Category Archives: Strategy

How Can Senior Living Hospitality Differentiate Your Community?

Senior living communities everywhere are feeling the impact of our changing market, and these changes go beyond the influx of baby boomers needing care. Competition is higher than ever. Seniors and their families are thoroughly researching potential living and care solutions. With these changes and more in play, new senior living trends to help communities compete seem to emerge weekly. How does a community keep up? One service industry basic—hospitality— may be an industry game changer for senior living communities that execute on it authentically.

Hospitality is not just a great entry space and a warm welcome. Differentiating your senior living community using hospitality is so much more than focusing solely on community amenities. True hospitality in the senior living industry is the intersection of remarkable service and authentic community. And perhaps most importantly, enduring hospitality is not a customer experience tactic relegated to communities with the largest budgets. Enduring senior living hospitality makes your facility memorable, appeals to today’s consumers desperately seeking community and become a market differentiator.

Selling senior living hospitality vs. healthcare

You might be wondering why all the emphasis on hospitality. We’re in the care industry, right? In an industry where every single community sells very similar healthcare services setting yourself apart can be challenging. Authentic hospitality is service-focused, experiential and creates lasting community and fellowship. Excellent service contains many of the same elements at different communities, but it will look, feel and be unique to your community when it is mission-driven.

Mission-driven hospitality

If hospitality is not just beautiful amenities, delicious meals and a daily itinerary, what is it? Let’s redefine hospitality as a business driver. True, hospitality is mission-driven. Personalized experiences, authentic interactions, generosity and strong community start at an organization’s core—mission and vision. Without mission, hospitality is a surface level nicety. Mission-driven hospitality can create change and differentiation. Brand culture and community flow from your mission to create a one-of-a-kind experience residents and families remember.

To provide an example of authentic senior living hospitality let’s use the sample mission: Providing care and compassion that allows our residents to fully embrace life. We’ll use this example as we explore how brand, culture and community work together to create hospitality in healthcare.


Brand is so much more than a logo and tagline. Your senior living community’s brand becomes the essence of your mission. The brand is a visual expression of your mission and directly influences how hospitality is built via culture and community. The tagline for our example community might be “Embrace Life Together.” The themes of seizing the day and sharing moments together within this brand lead us to consider how the community’s physical space:

  • Creates both small fellowship spaces and larger community venues.
  • Guides residents to share meals and conversation together.
  • Promotes activities aimed at helping residents make the most of each day.

The senior living space design is critical. Your space reflects your brand, and potential residents will picture themselves living in your facility as they evaluate the community that best fits their lifestyle.


While brand is the external expression of your mission, culture brings that mission to life on the inside. If your brand focuses on care, is your team being cared for and appreciated? Are they empowered to go beyond the basics to provide the right care (physical and emotional) to every resident? Is your team building connections with residents that create belonging? Culture separates remarkable care from bland customer service.

In our example community, the way team members treat one another and embrace life together will dramatically impact the experience residents have interacting with your team. Embracing life together and going above and beyond for residents are concepts that need to be modeled by leadership.


Hotel-like amenities, including personal training-based fitness centers, coffee shops and on-property boutiques are the “it” senior living hospitality trend for building a community. Rather than simply following the trends, try putting resident desires first to drive creativity and problem solving. Ask how your mission coupled with resident demand can drive innovative resident experiences. Are residents looking for more interesting dining options? Try embracing life together and building community through monthly progressive dinners. Get your residents and team involved in brainstorming the right experiences for your community, and your building design and amenities will follow.

The bottom line on senior living hospitality

Get started differentiating your organization by infusing hospitality into every facet of your senior living community. Start by answering the following questions:

  • How is your mission being used to help your community come alive for residents?
  • How does brand coupled with resident demand drive innovative (not necessarily expensive) resident experiences?
  • Based on your mission, how can your team provide personalized engagement?
  • Are your employees driven to provide an authentic branded experience?

Considering how your space might change to fully reflect your mission? Great architecture and design can invigorate your community. Ready to learn more? Contact us or call  (920) 969-9344 to schedule a free introductory meeting.

Volunteer Ideas for Seniors

For older adults, the health benefits of volunteering are many

As a leader in senior living, you want your residents to have expansive, fulfilling lives. And perhaps you’ve been researching volunteer ideas for seniors to help them feel that connectivity to the greater good. If so, you’re on the right track. Numerous studies have proven that volunteerism has benefits that go far beyond helping those in need. In fact, for your senior living residents, it turns out the health benefits of volunteering are many. Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits, and then explore some volunteer opportunities for your residents.

Health benefits of volunteering, from the inside, out

Studies show that seniors live longer, happier, healthier lives when they devote some of their time to volunteering. That’s according to studies of volunteers in the United States, who reported that they had higher levels of well-being when compared to their non-volunteering counterparts, and lower rates of disability. Analysts believe that seniors reap these health benefits because of the increased social, physical and mental activity they experience through volunteerism. The same studies indicated that volunteerism may be especially good for seniors who are experiencing stress or are likely to otherwise experience social isolation, a serious issue that affects many seniors. Even among seniors experiencing grief from the loss of a loved one, they can achieve great benefits through volunteerism, which has been shown to shorten their course of depression.

With the research clearly pointing to the myriad benefits of volunteerism, senior living providers have an opportunity to truly enrich the lives of their residents, while also building the communities they call home. Supporting resident volunteerism can begin by simply giving seniors the tools and space they need to forge connections with the organizations that would value their contributions.

Volunteer ideas for seniors

When you and your staff are ready to explore volunteer opportunities for senior citizens, you may be surprised to find an abundance of organizations eager to bring seniors on board. Here are just a few examples of ways you can connect your residents with volunteer opportunities:

  • Partner with local schools, YMCAs or Boys and Girls Clubs to get your seniors involved in intergenerational activities. Whether you can get your seniors to the students or students come to seniors, these intergenerational programs bring joy to residents and foster in youth a deeper understanding of the elderly. LeadingAge reported on one partnership in which seniors worked with at-risk students—providing caregiving to infants and toddlers and talking and playing cards with older children.
  • Your more talented residents could knit hats, scarves and mittens for charity. Many of them could also help make fleece blankets for charity or for cancer patients who are going through chemotherapy treatments.
  • Residents could spearhead a charitable drive for food, hygiene items or clothing. They also could gather care packages for troops serving overseas. Ask your veterans whether they would be willing share special notes about their time in service.

These form just a small sample of opportunities available, and virtually every community has organizations in need of senior volunteers. With some time and commitment, it’s possible for an organization to create a volunteer pipeline that strengthens your community, while improving quality of life for our senior citizens.

Building senior volunteer opportunities starts with building the right space

If you are considering starting a volunteer program for your senior residents or expanding on your current efforts to cultivate volunteer ideas for seniors, having the right multipurpose space is essential. By putting great architecture and design to work for you, you can create a place that helps seniors enrich their lives by playing an integral role in the community. Whether you’re looking to expand to allow for a crafting space, meeting rooms for volunteers, or perhaps a volunteer resource center, we can help you get there. Ready to learn more? Contact us or call (920) 969-9344 to schedule a free introductory meeting.

Best Practices for Marketing Senior Living Communities Online

Meeting Seniors “Where They Are”

In today’s digital world, more and more people are using the information available online to research companies, engage with brands and aid in their decision-making process. Although information gathering is instant in this digital space, the decision-making journey may take weeks, months or even years. This is especially true with big decisions that can be emotional or cause significant life changes, such as selecting a senior living facility for yourself or a loved one. For this reason, it is critical that you are willing to meet potential residents and families wherever they may be in their decision-making process.

Why you should be meeting seniors online

Social media and other online channels provide an excellent opportunity for you to showcase your senior living design, facility, staff, programs and more to a wide audience of both seniors and their families. A Pew Research Study found that up to 59 percent of seniors aged 65 and up use the Internet, with 71 percent of those using it every day. This time spent on the Internet is often spent browsing and researching, comparing and reading reviews. According to BrightLocal, 97 percent of people read online reviews for local businesses in 2017. In this same study, 73 percent said that positive reviews make them trust a local business more. And when it comes to long-term care for a loved one, there is nothing more important than trust.

How to meet seniors where they are online

The opportunities to build trust by leveraging social media and online reviews with residents and families may seem a little daunting to some senior living communities. After all, how can you be sure that disgruntled residents or employees don’t tarnish your reputation online? To best meet seniors and their families “where they are” and build trust with your facility, there are a few best practices for marketing senior living communities online:

  • Be present on more than one platform. To meet seniors wherever they may be in their decision-making process online, your senior living community must be present in more than just one space. This means moving beyond your senior living facility’s website to also include social media platforms such as Facebook®, which is the one of the most trusted review sites, according to BrightLocal.
  • Engage with potential residents and families during their research process. One of the best things about social media is the opportunity it creates to engage with individuals in an instant. Social media posts and direct messages allow you to move past a traditional contact form on your website, and respond to questions and feedback instantaneously.
  • Show off your facility. Facebook can provide a great platform for marketing senior living communities online through sharing your favorite resident stories, photos of your facility and updates on programs and amenities that you offer to residents. Remember, though, to get permission from anyone featured in your posts, whether they be employees, residents or family members.
  • Make the most of your resources. Facebook is an excellent free resource to provide information to seniors online. According to Pew Research Center, 62 percent of online adults aged 65 and older use Facebook. Include basic information in your senior living facility profile such as your phone number, address and website for a complete resource for seniors and families who are in the decision-making process.
  • Hear seniors out. Online reviews, either through Google® or a social network like Facebook, are the perfect place to turn when looking for senior’s feedback on your senior living community, programming and more. Use these reviews as a sort of checklist when looking for changes to implement in your facility.

Let us help you meet seniors where they are

Is your senior living design an area of concern when marketing your senior living community online? Community Living Solutions can work with you in the master planning of your facility design to evaluate your current situation and provide solutions. Contact us or call (920) 969-9344 for a full market assessment to help determine your future facility design and programming needs.

Board of Directors Management and Communication

How to keep open communication during senior living construction projects

Open communication among board members is key for many organizations, yet senior living facility leaders often face challenges with achieving this goal. Most board of directors are made up of a diverse team of members that brings expertise in various aspects of the organization’s business, so keeping the lines of communication open has a direct impact on your board of directors management, as well as ensuring everyone understands who is in charge of which decisions.

This is particularly important during a major capital investment initiative, like a building project. For a board to directors to effectively oversee a building project, members need relevant planning information and progress updates to help identify project-level risks, the probability of a negative event occurring, the estimated impact if it does occur and potential mitigation strategies.

3 tips for communicating during a building project

So, how can executive teams effectively conduct board of directors management during an important building project? We’ve put together several tips to help teams keep on track:

1. Don’t overwhelm with data
Boards are there to strategically direct management for success and growth—overwhelming members with data puts them in the weeds and off the strategic path. Provide members with the key information points they need to make informed decisions.

Unfortunately, there sometimes is a disconnect within organizations regarding what information is useful for the board of directors. For example, some managers prefer providing board members with as much information as possible to avoid lack of transparency. Yet, board members often say they prefer information presented in ways that highlight the key issues to stimulate discussion and debate. This could lead to less transparency and neither party’s objectives really being achieved.

Knowing what information is useful to your board members is critical. Ask them what is relevant, and what is overwhelming. Keeping the discussion open and honest will help you clearly communicate the project goals and status and help avoid any unnecessary meeting preparations.

2. Keep board of directors engaged throughout the project
In a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey, directors report that they would like to spend more time on strategic planning—and capital projects (like new building projects) are frequently the realization of that strategy. Starting a building project with input from your board of directors up front will help keep the team engaged and excited about the future development of your facility. Regular status updates on the project will also keep the lines of communication open, allowing for well-informed decisions throughout the project.

3. Tap into outside subject matter experts
The use of outside subject matter experts can support executives when an unfamiliar business opportunity or situation arises. Not everyone is an expert when it comes to building codes and senior living construction trends, so tapping into these experts can help clarify and provide reassurance to the board of directors as your building project moves forward.

How CLS can help

At Community Living Solutions, our team helps bring a seamless transition from architectural and strategic planning processes through construction and completion. Our clients work with us because they view us as a trusted advisor. We earn trust through open, honest communication and standing by what we do.

When we begin the strategic planning process with a client, we start by gathering data and holding focus groups with board members. During this session, we ask, “What will make this project a success in your eyes?” By doing that, we capture all the ways board members define success—more often than not, each one defines success differently. We then track these success measures throughout the project to ensure we are meeting expectations.

We’re at your side through decision making and follow through, building consensus among your board of directors and key stakeholders. In other words, we’ll help guide you through board of directors management for your building project. If you’re looking to start your next senior living construction project, contact us for a free consultation or call the Community Living Solution team at 920-969-9345.

Build Community with 5 Customer Experience Best Practices

Customer Experience Design for Senior Living Communities

Ready or not … 2020 is right around the corner and it is brewing a perfect storm for senior living community customer experience. Not only is 2020 the year AARP® estimates an unprecedented 117 million Americans will need health assistance of some kind, it’s also the year Walker Info reports that customer experience will overtake price and product as the key differentiator between brands. Senior living communities can expect increased demand and competition while residents simultaneously mandate landslide changes to your customer experience offerings. Turn these changes into opportunities by incorporating customer experience best practices into your senior living design.

But first, what does customer experience look like for your senior living community? Customer experience is a culmination of all interactions a customer has with your community, regardless of channel, throughout the customer lifespan. From the first time a potential resident or their family visits your website or walks through your doors to daily interactions with staff members and every bill they pay, it all adds up to create their total customer experience. Here are five customer experience best practices customized to get senior living communities started.

1. Put people first

Senior living is a people business, and putting your people first can make a big impact. McKnight’s shared an example of a customer experience supervisor who visited residents to build community while also asking about facility concerns. This personal effort lowered formal complaints and helped residents feel their concerns were heard.

Other simple ideas include:

  • Treat residents as respected friends throughout the organization. Train younger team members on generational communication differences so all residents feel respected and cared for.
  • Determine what communication channels residents and family members prefer to use. Whether phone, email, chat, text or face-to-face, find ways to seamlessly incorporate preferred channels into your processes. For example, many family members work full-time and are not available during the day. Make sure there is an after-hours bill pay or questions line they can use.
  • Make sure residents can get an answer with the first person they ask. Train and empower your entire team to find the right answer to any question.

2. Learn from your community

Customer experience often draws on interviews, focus groups, satisfaction surveys and other listening tools to learn about opportunities from your customer’s perspective. If you’re not ready to conduct formal research, start documenting interactions with community members and using both positive and negative feedback to better understand your team’s strengths. Collect this data to gain understanding of the most common issues your residents are facing. Solve those issues before going any further, and ask your community for feedback on the new solution.

3. Define the customer journey

Whether your team collects formal or informal data, use what you’ve learned to map all customer touch points. Create a customer journey map by identifying each audience group, specific group goals and all interactions with your community along the way. For example, a family member may encounter your community in the following places:

  • Online when researching senior living communities for Mom or Dad
  • At an initial visit
  • On move-in day
  • During regular visits
  • When helping pay the bills

Each touch point might include several unique interactions. At each touch point and interaction ask yourself (or even better … ask the customer):

  • What’s his or her goal?
  • What barriers is he/she encountering?
  • How does the interaction make the customer feel?
  • What questions does he/she have?

Opportunities for enhanced customer experience emerge from each customer-community interaction.

4. Pair customer needs with customer service enhancements

Your community provides wellness, housing, community, nutrition and medical services, plus so much more. People have needs in each of these areas, and any place there’s a need, you have an opportunity to enhance the customer experience. Draw on technology for innovative ideas to meet needs in each area. Even if your community doesn’t use the latest gadget, care-driven technology may spark ideas for enhancing care in your community.

5. Implement, test, measure and repeat

Every customer experience enhancement may not be the end-all-be-all to solving a resident need. Seek feedback from your community and gather new ideas, and repeat the process. Community members will notice the effort and enjoy the process.

If some of your customer experience barriers involve limitations with your facility, contact us for a free consultation or call the Community Living Solution team at 920-969-9345.