2020 started with a lot of excitement in the Lariccia household.
Top Gun, the movie of my youth that inspired my military service, was planning the release its much-awaited sequel.
My eldest children would graduate from high school and move out into the world.
And, after years of listening, planning, and development, WelcomeHome’s CRM would become a force for good in the senior living space.
Sadly, we know how much of this turned out. But, as they say, 1 out of 3 ain’t bad . . .
WelcomeHome had a tremendous 2020. Dozens of leading operators have joined the WelcomeHome family. Hundreds of communities and thousands of happy users are relying on our CRM each day. And, our team has grown five-fold, all of them excited about helping our clients help older adults, their family members, and referrers.
But, the journey is just beginning.
So, as we stand at the threshold of a new year, what are my thoughts for senior living for 2021?
A wave of inquiries and move-ins will – thankfully – emerge, although later in the year.
o New leads and move-ins fell dramatically in 2020 as uncertainty gripped families and most senior living communities locked down. But, the needs of these families haven’t disappeared. In fact, they have likely increased.
o As the world slowly returns to some degree of normalcy, inquiries and move-ins will resume, fueled by many factors. Family members will return to work and have less ability to continue to help older relatives at home. The perception (and reality) is that older adults will have greater access to vaccines as a resident vs. not. Or, there will be an appreciation that stop gap measures are not permanent fixes.
o However, based on the timing of the vaccine roll-out, the length of the sales cycle, and the realities of getting back to normal, the snapback will likely be most felt after the summer of 2021.
The recovery will differ by level of care and geography; independent living will struggle with conveying its value proposition, especially in more developed cities.
o While the declines in 2020 were experienced across the board, the recovery will be uneven. Seniors and their families have been forced to find solutions, whether it’s an increased use of personal assistants, home health providers, or their own effort. For older adults needing more acute care, the substitutes are imperfect – being neither as efficient nor as effective as senior living. But, among the more independent of them, seniors and their families have tapped into an ever-growing range of solutions for meals, house cleaning, and socialization. While many of these options existed in the past, awareness, trial, repeat use, and consumer advocacy has skyrocketed in the past 6 months. Simply put, older adults have found ways to eliminate the daily hassles of staying at home and are enjoying it. Independent living operators will have to re-think their sales and marketing pitch relative to the growing number of newly put in place senior apartments as at-home options in order to thrive in the connected world where Boomers behave like Millennials.
Research will go up.
o As consumers return to senior housing, they will spend more time thinking about the decision to move and the community to choose. Across all care types, safety will remain among the most important decision criteria but the definition of safety will evolve. Operators need to be proactive in explaining how holistic wellbeing is central to their approach to senior living, with specifics about community cleanliness, activities, nutrition, and socialization.
o Where research occurs it will also evolve. A robust website is just the starting point. A community’s entire digital footprint needs to be current, engaging, and informative. TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook work. Operators need to make them work for them.
Virtual will not disappear, rather, it will remain a core tool for consumers and communities.
o By necessity, 2020 forced operators and prospects to engage virtually. Initial discovery, tours, assessments, and resident check-ins that previously were phone calls or in-person suddenly shifted to Zoom. And, while many memes, skits, and sketches were born to poke fun . . .
. . . the use of virtual meetings has been positive. Family members can literally put a face to a voice to humanize the community. And, tours that otherwise would have been impossible occurred.
o In 2021, the number of these virtual engagements, both pre- and post-move-in, will increase, not decrease. Even when in-person tours are occurring in full force, consumers will rely on virtual tours either to have more people join, “see” more communities, or take second, third, or fourth visits.
o Great operators will embrace this and find ways to make the virtual interaction as special and unique as an in-person one.
Finally, portfolios will be dramatically re-shaped as community swaps, acquisitions, and divestitures accelerate.
o 2020 has put operators and investors under severe stress. For those operators that had a spotty track record with unproven strategies and operating procedures, 2021 will be one of unwelcome change, with bankruptcies occuring and investors switching operating companies.
o At the same time, management companies – both existing and new – will focus on what makes them truly special, whether it’s a type of care, a geographic market, or a building type, and proactively re-shape their portfolio to match that strategy.
o The net impact of all of these changes is that the strongest operators will get stronger – more focused, more efficient, more effective, and, in most instances, larger. The path will not be smooth but, coming out of 2021, there will be more communities managed by more operators in a better position: financially, strategically, and operationally.
Oh, and Top Gun: Maverick will be awesome!
To learn more about WelcomeHome and how it can help you in 2021, reach out to John@welcomehomesoftware.com or email@example.com.