Operations Best Practices

How to Increase Occupancy in Your Senior Living Community

August 6, 2021

If you’re an operator in senior living, you’re always asking yourself how you can draw more residents to your communities. It’s no secret that maintaining high occupancy keeps your communities profitable and drives the growth of your business. And with senior living occupancy rates hitting all-time lows, there’s no better time to get strategizing. Here are five ways to attract new residents and increase occupancy in your senior living communities. 

  1. Convert Short Stays into Full-Time Residents

A potential resident may book a short stay in a senior living community for several different reasons. They may want the extra assistance while they’re recovering from a medical procedure. Or, they might want the peace of mind of a staycation as they take a break from their responsibilities as a homeowner. Whatever the reason, short stays are the perfect opportunity to show older adults who may otherwise be on the fence that your community is right for them full-time.

Many older adults are hesitant to make the switch to senior community living. The AARP found that 3 in 4 seniors hope to remain in their homes as long as possible. These seniors may wish to avoid the stress of moving, or they may be influenced by the negative stereotypes associated with senior living. By allowing them to try out senior living with no strings attached, you can show them first-hand that your vibrant community will help them live life to the fullest and experience new things as they age. 

Short-term stays can also help potential residents realize what their needs are. They might find that they enjoy the convenience of senior living and fall in love with your community as they make new friends. After this trial period, they’ll have the confidence they need to choose your community as their new home!

  1. Offer Exceptional Programming

When older adults are considering moving to a senior community, the quality of the community’s wellness program is an important factor in their decision-making. As many as 71.5% of older adults plan to move to a community for more social contact and activities. Offering exceptional programming doesn’t just improve satisfaction rates for your current residents — it gives you the competitive advantage you need to draw new prospects as well.

Potential residents seek programming that matches their needs and interests, so it’s important to have a comprehensive offering. Diverse, personalized programming that evolves with changing resident needs is much more attractive to prospects than the one-size-fits-all approach. But planning, running, and evaluating personalized experiences demands a great deal of work. Ensure your staff have the right systems in place to support them. A resident experience platform like Welbi provides your staff with smart tools and real-time insights so they can stay on top of resident needs, measure the success of their programs, and make adjustments for continuous improvement. 

You don’t just have to tell potential residents what you offer, either. Let them experience it for themselves by allowing non-residents to attend programs, potentially for a cost or subscription-style fee. This way, you can generate added revenue while marketing your community!

  1. Create Lasting Impressions Through Your Dining Experience

When potential residents tour your community, they want to understand how it can come to feel like home to them. Your dining experience plays an important role in creating that sense of ‘home.’ Everyone needs to eat after all, and families want to know that their loved ones are having delicious, healthy meals.

Including a meal as part of the tour can help you create a lasting impression while showcasing the hospitality that makes your community exceptional. Your dining crew members act as community ambassadors, showing prospects the service they can expect to receive when they interact with your dining facilities three times a day. Prospects may not remember all the amenities they were shown, but they’ll remember how people made them feel, so be sure visitors get the red-carpet treatment. Senior Housing News points out that the sensory experience of eating a meal, from the scents to the taste, also makes it more likely to be remembered.

Of course, making a positive impression through dining starts with having a dining experience you’re proud of. If you’re struggling to provide a consistently exceptional dining experience, consider outsourcing to a food services provider. This can help you boost food and service quality while keeping costs low.

  1. Establish a Resident Referral Program

Establishing a positive partnership with your residents is an excellent way to drive leads that have a higher likelihood of converting into sales. One senior service provider suggests that a resident referral program can boost annual move-ins by as much as 50%. Highly satisfied residents take pride in their communities and will be happy to spread the word. A resident referral program simply provides an incentive for your residents to recommend your community to their family and friends. 

With a referral program, you can formally recognize your residents’ efforts with a gift to show your appreciation. Some communities offer financial rewards, but a thank-you letter, a bottle of wine, or other personal tokens may be more meaningful to your residents. Here are some more ways to recognize your residents that will enhance your referral program

A resident testimonial can also go a long way in building trust in your community. Ask your residents if they would be willing to share their positive experiences!

  1. Use Social Media to Your Advantage

If you’re offering an exceptional resident experience, it’s time to get the word out there with digital marketing. Social media lets you showcase what makes your community unique and differentiates it from the competition. One thing that makes your community special is just that — the sense of community created by the amazing people who call it home!

Pictures and videos of people in your community living life to the fullest tell a compelling story to prospects. Sharing positive experiences on social media gives potential residents a glimpse into what life in your community looks like, beyond event calendars and sample menus. They get to see the camaraderie of your residents and the enthusiasm of your staff in action, which creates a personal connection that can be difficult to achieve through other marketing initiatives.

If you’ve put in the work to create incredible resident experiences and your efforts are paying off in the form of happy residents, why not snap a few pictures? Every successful program, special outing, or catered event is an opportunity to create content for the marketing team, as long as someone is there with a camera!

We hope these five tips will help you increase occupancy in your senior living community! Welbi is here to support you on your journey to offer exceptional resident experiences while driving business success. To learn more about how we can help recreation teams build and deliver engaging, personalized programs, book a demo of the Welbi platform.

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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