Gary Jones, Heather Tussing, Olivia Beaton, Gary Jones, and Scott Smith

Technology in Senior Living: Adapting & Powering the Industry Forward

The senior living industry and technology have not always gone hand and hand, however COVID-19 forced the industry to adapt into the 21st century and inspire meaningful change. The panel at Healthtac West, Technology in Senior Living: Adapting & Powering the Industry Forward, featured, Heather Tussing, Executive Vice President at Morning Pointe Senior Living, Scott Smith, National Director of Resident Programming at Five Star Senior Living, Rob Day, Director of Sales for G5, and Gary Jones, General Manager of Customer Experience at VCPI.

Smith starts off by sharing that “there were two things that people cared about during the pandemic: connecting and safety.” He says that all the technology that Five Star implemented were majorly trying to tackle those two things. For Tussing, “the pandemic really showed me that I need to be able to communicate with families personally throughout all of our communities, so we implemented technology that allowed me to do that.” For loved ones, the unknown was scarier than the reality, and the transparency and communication that came from the pandemic are surely here to stay, as resident well-being is everyone’s number one priority.

So, what is technologies role as we move into a post pandemic world? Jones believes that telehealth is something that is here to stay, however it is crucial that communities have the infrastructure to meet the technological demand. Tussing notes that for some residents, telehealth has become a better opportunity for them to get the care they need without having to leave their community, especially memory care residents. Smith agrees, and says when buildings didn’t have the proper foundation, it left teams scrambling to find ways to connect residents with the outside world. Moving forward, Smith says the goal is “how can we make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”

As Day notes, it is no secret that “senior living is behind other industries from a technology standpoint,” however, he goes on to say that “there have been more tech companies that are seeing opportunities in this space.” Smith brings up an important point, saying that not only does the technology need to be in place and available, but the proper tools and training need to be provided to staff to onboard them properly. There is no use for technology if it is not making the lives of the staff easier, which is why investing time and money in assuring team members are digesting the implemented technology is crucial. “I believe the biggest gap in technology in senior living right now is automation.” And he hopes that as the industry growths with time, it will be able to adapt into a more automated environment.

As the industry moves forward, Day discusses that the residents’ relationships with technology are going to change as well. Residents now are at an age where they have not had relationships with technology their whole lives, but soon that will no longer be the case. It will be interesting to see how the industry evolves along with the next generation of residents. Smith hopes that this shift will make day to day operations smoother.

Looking into the future there are big hopes for how technology will shape the future of senior living. Jones comments, “infrastructure is something operators need to continue to invest in and update on a regular 3–5-year basis.” Technology is changing, and senior living needs to be able to leverage the best possible practices for their staff and residents. Tussing adds on “communities can either embrace and adapt to technology, or they are going to be left behind because there is no other option.” However, as a leader, she stresses that this change cannot and will not take place over night, and the goal is to adapt at a pace that is palatable for teams and communities. She says, “while we have to move forward, we must move forward with empathy.” Smith brings up an important point, and while he is on board for all these technology advancements, he hopes that at the core, the industry doesn’t stray away from the heart behind senior living, “everything we do is still about relationships.”

Shannon Watson, David Sawyer, Olivia Beaton, Christy Van Der Westhuizen, and Stephanie Haley-Andrews

What’s Next? A Look into the Future of Senior Living

The last 18 months have been extremely challenging for the senior living industry, but the leaders on this panel are ready to move onward and upward as they prepare to meet the bottled-up demand of seniors ready to make the move to their communities. Stephanie Haley-Andrews, SVP of Resident Care, Spectrum Retirement Communities, Shannon Watson, President / CEO at Baptist Retirement Communities of Georgia, Christy Van Der Westhuizen, Director of Sales & Marketing at MBK Senior Living, and David Sawyer, CEO / Founder of TSO Life, come together to discuss what is next for the industry.

Change is a word that took on a new meaning to operators during the pandemic, and the panelists discussed what changes are here to stay, and what changes may no longer be necessary. Van Der Westhuizen notes that all the rapidly changing information and demands instilled “the need to communicate quickly, and with a sense of transparency,” and she believes that is a positive change that will continue to be important moving forward. Her communities at MBK took to video to be transparent with their residents, team members, and families, by sending weekly “what’s good in the community” notes to keep a sense of honesty and joy even during challenging times.

Watson believes that COVID-19 has moved seniors and senior housing to the forefront of the public’s minds, which creates a unique opportunity for growth, change, and education. She discusses how the isolation many seniors at home experienced during the pandemic has created a shift and a desire to move into a community where they can find connections.

Sawyer, being on the technology side of the industry, states that in the future, senior living needs to step up its integration game by “having data flow more freely between systems and creating a seamless experience for the operator.” He encourages technology vendors to focus on integrating much better, to which Haley-Andrews agrees that less redundancy would ease day to day operations within communities.

Occupancy is the buzzword on everyone’s minds in the industry right now, and the good news is, the panelists agree the demand for senior living is back and may even grow bigger than before.  Van Der Westhuizen says, “occupancy is rebounding a lot faster than we anticipated,” and she contributes that to her team doing the hard work when it was easy not to. The relationships that her sales teams built during COVID-19 have been crucial in bringing new residents into their communities. Sawyer adds that as a collective, we have to “make senior living a want instead of a need.”

From a marketing standpoint, all the panelists agree the key to getting new faces in the doors is showing the reality of what life is like within their communities. Watson, “if you can show people content of residents who actually live in your communities and not just stock photos, that makes the difference.” Sawyer adds on to that, and notes that senior living needs to market themselves as a place people want to live as well as cater to the changing trends and desires of the potential new residents. He challenges operators to look at their engagement calendars and question if this is a place they would want to come spend time, and if the answer is no, to start reflecting on ways to change that experience.

As far as what is next and what they want to see in the future, Watson also believes in the power of more intergenerational connections and opportunities within the industry, as seniors have so much to offer younger generations, and vice versa. Haley-Andrews and her communities are focusing on a holistic approach to care, “and providing evidence-based practice and care to show better outcomes.” As a former Disney cast member, Van Der Westhuizen is all about “experience based senior living,” and she hopes one day to own communities that do just that, provide an exceptional experience and quality of life to the residents.  Wherever the future of senior living takes the industry, it is no doubt that with leaders like these at the helm, there is nowhere to go but up.

Tshane Bell, Mindy Cheek, Mandy Curtis, Stephanie Parks, Hank Watson, and Olivia Beaton

Skilled Nursing 101: A Different Kind of Care

Skilled Nursing Facilities are a large part of the senior living industry yet are often ignored or misunderstood. This group of SNF leaders came together to debunk some myths and provide education on the importance of skilled nursing. The panel was comprised of, Tshane Bell, Director of Strategic Operations at Cascadia Healthcare, Mindy Cheek, Senior Vice President at Greystone Communities, Mandy Curtis, Senior Vice President of Health Services at Oakmont Management Group, Stephanie Parks, Chief Development Officer at Reliant Rehab, and Hank Watson, Chief Development Officer from American Health Partners.

Bell states that SNF differs from senior housing strongly due to the regulatory environment that they are in, the skilled realm is heavily regulated by CMS across the country. Before they were regulated, SNF didn’t necessarily have great outcomes, which is where many of the false perceptions about nursing homes came to be. “When I first got into skilled nursing over two decades ago, we were taking the residents that other senior living models are taking now, now skilled nursing has become more of that short term rehab, but the acuity we take is what hospital systems used to take.”

Watson adds, “Part of what the nursing home industry needs to own in a positive way is that about two-thirds of the people in our beds are not long-term care eligible, there are millions of people that need 24/7 nursing care, and we can provide that and do it for a lower cost. That is a really critical piece to be proud of and is unique to nursing homes.” Curtis brought up an important point, that “at some point, it’s important for other types of senior housing to be honest and say we cannot provide certain types of care that a skilled nursing facility is able to.”

Parks and Curtis agree that one of their favorite parts of being in skilled nursing is being able to see the progression of residents as their needs change throughout their journey. Though skilled nursing has made tremendous strides over the last few decade, Cheek notes that “there is always an opportunity to improve the level of care we are providing.” And as these panelists engaged in their dialogue, it’s clear that change and raising the level of quality care is always in the forefront of their minds.

Parks believes there is a moment in time for SNF, and the idea that it is the last step for end-of-life care is not the case, so rewriting that narrative is important to assure that individuals who could benefit from skilled nursing aren’t discouraged. Watson offers a way to achieve this and encourages those in skilled nursing to “take ownership from a clinical perspective of your residents. As an industry, we must invest in the resources for our residents. We can set the model of care and take a leadership stance instead of being at the bottom of the food chain.”

All the panelists agree that quality outcomes are extremely important in skilled nursing, as Bell says, “this gives us the opportunity to show people who we are and what we are about.” To get people in the door, Cheek believes in the powers of testimonials and stresses the importance of using positive resident or family feedback to prove the fantastic role skilled nursing can have in an older adult’s life. “People are scared to make that move, but when they hear other positive experiences, it helps eliminate that fear.” Parks agrees with her fellow panelists, and she adds “it is the least expensive location to get the highest level of care.” Quality outcomes and the resident experience are the two most important things to advocate for and it is up to leaders within the industry to educate the public on the good of skilled nursing facilities.

Vayyar Home: Keeping Residents Safe and Independent

Vayyar Home is a revolutionary, touch-less, elderly care and emergency response system. Fully automatic, it monitors seniors without them needing wearables, buttons or pendants, devices which they may be unable or even unwilling to operate after suffering a fall. And because Vayyar Home is completely camera-free, it maintains privacy at all times.

Seniors don’t want to be perceived as old, frail, or incapable, and many refuse to use traditional devices for exactly these reasons. Vayyar Home promotes resident’s safety while protecting their independence, something that is extremely important to seniors.

The device uses harmless radio waves to detect a person’s body position, allowing to it to detect a fall instantly. Caregivers receive real-time alerts that allow them to provide rapid response, preventing “long lies” and their potentially catastrophic consequences. But they also need to know about the relatively minor “hidden” falls that seniors often fail to report, but which are often precursors to major falls. This level of protection not only improves the quality of life of residents and gives their families greater peace of mind – it also benefits operators in terms of higher length of stay and enhanced brand reputation.

Marc McGrann, Director of Business Development, and David Hamel, a sales representative, both work closely with numerous senior living communities and agree that the value of Vayyar is two-fold: accurate fall prevention and rich data collection.

While Vayyar is best known for instant fall detection, the platform also gathers a wealth of other activity data that is just as important to a resident’s overall well-being. Vayyar’s technology can monitor sleep patterns, bathroom habits, time spent idle and more, all of which can aid communities in noticing behavioral changes and making timely interventions.

Hamel states that “data is driving care planning,” and in the wake of COVID-19, it is now more important than ever. Having a Vayyar Home sensor in a resident’s room ensures that residents are safeguarded around the clock, making staff’s lives easier and eliminating the constant fear that falls or health issues will be missed or overlooked. Even the most attentive staff cannot be everywhere at once, and residents are not always forthcoming about their challenges or setbacks, which is why Vayyar’s monitoring system is a crucial asset to any community.

McGrann stresses that privacy is a key aspect of Vayyar Home’s unique offering and that seniors often strongly object to cameras in their rooms. But he adds that they understand the value of the solution “the insights we deliver create a more rounded vision of residents’ day-to-day experience, helping them live longer and happier lives.”

Another advantage of Vayyar Home is that it can be easily integrated with the nurse call system or care platform that the community already has in place, easing the transition for staff. Vayyar Home puts all the information they need at their fingertips, helping them to prioritize care delivery and assisting communities in better catering to their residents’ specific needs.

In a post COVID-19 world, where isolation and its effects on physical health are top of mind for seniors’ families and operators alike, Vayyar Home is a solution that will ease those concerns by providing an unprecedented level of monitoring that enables the highest standards of care.

Eclipse Senior Living Launches New Video Series to Help Families Discuss Senior Living Options

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. – After a year of extraordinary challenges, Eclipse Senior Living is launching a new video series that highlights stories and the benefits of senior living communities told by actual residents and their families. In the series, titled “Why Senior Living,” the residents and their families, as well as the Eclipse Senior Living leadership team, share their experiences living, visiting (both virtually and in-person) and flourishing in senior communities before and during the pandemic.

The “Why Senior Living” series features short videos that tackle many of the issues that families and caregivers face every day — and in the COVID-19 crisis. The videos provide unscripted accounts about creating a new home in a senior living community and what residents and their families can expect. The topics covered in the series include:

Peace of mind for adult children of residents
Levels of care
Navigating the process as a caregiver

“There’s no doubt that this year has been tough and we are proud of how our communities and residents came together in the face of unimaginable circumstances,” said Jamison Gosselin, chief marketing officer of Eclipse Senior Living. “Ultimately, we wanted to create these videos to tell our story and how we support families and help them find the best possible care for an aging parent or loved one.”

The “Why Senior Living” series is live and available to view by visiting and

About Eclipse Senior Living
Eclipse Senior Living is a national manager of distinctive Independent, Assisted Living and Memory Care communities across the United States, including the brands Elmcroft™ and Embark™. The Eclipse Senior Living portfolio includes over 100 communities in more than 25 states. To learn more about Eclipse Senior Living, visit:

Essie Noble

Essie Noble Joins Solstice Senior Living as Regional Vice President of the Southern Region

In college, Essie Noble set out to become a Doctor, as the desire to help people had always been at the forefront of her mind, however she quickly realized she was called to help seniors in a different way. She fell into an operations position for a home health company where she worked with seniors and she immediately knew this was her passion. Noble held a sales role for a time, but she missed that resident connection that inspired her to get into senior living in the first place, she knew she was meant to be on the operations side of things, making a difference and engaging with the residents. Noble has now been at Solstice for a month and it feels like a natural fit for her, she is also thrilled to be working with Steven Flynt, COO at Solstice, and the rest of their dedicated leaders.

With more than 12 years’ experience, Noble has led sales and operations efforts in a variety of industries, including non-medical home care, home health and senior living. She comes to Solstice from Brookdale Senior Living, where she supported upward of 15 communities with sales and marketing initiatives.

While Noble’s new responsibilities are vast, she says ultimately it boils down to, “making sure the residents have an amazing experience at Solstice.” Noble enjoys visiting communities, engaging with residents, and supporting staff members however they may need. Noble has been fortunate to have inspirational mentors along her career path in senior living, and she wants to follow in their footsteps, training and mentoring teams and taking care of the people that take care of the residents’ day in and day out. Noble will serve as the head of operations for Solstice communities in Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas.

Noble joined the Solstice team at a unique time in the industry that has helped her set her first goal, returning to a sense of normalcy within their communities. She and her teams are eager to reinstate resident life and the residents are thrilled to be together again and participating in some of their favorite outings and activities. Noble also has goals to empower and educate her staff, aiding in their success and career growth is something that is extremely important to her. “I love to educate, I love giving people the tools they need to execute their goals,” says Noble. She believes that outside the box thinking is important, and now is an incredible opportunity to take a new spin on the way things have always been done.

“We are thrilled to welcome Essie Noble to our growing leadership team,” said Collette Gray, president and chief executive officer of Integral Senior Living and Solstice Senior Living. “I’m confident that Essie’s experience and unique approach will be valuable assets for our teams in the South region. Her impressive experience in health care and senior living will be a great asset to our communities, and I’m excited to see how her leadership will benefit our Solstice team.”

Noble is most excited to make an impact with Solstice’s independent living residents, as she previously spent time in other areas of senior living. She is eager to learn, dive in, and provide residents with positive and meaningful experiences. Her new role allows her to cultivate relationships with residents, families, and staff, something for which she is extremely grateful and excited about.

Dr. Naveed

Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center Launches CKD Management Program

RICHMOND, Va.— Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center has launched a Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) Management Program under the direction of Sajid Naveed, MD, MRCP, medical director. Located at 1776 Cambridge Drive in Richmond, the 190-bed skilled nursing facility provides post-hospital care, short-term rehab and long-term residential care.

Canterbury’s new CKD management program provides specialized care and services to patients with CKD and related diagnoses, aiming to preserve kidney function and prevent further decline through a balance of treatment and education. This includes protocols to reduce symptoms, decrease disability, increase quality of life and promote independence. 

In addition to consults with Dr. Naveed and other board-certified specialists, Canterbury’s CKD program features diabetic management, health coaching and dietary education, on-site pulmonary rounding, and routine medical management of associated co-morbidities, among other services and therapies. On-site hemodialysis will be available soon.

“Canterbury continues to expand its range of specialty offerings, introducing programs like this to meet area healthcare needs,” noted Nikki Gachot, regional director of market development at Marquis Health Consulting Services, which supports Canterbury. “Dr. Naveed is working closely the facility’s dedicated care team, focusing on the often-complex needs of those with chronic kidney disease to ensure the best possible outcome for each patient.”

Canterbury is committed to serving as a healthcare resource for area residents. Together with Marquis, it has established a resource library of physician-curated content, addressing many topics of interest for families of patients and the larger community. The library and more information on the skilled nursing facility can be found at

Based in Brick, N.J., Marquis Health Consulting Services is a highly skilled and vision-driven nursing home consulting company currently supporting Mid-Atlantic and New England facilities totaling nearly 4,500 skilled nursing and assisted living beds.    

Samantha Lawrence

Sitting Down with Samantha Lawrence, Regional Director of Operations at Brightview Senior Living

Samantha Lawrence, like many in the industry, was inspired to get into senior living from a personal experience. Lawrence’s great grandfather had Alzheimer’s and when she would visit him it was a very stereotypical nursing home. One time while Lawrence was visiting, a resident asked her for a laxative, so she passed along the message to the nearest nurse. However, the nurse told Lawrence to ignore the residents request, which did not sit right with her, even as a kid. With no hesitation, Lawrence went back up to the resident and started talking to her, and her family could not get her out of there. This one interaction sparked Lawrence to begin volunteering at a local nursing home and when she was 16, she was able to get her first real job there. From the beginning, Lawrence had a distinct passion for engaging with the residents, and when an activities position opened, she was quick to find a replacement for her front desk role so she could become more involved in the day to day. Lawrence believes that “the most ethical way we treat people comes from knowing their story,” and this belief has fueled her drive throughout her career in senior living.

In her role at Brightview, she oversees eight communities in New Jersey and has another one opening at the end of the month. All the Executive Directors, Associate Executive Directors, and sales teams, report to Lawrence. She enjoys collaborating with the rest of the regional team to support and guide every community. Aside from day-to-day operations, a large part of Lawrence’s passion and role involves mentoring and being a cheerleader for others at Brightview, in hopes to help them grow and accomplish their career goals. Lawrence originally came to Brightview in April 2015, and then took on her new role in October 2019, so it has been quite a time of learning and adjusting in the wake of COVID-19 as Regional Director of Operations.

For 2021, Brightview has a business plan centered around three pillars: continuing to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, supporting, and advocating for the vaccine, regaining occupancy, and rebuilding vibrancy within their communities. She is extremely proud of the creativity she witnessed at Brightview and they are expecting net gains with occupancy as they return to normalcy as safely and swiftly as possible. Lawrence remarks, “our teams were so resilient, they have incredible hearts, drive, and dedication, over the last year we all learned the true value and importance of teamwork.” As they move forward, Lawrence is looking for ways to highlight how their communities came together and leveraging that to become stronger instead of reverting to old ways.

Lawrence was inspired from a young age to shift the narrative around senior care and strives to do so every day at Brightview. She has come a long way from witnessing what was wrong in the industry firsthand, to being a changemaker in the lives of seniors in her communities. “It always comes back to people,” she says, “Brightview has a great product because we have great people.”

Iyvonne Byers, Olivia Beaton, Sarah Hoit, Jean Makesh, and Jodie Audia.

The Importance of Engagement: Programming with a Purpose

At HEALTHTAC East, “the fun group” as they called themselves, joined forces to discuss all things programming and engagement, and what that has looked like within their communities over the last year and a half. This panel was comprised of, Jodie Audia, VP of Life Enrichment and Cognitive Programming at American House Senior Living, Iyvonne Byers, Chief Financial Officer at Priority Life Care, Sarah Hoit, CEO and Co-founder of Connected Living, and Jean Makesh, Chief Executive Officer at the Lantern Group.

As everyone in senior living witnessed, the isolation that came along with the pandemic was just as detrimental to seniors as the pandemic itself. Audia says, “the most important thing is to recognize the resilience of this generation. They took it like troopers.” The panelists all agree that both staff and residents were quick to adapt and leap over the learning hurdles that came with adjusting to technologies. Hoit and her team at Connected Living have been waiting for senior living to adapt to technology in this way for over a decade now and says “all of the things people weren’t ready for, or stuff that wasn’t being done, suddenly there was a critical need and demand for it.” She believes that if there is a silver lining, it is surely the innovation that washed over the industry and allowed people to become more connected.

At Priority Life Care, Byers was blown away by their communities, “people got so creative even in a time of tragedy.” At their communities they held parades, window visits, and birthday celebrations, amongst other little things to make the residents feel special, engaged. And cared about. Byers goes on to say, “We all now have such an appreciation for that time together that might have been taken advantage of before.” For Makesh, the question was “how I can continue to enable, inspire, and motivate my staff, to breathe life not only into each other, but to the residents as well.” That very question was at the foundation of the Lantern Group’s approach to engagement and programming throughout the pandemic. His team created a hug booth so residents and their families could once again feel physically connected to each other, and touch is directly connected to mental health. The group agreed that essentially, it all boils down to purpose, and creating programming that allows residents to feel that sense of purpose that is easy to lose as we age. Simply put, Audia says, “we tried to make happy happen every day.”

While communities across the country are resuming programming as normal, technology is certainly here to stay in senior living. As Audia noted, “technology was the lifeline that kept everyone together.” Both Byers and Hoit noted that some residents preferred virtual programming, and residents who previously may have skipped out on a group gathering were enthusiastic to join a virtual yoga class. Hoit says “there is an incredible opportunity to continue to engage with technology, every resident is different and has different needs.” Which goes back to the heart of engagement, whether in person or virtual, comes from that place of purpose. Byers encourages staff to “focus on the individual and who they are. We are creating a new business as usual, not the old business as usual.” Her fellow panelists shared this sentiment, discussing how much they have learned and how it has positioned them to create the best and most purposeful lives for their residents.

“A connected life is a happy life,” Hoit says, which couldn’t be truer. Each of these leaders stressed how important it is to connect and engage with residents in a way that is meaningful to them. The more teams can learn about the residents within their communities, the better they are able to serve them and create programs and events that cater to their individual needs and interests. Audia explains, “we have tried to standardize, and it just doesn’t work. It’s about creating lives with purpose; it’s called senior living and we want them to live.”

As we move forward, “the fun group” wants to focus on just that, fun within senior living. As resilient as these seniors have been, everyone is looking forward to being able to connect again in ways they weren’t able to for so long. There have been many lessons learned, and many necessary adaptations that have been made. Byers says it is extremely important to “rebuild that trust” with residents and families, assuring them their loved ones are being cared for and that there is always a window into their life inside their respective communities. Makesh believes the most important thing to encourage moving forward, is each resident’s freedom to thought, and expressing those thoughts, which will surely lead to purposeful programming and deep connections.

Editor Olivia Beaton moderating "Selling Senior Living" at HEALTHTAC East.

Selling Senior Living: Recovering Occupancy Post COVID-19

At HEALTHTAC East 2021, industry leaders were once again able to come together and exchange insights and ideas. During the panel discussion “Selling Senior Living: Recovering Occupancy Post COVID-19” Steven Flynt, COO at Solstice Senior Living, Alex Markowits Founder / President at Spring Hills Communities, Frankie Pane, President & COO at Essex Communities, and Jayne Sallerson, COO at Charter Senior Living, discussed their strategies for making a comeback post COVID.

At Solstice, Flynt says in 2020 they lost about 5% occupancy, and he never thought he would say that enthusiastically, but after the last year, they consider this to be a win. “I am so proud of our teams, every day we were growing and learning, every day we were adapting. I’ve been in the business a really long time and thought I knew something, but the pandemic made it clear I really didn’t know anything.” Flynt was not alone in his thoughts, as his other panelists, and audience members agreed that the pandemic shook the foundations of senior living and forced us to adapt and start from scratch.

Sallerson echoed the sentiment that this year was most definitely the hardest year of her career in senior housing thus-far. Early on, she says, she made the decision to mask up, get on planes, and start visiting her communities following all proper protocols so her associates could see her and her team members rolling up their sleeves and trying to identify how they could get better as a whole. Though the struggle senior living endured was apparent, all of the panelists agree that there is a large demand now, and they are positioning themselves and their companies to be able to meet it.

As far as recovery goes, Sallerson says it best, “it’s about getting back in front of people.” So much of what is behind senior housing cannot be portrayed virtually, we are selling care, and homes, and bringing people back into the communities is a huge step in regaining momentum. Frankie Pane believes to move forward it is important to treat COVID-19 as a thing of the past, and within their communities they have been fortunate enough to resume to a full sense of normalcy. For him at Essex, “it’s about selling the fact that the vibrancy and fun is back in our communities.” Creativity was apparent over the last year and a half and the panelists discussed how important highlighting the happenings within their communities is to bringing new residents in the door, and bringing life back to current residents.

Markowits believes that transparency is key, in fact he says to over-communicate. Something he says will stick around in their post pandemic world will be the degree of communication he had with families, keeping them in the loop of what was happening within their communities and with their loved ones. He adds that “supporting my associates is paramount, making sure they have the resources they need to do their jobs.” Spring Hills has brought in counselors and is looking into opportunities to continue to show their team members how valuable they are. After having 8 admissions in one month in a community in Ohio, Markowits finally feels like “a sunrise is coming.”

It does indeed finally feel as though the sun is rising and the smoke is clearing, and Flynt and his team have brought on additional salespeople to prepare to meet the upcoming industry demand, and he is already seeing it within their communities. Sallerson raises a fantastic point, and notes that “It’s very important for our salespeople to be educated and up to date on our safety protocols so they can address it if it comes up.”

So how do we regain occupancy? To Pane, it’s simple, “if you focus on fun, the people will come.” People want assurance that their seniors are not only safe but thriving and enjoying life in their homes. From a marketing standpoint, the panelists agree that promoting the activities and quality of life within their respective communities is key to driving those occupancy rates up.

Sallerson and Flynt stressed the importance of taking down the stop signs, caution tape, and other signage that could be alarming to newcomers. Presenting the message that we are open and safe is crucial, but people want to see a sense of normalcy has returned. The psychological barrier is important to bring down, Sallerson notes these implementing these changes have allowed them to get ahead of occupancy and look forward to a brighter future.

Though the last year and a half has been challenging and uncertain, all of these panelists can say with certainty that the demand is here, and that the industry is coming back better than ever.