“If you’re in an environment, you know the status quo. We can not do that. We need to consider what the ‘new next’ we are targeting. ”
These are Sequoia Living President and CEO Sara McVey’s words, and they capture common sense among other top leaders in the sector: Despite all the challenges and heartache caused by Covid-19, these leaders also accept a pandemic disorder as an opportunity for seniors to reinvent themselves for the future.
From new ways of communicating with residents and employees, about new services and technology introduced as a result of Covid-19, about development opportunities that are now emerging, Top Senior Managers identify ways that have strengthened pandemic operations and paved the way for expansion.
To learn more about how senior living managers feel in the new year, Senior Housing News teamed up with a handful of industry leaders. The following is part two of a two-part series that shares these answers:
Larry Gumina, CEO of Ohio Living:
We commit to keeping talking. I think it’s an option, not just at Ohio Living. In Ohio, I’m 20 miles from the Capitol. Suppose I look at the arrival of the new House. In that case, the arrival of the new Senate in Ohio, a large percentage of these lawmakers have no idea – with all due respect – about the healthcare industry, not to mention aging in the service sector. We, therefore, should educate. It is part of our program; it is part of my schedule. If we can help train these legislators, they will be better positioned to speak for change on our behalf.
I think what we’re going through all over the industry that opportunistically excites me is that we’re going through a reset, right? We will undergo a reinvention, and we will undergo an improvement. So if you bundle it all together, we reset. I think our segment of the healthcare industry has been riddled with disruption for a long time. I’m a half-full glass type, but I eventually know we’re coming out stronger because of what we’re going through right now.
Andy Kohlberg, CEO of Kisco Senior Living:
In general, the industry must make an effort to better convey the difference between nursing homes and seniors. Most of the bad publicity (pandemic) and deaths occurred in nursing homes.
We have an extensive campaign called Kisco Confidence, which is designed to help people understand why it is safer to live with us than at home in terms of cleaning and protocols. We do groceries for the people and everything.
There will always be a section of the population that does not want to move to a senior community. We believe Covid will change the dynamic a bit, and some people will think it is safer to live in a community than at home. We surveyed people who moved in with us during Covid. Most say they feel much safer in our community than at home. Of course not all. Some people have taken their relatives from a community. And it’s okay.
Wages are unlikely to fall to pre-Covid levels, especially in healthcare facilities. We compete with hospitality and restaurants (waiters, things like that), I think we can be a little more confident that (salaries) won’t be as high as healthcare providers.
In terms of sales, we have been using dynamic pricing for two to three years. We are getting better at that. We have large systems at a dynamic monthly price. We try to figure out what services we provide during Covid that people want in the long run. Going out and shopping for the residents, do your shopping beyond Covid? For example, I like to go to the store and drive, and they put (items) in the back of my car. I’d love to do that after Covid, instead of going to the store and wasting time, paying, and waiting in line. That’s the kind of thing we see: that people decided, hey, this is really good service, I’m going to pay for it, I like it, and we’ll do it in the long run.
Collette Gray, President, and CEO of Integral Senior Living:
While the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly shaken the senior industry by 2020, we feel that our Integral Senior Living and Solstice Senior Living communities have truly stepped up for tremendous service to both residents.
We asked many of our staff to turn them on overnight as the residents are engaged, entertained, connected with family and friends, and serve them safely. As the pandemic struck, our priority was to be transparent with our residents, their families, and ISL and SSL partners and keep the virus out of our communities. We wanted everyone to know exactly where we are with the confirmed cases and protocols that have changed frequently enough to keep everyone safe. Our regular communication and public meetings have allowed people to hear their questions and concerns, and we appreciate any feedback.
ISL and SSL are very optimistic about 2021. While the virus is still going strong, we celebrate that Shavano Park Senior Living in Texas was the first ISL community to receive its vaccinations on December 28th. We have many more across the country who have received their vaccination clinic dates soon. Our focus at this time is to educate our residents and associations about the importance of vaccination. Vaccination allows our communities the flexibility to slowly return to normal and, most importantly, helps to slow the spread within communities of the elderly.
While the spread of Covid-19 is slowing down is an important focus, we also expect new opportunities in 2021. We opened four communities during the pandemic and opened another 8 to June 2021. Besides, we redesigned several new ones. Communities in the ISL portfolio so that business continues to thrive, and we work with an incredible group of homeowners committed to senior living. We have adopted many world-class security technologies to keep everything as clean as possible such as Health ENTRY portals that use ultraviolet light at the entrances, Electrostatic hand sprayer, Accushield detection devices; bipolar needle tip ionization to purify the air; a microbicide Color.
Jim Gray, CEO of Bridgewood Property Company: We will continue the trend that began this summer by hiring many key staff positions in the hospitality industry. Parents’ businesses are legally focused on care, especially during a pandemic, but it is often forgotten that residents expect (and deserve) superior accommodation, food, transportation, and activity service.
Our new Hospitality Manager brings more than 15 years of experience to Hilton and Marriott luxury brands. Last year, we hired CEOs and marketing executives in the hospitality industry and will continue in our service in 2021.
The recession provides an opportunity to assess the next steps in the current portfolio and future growth. We believe that the current environment offers excellent opportunities to acquire sites for future development that were not previously available. Bridgewood bought a new site for the mid-range urban seniors in Charlotte, North Carolina, last month and will close in Tennessee’s similar location when it receives zoning approvals in early 2021.
We mustn’t reduce or restore the improved quality control standards introduced as a result of the pandemic. Many of these standards and protocols need to be maintained for all residents and staff’s health and well-being even after the Covid pandemic. As a result, we expect a significant reduction in seasonal influenza outbreaks in our communities in the coming years.
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