Like many other industries, senior living has been leveraging new technologies in novel ways; from inventory management to dynamic pricing models to resident engagement. But when it comes to preparing for the next generation of consumers searching for information on communities, there is still work to be done. With the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and real-time data on move-ins, senior living communities can provide upfront, transparent pricing for searchers and their loved ones as they strive to find the perfect place to live.
Pricing is (or at least should be) top of mind for those exploring senior living options. Depending on the level of care and type of community families and independent searchers are seeking, costs can vary within and across facilities. For example, skilled nursing facilities offer a higher level of care with medical professionals onsite and around-the-clock monitoring (and tend to have a higher monthly price point), while assisted living communities help residents with day-to-day tasks and socialization through communal activities, among other things.
The current journey to a new community
As families come together, especially during the holiday season, it’s common to realize that the older adults in their life may not be best suited to living on their own. This is a popular time for many to start their search for a senior living community that can accommodate their family member’s needs.
Most often, the journey starts when searchers submit an online request form or call a community directly for information. Then, they wait (and wait) to hear back from someone to talk through details and to get a general sense of cost. In some cases, communities will even request that a family come in for a consultation or tour before sharing costs.
Unfortunately, searchers often encounter barriers to finding essential financial information, having to engage in a multi-step process of phone calls, tours, and meetings, where they later determine if the community is actually within budget and fits their needs appropriately. For families where price is a constraint (and let’s face it – this is most of us) this can be frustrating, especially when potential residents begin to envision themselves in their new home and have to ultimately pivot when the monthly cost does not fit the budget. Though the industry has seen transformative progress and advancements in many areas of senior living, the search component has been woefully neglected.
So why has this area lagged behind? Many senior living communities are stuck in a traditional sales paradigm where the funnel is predictable and controllable. However, today’s consumers demand more. Industries including travel and real estate have adopted a transparent pricing model for the modern searcher to easily compare options with a robust, reliable platform using real-time data from companies across the respective markets. The success of companies like Zillow, Airbnb, and Expedia demonstrates benefits of this model that should be applied to the senior living industry.
A modern (or maybe not-so-modern) look at senior living
Families and searchers themselves may come to the search process with a clear understanding of their needs, budget, and necessities to find the perfect community. Others may not be sure what they’re looking for or may unexpectedly need immediate care. The added complexity of searching across websites to find scarce information to price potential options can be an added nuisance for those already in a difficult situation.
In a recent Seniorly survey, a notable 45% of future residents are living alone, while cognitive health looms as a significant concern with 57% of searchers citing memory issues as an area of concern. Alleviating the search stress with data transparency can make this transition smoother and more efficient.
With the access to transparent pricing, searchers gain a clear understanding of what they can afford, allowing them to avoid the inevitable emotional rollercoaster that occurs when pricing is not at the forefront. Additionally, this model of highlighting cost information should not just be limited to certain communities or areas, but prevalent across the board.
Integration of industry tools backed by AI and data by senior living providers enables searchers to streamline the decision-making process with reliable estimates that can be centralized to a single platform for easy comparison. Industry-wide adoption of AI builds a more effective analysis of pricing information and options by using current information from move-ins across the country, ensuring users have reliable and accurate estimates. Feeding this data to an algorithm means it’s constantly learning and recognizing trends in the market.
A streamlined plan forward
The ability to conveniently compare options gives searchers a clear picture of what’s within their budget, while taking into account factors like care requirements, community type, room size, and more. A system backed by AI makes the search process more efficient for not only consumers, but also the senior living providers. Sales teams are able to better dedicate their time and resources to the most qualified resident leads, reducing frustration on both sides.
The survey also showed that today’s senior living searchers are seeking a richer toolkit to aid in their decision making, with almost half wanting an easy method to compare senior living community details and just over 25% looking for checklists that will help them make more informed choices.
It’s clear that senior living is an industry ripe for change. The prioritization of data transparency as new, more tech-savvy generations enter the senior living search process should be a key focus for 2024 and beyond. Allowing searchers to fully and transparently educate themselves of all their options and having a clear idea of differentiators between care types is imperative in a time when more and more people are comfortable researching on their own through digital sources.
Senior living, much like the wider healthcare industry, is full of data that can be analyzed and leveraged to improve the state of the search and matching process. Properly using this data can result in guiding future residents to the community that fits their needs best. Operators and proponents of senior living technology and the use of AI can work together to achieve for senior living what Zillow, Airbnb, Expedia and others have done in their respective verticals.
Arthur Bretschneider is CEO and Co-Founder of Seniorly.