When we launched WelcomeHome, we set out an ambitious marketing plan. While blogs, like this one, were part of it, we knew the best approach to share who we were and why we were different would be in-person at conferences. As the saying goes, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
2 years later, we finally attended our first in-person conference and it was invigorating. And, based on what we heard, we weren’t alone. Senior living operators relished the opportunity to get together and share their outlook on our industry.
In terms of our takeaways from the 3 days . . .
The industry has a deserved sense of pride about how it weathered the past year
Across the board, there was a real appreciation for the frontline and a belief that, more often than not, operators did the right thing to serve their residents and family members.
One leader recounted a personal story involving his mother-in-law who also resided in his community. Last Mother’s Day, as they celebrated, separated by a window, she shared, “Am I doing ok? I’m better here than out there.”
That story struck a chord and summarized how most operators viewed the past 15 months. We were tested. We may have wobbled. But, we did the right thing and should be proud we continued to deliver on our mission to help seniors thrive.
People are optimistic about the future of senior living
Maybe because of how residents and family members felt they were treated during the past year, industry leaders are excited and optimistic about the future. And, the first few months of the “post-pandemic normal” seem to be validating their optimism.
“There is a very human need to be part of a community, to be with others,” shared one CEO. She continued, “while many discovered they can live alone, relying on Instacart and DoorDash and other services, they realized they don’t want to.”
At WelcomeHome, we are seeing the same, with a spike in inquiries and move-ins, demonstrating the power of socialization. One of communities had 19 move-ins in May!
Clearly, 19 move-ins a month isn’t typical. But, the majority of our communities are seeing an uptick.
Longer-term, there is also another potential reason for optimism – namely, construction costs and labor availability. “The housing market is booming and building supplies are expensive and hard to come by,” observed one COO. “That means new senior living supply is going to slow in most parts of the U.S., creating a scarity.”
But, there is also a realism to the time it will take to rebound and the cost of doing business
Even if there is optimism about the future, few thought the rebound would be immediate and most viewed the path to 2019-like occupancy numbers to be a long (>12 months) and winding one. People issues need to be solved, with labor shortages everywhere, especially in caregiver and sales roles. Moreover, the cost of doing business is expected to be reset to a higher level as a result of both wage inflation and the cost of PPP.
Ultimately, as occupancy improves, operators will need to adjust rates to merely remain steady at the NOI levels.
WelcomeHome will continue to be there to help sales and marketing teams as they navigate these waters – with the best CRM and tools as well as regular training webinars.
Have you attended a conference lately? We would love to hear your impressions about the state of the industry.