Hey senior living — do we really need all of these frills?
By frills, we mean — among other things — fresh flowers, linen tablecloths, fantastical outdoor fountains and perfectly manicured landscaping. All of these things may make your senior living community look great, but they’re not necessarily the best investment, according to Dana Wollschlager, practice leader at Plante Moran Living Forward. Wollschlager joined PointClickCare Vice President and General Manager, Senior Living, Travis Palmquist during a recent PointClickCare webinar titled “How to Improve Occupancy by Leveraging Technology.”
Persuading older adults to move into senior living can be a tough task, especially because 88% of seniors would like to stay in their current residence as long as possible, Wollschlager explained. With middle-income seniors — or those who will be able to spend $30,000 and $50,000 per year on senior living — the cost of a senior living apartment can complicate the equation even further.
Nationally, the average price of a one-bedroom assisted living apartment is $4,560 per month. In states like New Jersey and Massachusetts, the average cost for a one-bedroom apartment in assisted living is more than $6,000 per month. These prices will likely cause middle-income seniors’ eyes to pop, and will require some justification on behalf of the provider.
“Future customers will be focused on value,” Wollschlager said. “Does it make sense for me to pay X amount, and what will I get in return?”
Here’s the thing — fresh flowers and linen tablecloths are nice, but they don’t typically add tangible value. Residents want their money to be put toward services that will keep them happy, healthy, and safe. Linens won’t accomplish this, but the right senior living technology will, according to Palmquist.
The Value of Technology
Most senior living executives already recognize the opportunities technology can offer their organizations, Palmquist said. Despite this, they’re hesitant to adopt technology.
“People can get caught up in the fact that it’s a bit disruptive,” Palmquist said of senior living software, like electronic health records (EHR). Implementing this kind of senior living technology requires an upfront investment and training, and executives may be concerned their staff will fail to use the software the way it’s meant to be used.
But when technology is used correctly, the investment is completely worth it for providers and their residents.
“If we can increase the average length of stay by X number of days, it’s going to pay for itself,” Wollschlager explained. EHRs also give staff more confidence, Palmquist said, which translates into residents receiving better, more timely care.
Guaranteeing senior living technology is being used correctly requires some time, effort and training, but providers shouldn’t feel rushed.
“You don’t have to take it on all at once; take it on at a pace that your organization can be successful with,” Palmquist said.
Senior living technology is an investment — but it’s one that’s worth making, Palmquist stressed. Wollschlager agreed, adding that investments in technology bring value to a senior living organization, unlike some other flashy potential buys.
“Be disciplined, don’t get distracted by the latest and greatest shiny object,” Wollschlager said. “You can’t afford it!”