingly challenging in today’s economy. Where wait lists were once the norm, now continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) and other independent living communities are working harder and digging deeper to find ready and willing candidates to fill cottages and apartments. Across the board, CCRCs are brushing up on their marketing and selling skills, paying close attention to critical success factors and measuring the effectiveness of various marketing strategies.

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