On the Sherpa blog we’ve talked about the rising ages and medical needs of senior living residents and how this trend can be countered through better, relationship-based selling (see The Benefits Of Healthier, More Active Residents). But what happens when a prospect says they aren’t yet at the age when they will need senior living? What if they don’t see themselves fitting in with an aging resident base just yet?
Depending on how you look at it, senior living can mark a big step toward old age, or it can be a life adjustment that offers more independence and an opportunity to socialize with peers. Where else is your prospect going to find another Perry Como fan, anyway? Rather than mark a disconnect from the your prospect’s lifelong interests and preferences, senior living can–and should–offer the opportunity to explore and cultivate those interests. Especially if those interests are Perry Como records from decades ago.
It’s these connections to the past that keep residents “young,” according to an extraordinary study conducted by psychologist Ellen Langer and reported on by the New York Times. In this experiment, a group of senior living residents were immersed in ’50s culture, from Jimmy Stewart movies to classic sports. All the while, the residents had ZERO reminders of the present world or of their own aging: “Nothing — no mirrors, no modern-day clothing, no photos except portraits of their much younger selves.”
In comparison to a control group that was not immersed in the same kind of time warp, individuals from the “time traveler” group were found to stand taller, have increased grip strength and generally look and act younger. In this case of mind over matter, those residents who identified with their younger selves actually began to look and act the part.
Stopping well short of taking down all your community’s mirrors and photographs, there is much to be said for keeping residents connected to their past selves with vintage posters on the walls, screenings of ’50s films and the sounds of golden oldies on the stereo. But residents can also be ambassadors of the past with plenty of opportunities to stay connected to the present through online venues such as, say, the Perry Como Appreciation Society.
As far as selling goes, there is good reason to do legacy review and explore a prospect’s life story before proposing a move (see Look Back, Move Forward). When a prospect does the things they did when they where young, there is a chance these activities help keep them feeling and acting younger, as supported by the Langer study mentioned earlier. How can your community provide a better venue for them to pursue the things that make them feel younger or at least happier? Ask them what their younger self would say to the idea of a move to senior housing, and take note. The benefits of a move (socialization, independence and opportunity) may make a prospect’s move to senior housing less off an indication of getting older and more of an opportunity to act and feel like their idealized self.4