The price of social isolation among seniors has been well documented. Loneliness, depression, declining health: All these can come as a direct result of seclusion. Engagement can have the opposite effect. Seniors who remain connected to family, friends and community are likely to be healthier and happier over time.
That’s why it pays for senior housing operators to do all they can to keep seniors socially engaged. When seniors are socially engaged a housing operator can fulfill a range of significant goals: To keep residents well and happy; to keep the facility operating smoothly; and, ultimately, to run a profitable enterprise.
How do these pieces come together?
Resident health is both a desired state and a business outcome. Healthier residents are less likely to leave in search of higher levels of care. They require less specialized care and fewer staff members in attendance. Engagement, as driven by technological tools such as social media and video chatting, can bring a community to this point.
Staff turnover is a key cost driver in senior housing, one that a socially engaged community is less likely to experience. A community, whose members share conversation, whose residents remain connected to family and friends, will by definition offer a congenial work environment, ultimately keeping turnover to a minimum.
Referrals are a main element in senior housing marketing. Members of the community, as well as family members, help steer potential residents to the front door, but such referrals rely on existing residents’ satisfaction. When residents are socially engaged, they are more likely to be satisfied with their situation. This leads to the very direct business outcome of higher referral rates not just from family but also physicians, social workers and others in the community.
Extended caring is a little noted but highly significant outcome of social engagement. By extended caring we mean the natural tendency for people to watch out for one another. Should an isolated senior go into a decline, it’s likely that no one may notice for quite some time. If an engaged senior hits a rough patch, physically or cognitively, it’s far more likely that someone in their social circle will notice and take action. A family member may report their observations to a caregiver, or a friend in the community will sound an alert. Social engagement helps directly to extend the circle of caring.
Congeniality is hardly viewed as a business outcome, at least not in senior housing, even though corporate America has understood for a long time that an affable workplace can generate stronger performance overall. How does this relate to social engagement? It isn’t hard to connect the dots. When residents maintain strong social relationships, a senior housing community will be a more relaxed, more pleasant environment. That’s good for the residents, good for staff, and ultimately good for the bottom line.
It’s easy to get caught up in thinking of a socially engaged environment as being merely in the interests of residents – and there is nothing wrong with that. If what you get out of a social engagement program is a group of healthier, happier seniors, that’s a terrific outcome. Still, it’s good to know that when you engage in this fundamental element of the senior housing enterprises, the benefits extend beyond just wellness, to have a direct impact on the bottom line.