ParenteBeard Senior Living Services

Trends in Senior Living Marketing

June 2011

For many senior living providers, the end of 2010 was met with cheers, though not of the “Happy New Year” variety. Many organizations were happy to put a rather demanding year behind them and to look out at a hopefully improving economic climate for 2011. Unfortunately, just over five months into the year, the long sought economic rebound has yet to materialize.

Not only has it been difficult to keep the organizational budget under control due to higher costs to operate, many providers are facing occupancy problems as many seniors remain firmly entrenched in a kind of bunker mentality. Senior living marketing professionals are facing many challenges in trying to keep living units full. For newer projects, still trying to fill up upon completion of construction, the challenges are even more severe as the softness in the real estate market continues to impact home sales and prices for seniors.

Senior living providers are looking for ways to create new opportunities in the local market while also trying to build upon past successes. Following are some of the relevant trends being seen in senior living marketing across the country:

Touches Before Sale Increases:

The number of “touches” that a marketing staffer must make from initial contact with a prospect until closing on a sale has increased significantly in the past twelve months. This is a function of seniors becoming much more reticent to make major life decisions during the recession (or a very slow recovery). In addition, seniors are doing more research and comparison shopping of other providers. This trend needs to be factored into marketing budgets and fill-up schedules since more touches mean longer marketing periods.

Proper Pricing Drives Home Sales:

Although the “days on market” metric for home sales is important for understanding the local real estate market, the fact remains that seniors who are realistic in pricing their homes are having some success in selling them. Problems develop most often because there is a resistance to accepting the fact that home prices in mid-2011 are lower than one to two years ago. It is up to your marketing team to educate potential residents to the fact that a drop in home value from the peak of the market to now does not equate to money lost. In fact, if the senior purchased the house in the 1960s or 1970s, there has likely been tremendous appreciation in value in spite of the recent roll back in prices.

Programmatic Outreach into the Community Pays Marketing Dividends:

Senior living providers who have been offering programs and services that draw non-resident seniors, local families, and civic leaders to their campuses and facilities have been reaping the rewards of increased occupancy and achievement of marketing milestones. The programs can range from life care at home to adult day care on the health care side or health and fitness to aquatic programs on the residential side, and even lectures or musical programming on the social and cultural side. The results have been that as local seniors and adult children come to the campus for one purpose, they often begin to develop an appreciation for the life style and quality of care offered.

Wait Lists Are Less Important:

Those wait lists that have developed over the years, sometimes a source of pride (“Our wait list is over 4 years long!”) are proving to be less and less useful. Some providers have eliminated them or at least have stopped spending money and time cultivating the seniors on those lists with social events. The fact is that as apartments or health care units become available, the individuals on the wait list are often not ready, are unable to sell a home on short notice, or have already made other plans.  Rather than spend hours reaching out to individuals on the list, some providers are mass mailing (or e-mailing) names on an annual lead list

Social Accountability Activities Help Marketing:

The programs can vary widely:  fund-raising for a local charity, making quilts for the homeless shelter, sponsoring mentoring programs for local high school students, embracing recycling and composting as way to protect the environment, or sponsoring candidate forums during local elections. All of these types of social accountability activities can not only reinforce your not-for-profit mission, but can also help market your residential services if stories about the programs are picked up by the local media. 

Satisfaction Helps:

If you undertake annual resident satisfaction surveys of your residents and their families, the data can certainly help with your marketing program, depending upon how the results are communicated to the public. And organizations that also conduct surveys of staff, have an added tool to trumpet a commitment to quality care and services.

Marketing Blizzards and Thunderstorms:

In the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions, the tough winter experienced in 2010-2011 and the volatile spring with multiple days of rain and thunderstorms, have been a boon to marketing programs. Mailers and phone calls to individuals on lead lists can, in a friendly manner, remind seniors that your residents tend to leave the shoveling and snow removal to the staff. Also, the clean-up from downed tree branches and blown debris are the responsibility of the staff, not the residents. Savvy marketing professionals are using this information to bolster their marketing strategies.

As we try to remain optimistic about an improving economy in 2011, let’s also hope for continuing improvement in the marketing and operations of senior living organizations!

For more information, please contact the following member of the ParenteBeard Senior Living Group:

Jennifer Schwalm, Partner

Contact Us

For Senior Living Assurance and Tax Services:

Mark Ross, Partner and Practice Leader, Senior Living Services Practice

Mike Frey, Partner

Brian Gabriel, Partner

Ben Jarmul, Partner

Julius Green, Partner


ParenteBeard's Senior Living Services specialists will be speaking at or attending the following upcoming conferences:

June 20-22 NYAHSA Saratoga Springs, NY
Sept 7-9

AOPHA - The Advocate of Not-for-Profit Services for Older Ohioans

Wendy Kiser and David Gottshall
'"Learning to Live with Lower Reimbursement:  Maintaining Your Profit Margin through Operations Improvement"

Columbus, OH
Sept 21-23 Ziegler Finance Colorado Springs, CO
Oct 16 - 19 AAHSA - American Association of Homes & Services for the Aging Washington, DC

About Us

If you would like to learn more about ParenteBeard use the following links:

Business Advisors With Administrators, former CFO’s, licensed CPA’s and RN’s on staff, we offer a wide range of services, including strategic planning, market feasibility, operations assessment, review and improvement, development and finance solutions, and clinical advisory services.

Audit, Cost Report and Tax Solutions We perform audit and tax services for a number of state aging associations and approximately 250 continuing care retirement communities, skilled nursing, assisted living facilities, and subsidized housing projects for the elderly.  Our team periodically advises Leading Age (formerly AAHSA) on 990 and other tax matters. We also prepare approximately 300 Medical Assistance and Medicare cost reports on an annual basis.