Resident Retention in 2016: What Senior Living Operators Must Know

As every senior housing executive knows, attracting new residents is only the beginning of the relationship. Often the greater challenge is in ensuring resident retention over time. A number of pressures come to bear to make resident retention a business challenge, and those pressures are only increasing as the new year begins.

Increased competition in 2016 will continue to give residents greater choices, with a broader range of options to choose from if they are seeking to change residences. At the same time, an aging population means operators are under pressure to pursue resident wellness, or else lose residents to settings with higher degrees of medical care.

According to the most recent numbers, the median annual resident turnover across all assisted living residences stands at nearly 50 percent. There’s no reason to think that 2016 will see that figure declined. Fortunately, there are steps a senior housing executive can take to help maintain a stable – and satisfied – resident population in the coming year.

To win the continued loyalty of residents, along with the adult children who help to determine their situation, operators must pay special attention to their own staffing situations in 2016. The labor market for those wanting to serve in senior living is exceptionally tight and turnover rates run high. At the same time, residents want and expect to see familiar faces.

A stable staff encourages individual attention, and also is a sign of a well-run organization. Any efforts made to retain residents in 2016 must begin with a clear effort to train staff, manage shifts, provide adequate compensation and take other necessary steps to ensure that those who provide care are, themselves, cared for.

The next area of concern in resident retention is the dining room. It is not enough to merely be good enough. Today’s seniors and their loved ones expect a senior residence to deliver a high quality dining experience. This suggests a number of things.

First, the setting itself must be first rate, more like a restaurant than a cafeteria or dining hall. The food must be high quality and the recipes creative and interesting. Dining ought to be tailored to the individual. This means having a range of choices, including multiple dining venues when possible, as well as food tailored to meet specific medical or dietary needs.

Finally, housing operators must look to technology in the coming year as a major element in the effort to generate resident retention. Technology tools in 2016 will help to drive satisfaction, and also wellness, in a number of ways.

First and foremost, new technologies can aid resident health. That’s a significant issue in relation to retention, as medical events and deteriorating medical condition often are the cause of a resident’s leaving a housing situation in favor of a facility that can offer a heightened level of care.

How can technology help? Take for instance passive health monitoring technology. Aided by the processing power of artificial intelligence, an array of sensors, invisible to the senior, establishes a baseline of typical motions. These tools give housing executives a means to keep close watch on a resident’s patterns of movement, alerting caregivers when a fall seems imminent.

Such tools can play a significant role in ensuring wellness and thus driving retention rates. In many if not most cases seniors experience preventable hospitalization due to falls. In fact, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The dollar cost of falls suggests the scope of the problem: In 2013 medical expenses related to fall injuries for people 65 and older was $34 billion.

By enlisting technology to keep the likelihood of falls in check, senior housing executives tip the odds in their favor but ensuring greater wellness and thus increasingly the likelihood that seniors will remain in place, rather than moving out in favor of a facility with a higher level of care.

In the ongoing effort to ensure resident retention over time, interventions such as fall prevention, staff stability and dining excellence all will play a role in the coming year.

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