How will senior living meet the needs of baby boomers? What’s been the biggest surprise about senior living? We spoke with Dawn Sigmen, Vice President, Director of Client Strategy here at Angell Marketing, to get her thoughts on senior living.
First, can you tell us about your professional journey in senior living?
I started as a salesperson 30 years ago in a community hired by the marketing director at the time, Wynne Angell. Honest to goodness, I did not think I would take the path of senior living. I became more interested and actually got hooked after working at that community for about six months. It all kind of clicked, and I met pretty amazing seniors along the way with pretty amazing stories.
After shifting to the marketing side and not interacting daily with seniors, has your motivation shifted?
No, I 100% believe that living in a senior living community enhances and extends the lives of seniors. That’s what motivates me to work with teams at communities and, hopefully, instill in them that understanding of what a powerful and rewarding job they have.
How has the senior living industry or landscape changed since you’ve been a part of it?
I would say that, on the independent side, definitely adult children have become more involved in the decision-making. It was an exception that the adult child took the lead and recommended senior living to their parents. Adult children have become more educated about senior living and have been the catalyst for their parents in finding a place.
What has surprised you the most about what has changed or stayed the same?
When I started thirty years ago it was very, almost, institutional. It was more about the resident needing to fit into what the community had to offer. It was dining at a certain time, activities at a certain time, and never on weekends when staff was not around. In health centers, person-centered care was not widely accepted. It was very regimented.
It’s been great to see hospitality incorporated into senior living. It is no longer about what is convenient for the staffing, but it’s about what’s best for the residents. So residents have more input. And dining is pretty much what you see in the real world. I think we’re going to get to a point where there will be 24-hour dining on the independent living side because that’s what they can do out in the world.
Where do you see the industry going to meet the needs of the influx of baby boomers?
It’s funny, boomers are people who think, ‘I’m the exception, so what are you going to do when it’s all about me?’ I think that has to be reflected in communities.
In fact, we’ve already seen that happening now in communities because of the influence of the boomer daughter in helping her parents make decisions. I was the one who initiated looking for my parents to move. So if I didn’t like the community, it wasn’t going to be an option for my parents. It had to appeal to me, so I think that influence is already in the industry.
How would you recommend communities adapt?
I think it’s more about asking people what their expectations are and what’s important to them. And making it seem like your community was built especially for that person. Because they don’t care about anybody else.
What has the response to the pandemic taught you?
It has reinforced for me that socialization is more important now than it was before because of the isolation that many seniors felt. Probably the most surprising was that the adult child was more concerned about their parent living in a senior living community than the actual prospects. The prospects were like, ‘We’re good. We want to meet and do activities. We don’t have a problem meeting with people.’ I think it’s because of what seniors have experienced in their lives. My wise mom said, ‘I don’t know how much longer I have. I don’t want to be held back from being with my family and be restricted.’
WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND COMMUNITIES DO DURING THIS TIME?
I think that communities need to meet people where they are. Find out their comfort level as far as group settings. With the surveys we’ve done, most people will be surprised that seniors are okay with moving to a community. They know that there is some security in not having to deal with shortages at the grocery store and still having that connection with people. Not feeling isolated.
Do you see any lasting impacts on the future of senior living?
I think that there will be impacts, definitely. Large group activities won’t be as common. I think how we use space in senior living is going to be different, definitely on the health care side. Looking at housekeeping and common areas is going to be vitally important. It’s going to impact those older communities that have not done the capital improvements and are limited in common spaces.
Ready to learn more about Angell Marketing?
Find out more about Angell Marketing and how we can help your community reach its goals. To learn more about our team, visit our about us page or follow us on LinkedIn. You can also get a taste of our work by viewing some examples here. Or, contact us to learn more. For more insights, check out our conversations with Wynne Angell and Lesli Knee.
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