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Last week several members of the Creating Results team attended the LeadingAge PEAK Leadership Summit, held right in our backyard in Washington, DC. Sponsored by LeadingAge, an association of not-for-profit senior living organizations and aging services providers, PEAK brings together senior level members of communities to share new innovations taking place within their organizations.

I left the conference energized and wanted to share some of the key take-aways that can help you, as a senior living professional, advance your own mission and ensure you are creating an environment that is enticing for your target markets.

Key Senior Living Lessons Learned (and Applied)

The importance of innovation in keeping senior living communities and their services relevant and (most importantly) competitive was a common theme throughout PEAK 2014. As baby boomers enter retirement they are making their own rules on what senior living should be. Several sessions included real-world examples on how CCRCs (Continuing Care Retirement Communities) are preparing for baby boomers and differentiating themselves from the competition.

It’s important to ensure you are innovating for the right reasons and in a way that will appeal to your target market – not just for innovation sake.  Here are some key lessons and applications that were shared during the conference.

1. Forge new partnerships. Consider how to increase relevance, convenience and affordability by partnering with other aging service providers, hospitals, Accountable Care Organizations (ACO’s), universities and local businesses.

* There is strength in numbers. Could a partnership increase your purchasing power and lower costs? Or, help you respond to changes in payment models?
* Be interesting NOT selly. Can a partnership with a college or business give your community an opportunity to have a conversation, or be helpful to your prospective residents?

2.  RepositioninSenior Living North Hill Community Rebrandingg and new offerings. Continuing Care at Home (CCAH) is one way to complement existing service options and reach those who cannot afford residency. This allows a CCRC to use their existing strengths to serve the greater community, while building awareness of their services.

*Lisa McCracken from Zeigler used North Hill (a CCRC in Needham, Mass., and a client of ours) as an example of how to make a positive change to your organization’s future in the market. Read a case study about how North Hill repositioned themselves.
*What’s in a name? Mather LifeWays is encouraging LeadingAge members to reconsider the term CCRC to appeal to the next generation of older adults. Senior living organizations can participate in their “NameStorm” – information and tools to facilitate ideas can be found here: http://bit.ly/1eFQ4Uy3.

3.  Innovation is not limited to IT, and it’s ok to start small. Sometimes the best innovations in senior living start small and grow. Caution: Avoid trying too much at once as your efforts may get diluted. Focus on a few key goals or changes you wish to accomplish and start there.

* One of the first areas that LeadingAge members have invested in when looking at IT is actually their marketing.  They’ve incorporated tools like Customer Relationship Databases (CRM) as well as enhanced programming of their websites.  Several speakers categorized these innovations as their largest.  Is this true in your organization?  Are you planning to invest in change here?
*When implementing IT changes, the biggest leadership challenge is often getting team members excited about and used to the new technology.
*Leading an organization past the resistance to change has been done successfully by getting everyone believing in the common vision. Find the champions – or super users – who will “Inspire and Connect to Transform” (in the words of Masonicare’s Kelly Papa).

The insights don’t stop here… Stay tuned for insights in a future blog post for how you can implement and lead change.

About The Author

Beth Spohn

Beth launched her career as a marketing teacher and discovered one of her greatest joys - sharing marketing insights. At Creating Results, she shares her marketing knowledge with prospective clients to help tailor marketing solutions that will achieve their desired results. She continues to educate as a lecturer at DC area universities — including Georgetown and George Mason—as a speaker at LeadingAge conferences nationwide, and has contributed to ICAA’s Journal of Active Aging.