Resident Experience

Closing the Perception Gap in Senior Living: Why Your Life Enrichment Program is the Key

July 20, 2023

A recent study from the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) and Age of Majority has found that a gap exists between what senior living communities offer and how consumers perceive the industry. Survey respondents who work in the industry view themselves as offering a positive, entertaining, and vibrant experience to older adults. However, adults ages 40+, the residents of tomorrow, are more likely to view senior living environments as boring, depressing, and isolating. There is a need for owners and operators in senior living to close the perception gap to reach prospective residents. 

In this article, we discuss some of the major findings and key takeaways from the report. You’ll learn more about why the perception gap exists in senior living and how your community’s life enrichment program may be the key to closing with prospects. Though older adults may not think they need senior living, life enrichment programs can help them achieve their top priorities of socializing more and becoming healthier as they age. 

Disconnect in Perceptions About Senior Living

Senior living staff and residents know first-hand that their community is an exciting place to live. Life enrichment professionals are skilled at providing residents with fun activities and opportunities to live life to the fullest. Many survey respondents who work in senior living would describe their community’s atmosphere as social (89%), active (80%), positive (74%), and fun (72%).

Unfortunately, consumer perceptions of the senior living industry are more negative. The report found that some older adults perceive senior living communities to be depressing (34%), boring (28%), and stagnant (22%). Consumers also tend to misunderstand the different types of senior living options available to them. For instance, 38% of older adults associate the term “nursing home” with senior living, though not all communities offer nursing care. Consumer views may be shaped by the local retirement communities in their area as well as their individual attitudes toward aging. 

Given that most older adults are not thinking far into the future about their housing needs — and those who plan to age in place — the senior living industry needs to find a way to address negative consumer perceptions. The good news is that respondents do see some appeal in community living, even if they are still undecided on their future housing. There is an opportunity for senior living communities to reevaluate their messaging and marketing efforts to appeal more to older adults. 

Key Takeaways and Opportunities

One of the biggest takeaways of the report is that senior living communities do offer a lifestyle that appeals to older adults — they just don’t know it yet. Over the next 10 years, older adults said that they intend to prioritize nurturing relationships with friends and family as well as improving their physical health. Senior living communities and their life enrichment programs can provide older adults with opportunities to pursue these goals and increase their overall well-being. 

Top 5 priorities of active agers for the next 10 years:

1. Family (53%)
2. Becoming healthier (46%)
3. Improving my physical shape/condition (45%)
4. Having fun (39%)
5. Nurturing friendships/relationships (31%)

Senior living marketing efforts can focus more on their community’s social atmosphere. Though older adults say they want to prioritize relationships, studies show that people are spending more and more time alone. The United States is also currently facing a crisis of loneliness and isolation. Older adults tend to be at a higher risk for isolation, which can have negative health consequences as we age. Consumers may not realize that senior living communities can provide them with the support they need to maintain connections with family and friends as well as meet new people. This can help improve their overall quality of life. 

The report adds that all marketing for your community should take care to emphasize resident autonomy. While life enrichment programs offer activities where residents can socialize with others, they are free to choose how often or how little they wish to attend.

Senior living communities can also emphasize how their life enrichment program helps residents live a healthier, active lifestyle. The report notes that older adults specify that they want to improve their current physical condition, not just maintain it. Senior living can provide older adults with the support they need to age actively. Life enrichment professionals play a key role in ensuring that older adults have the opportunity to exercise safely and consistently. Exercising in a communal environment can also help motivate older adults to pursue their health-related goals. 

Katie Stewart

Katie is a member of Welbi’s Customer Experience team! She has a background in communications and recreation and is passionate about older adults, exercise, coffee and people.

Holly Mathias

Holly is a member of Welbi’s Marketing team! She has a background in communications and marketing, and is a compassionate individual who loves team work, story telling, and wellness.

Wendy Riopelle

Wendy is a student in the Honours BA in English program at the University of Ottawa, where she has won numerous awards for her writing.

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