As part of our monthly blog series covering the different industries that Bestar Hospitality services, we wanted to tackle a topic in Senior Living we feel needs more attention – the importance of programming amenity spaces that facilitate positive community engagement and a bonus peek into what those amenities could be!
One of the worst mistakes you can make as a developer or operator is to build a beautiful senior community, lease up a bunch of eager residents, and then realize a few months down the road that they are all bored beyond measure in your fantastic space due to lack of engagement and socialization!
Not even the very best design can hide a snoozefest. Unfortunately, this situation is all too common with groups that meant well but did not fully execute. This problem is two-fold because it not only negatively affects the current residents, but also deters new ones. So how do we ensure YOUR community will not have residents bored to tears?
PROGRAMMING STARTS EARLY, REQUIRES GROUP BUY-IN
If you want to truly knock your community out of the park, we need to all start talking about the function of the space early (we are talking Schematic Design early!)
At Bestar Hospitality, our standard practice is to ask our clients to bring all managing consultants and operations to the table as soon as we talk about programming needs. This meeting of the minds ensures everyone is on board and we have a full picture of what is necessary to make sure this property and its team thrive.
Though terrible in its toll, especially on the senior population who have been the hardest hit in terms of both hospitalization rates and severe social distancing measures, we believe that the pandemic’s aftermath has in many ways renewed an interest in our older population’s safety, including their emotional and spiritual wellbeing. We are hopeful that the silver lining from this trying time is a lasting commitment to better spaces for our seniors.
But “better” does not have to mean expensive or energy intensive for you. Creating these sanctuaries does however require a realistic understanding of your target market – demographic, location, average rent prices – as well as early and equal buy-in from all relevant parties and a creative approach (Keep reading! We can help with that part!)
AMENITY IDEAS WE’RE CURRENTLYLOVING
Most clients and operators we work with have certain requirements or amenities/offerings that are part of their secret sauce. While we would never reveal those special differentiators, our general recommendation is to create spaces that get residents outside of their rooms (ideally outside in nature) and engaged with the larger community. For this reason, we tend to steer clients away from spending money on movie theatres or in-room technology packages.
Since “wellness” has become a hot topic in the pandemic, we have seen increased demand in a host of amenity spaces that encourage wellbeing – think state-of-the-art fitness studios, meditation rooms, on-site nutritionists, community gardens, and spas. Though we think these concepts are indeed awesome, they have almost become ubiquitous.
So, with the above in mind, let us really let our creative juices flow, shall we?
We read an opinion article from Artnet in November that claimed the growing “silver wave” may also become the largest collectors of modern and contemporary art. We love that! Additionally, have you ever noticed that museum docents are often retirees? So have we! This revelation got us thinking that for a low acuity community in an urban setting or burgeoning suburb, we could cater to the older populations’ penchant for emerging artwork by creating a rotating gallery space where local artists/artisans can feature (and potentially sell) their work.
In that same vein, if you have a small-ish space in your floor plan with limited budget, then we have an idea for you! Create a cozy “Speaker Space” and mirror it after the Ted Talk format. Invite university professors, local guides, or heck – even your own residents! – to give short lectures on a specific topic. All you really need for this space, aside from an engaging speaker and captive audience, are some benches, a projector, a podium. Voila! Instant culture!
These are just two ideas that (when taken alongside the physically nourishing activities we mentioned above), would really help promote holistic wellbeing, fun, and give a sense of purpose to residents. We always research the locality of a proposed community when making suggestions to be sure our ideas are appropriate for the level of care and region.
AVOID A FAILED HANDOFF! The final critical component of successful programming is the handoff that happens once the community is finally ready to welcome residents. The onus is then on the operations team to not only maintain the community but keep the party going long after its doors have opened. This last step underscores the importance of bringing in the Ops team early and educating the team on all the cool new features and program along the way. In other words, make sure they are game for the games you have planned! These spaces are limited only to the staff and residents’ imaginations.