Anyone who has spent time in the senior housing business can readily repeat the mantra of resident engagement: We know that seniors tend to isolate. We understand that senior housing can help to ease that sense of isolation by encouraging resident engagement.
Often, though, the conversation stops there. While there may be some discussion of planned activities, gathering places, and even socially-sensitive technologies, many housing enterprises still end up delivering the bare bones. Resident engagement programs exist on paper, but they are not fully fleshed out.
Not only is the lack of engagement bad for seniors. It’s bad for business. Though many operators may not realize it, bare bones engagement bites directly into the bottom line. How so?
Engaged seniors are healthier, which means less turnover and lower vacancy rates. A study published in April 2013 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America showed that seniors who feel isolated have higher mortality rates. On the flip side, seniors who engage with peers and connect with their greater community tend to feel less isolated. Even better, they live longer than their peers.
Staying connected helps seniors stay sharp. Older adults who maintain a network of family and friends show less cognitive decline over time, as reported in the U.S. News and World Report. This, in turn, can generate a direct business result. In the absence of cognitive decline, residents may age in place longer, and also may be less apt to require escalating levels of care. They’ll make better choices, thus reducing the likelihood of clinical interventions. This in turn makes it possible to make maximum use of staff time.
Engagement among seniors can be a direct driver for improved quality of life. We can see this in a study by Statistics Canada, which followed seniors who took part in at least one social activity throughout the week. Researchers found that the more a senior took part in some social activity, the more likely he or she was to report a higher quality of life. The business outcome? Higher quality of life means residents are less likely to change residences over time, and more likely to recommend their current housing choice to friends and family.
All these points show that a fully fleshed-out engagement program for senior housing residents can help bolster the bottom line. More to the point, a lean or paltry engagement offering will almost certainly hurt the numbers in the long run. Clearly, operators in the senior housing business must walk the walk, and not merely talk the talk of resident engagement.
For many, this will begin with the implementation of senior-friendly technologies. These may include tools to reach out to family via social media or video chat, as well as bulletin board functions that give residents digital notification of social events and opportunities within their community.
For those seeking to go beyond the bare bones of social engagement, today’s emerging technologies offer a range of opportunities to deliver meaningful services.