Retaining Residents in Senior Living

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Retaining Residents in Senior Living

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Retaining Residents in Senior Living: Why Resident Satisfaction Surveys are Out of Date, and What to Do About It.

We all know the cost of retention in senior living is vastly cheaper than the cost of trying to get a new resident move in.

Wait… we do know this, right?

So, why do we spend so much money on advertising for new residents and not on keeping our current residents happy? I have a lot of personal opinions on this (hire better staff and keep them happy both with higher salaries and meaning; have more engaging and exciting activities; serve better food; etc).

The problem is that we don’t have a lot of statistics to help with this fact. So, is it a fact?

In many industries, customer retention almost provides the same profit as getting new customers. Think retail, or sporting goods, for example. But in living environments, specifically senior living environments, it’s better to have happy residents. Happy residents will give you better online reviews, they’ll write or record testimonials for you, and more importantly, they’ll ask their friends to move in, too and will be happy and engaged when potential residents are coming in for a tour.

By now, most of us get this.

But we also struggle to keep our residents. This is a huge cost.

According to, the retention rate of assisted living residents was close to 50% in 2010, and more than half of them moved to a different nursing home or residential care center.

Competition is fierce, yes. And new communities are shiny and enticing, kind of. But do we really know what your residents are looking for?

Create Enticing Surveys, and then Follow-Up

In my previous position, in 2015, I created and sent out a series of 5 surveys to every single resident asking for feedback for what they wanted more of. The surveys were divided into the following departments: culinary, lifestyles, activities, extracurricular, and lifelong learning.

This was not a resident satisfaction survey like many companies provide. In fact, one year earlier, my company spent thousands of dollars on a big time resident satisfaction survey from a big time resident satisfaction agency, and less than 25% of the residents completed it.

Our survey was different because we got down to the nityy gritty, asking questions our residents wanted to speak about in ways that made them know they would be heard, and provided online and paper options in order for every resident to fill them out.

Over 600 residents across 16 communities completed every one of the 5 surveys we sent.

What did they want?

  • Healthier foods, smaller portions, vegetarian options.
  • More interesting foods.
  • Informative educational opportunities.
  • Better volunteer programming in order to give back and teach others life and business skills.
  • Better, more interesting wellness options (yoga, dancing, walking clubs, hand weight classes, balance classes, water aerobics).

We also learned which TV programs and stations they watched, what radio programs and what types of music they listened to, if they read blogs, if they used tablets or smartphones, etc, and how they found out about the community.

How does this help with retention?

We asked the residents what they wanted. And then we either implemented these items, or we set up a meeting to go over reasons why some items could not be implemented now.

Essentially, we asked, and then we followed-up.

It took months for my team to read through all of the survey responses, and to type up reports, and to meet with the sales, lifestyles and operational teams to implement these requests. But we did it, and every time I went to a community after that point, the residents would thank me and the associates would tell me stories about the residents thanking them, that their voices were heard, if nothing else.

We all want to be heard.

Is it a fact that resident retention is cheaper than obtaining new residents? I have seen this to be the case, however I do not have hard facts on the matter, nor am I able to find any legit facts on the matter.

What does this mean?

It can’t hurt to ensure your residents are happy. But do not assume you know what they want. You have to ask. Only by asking will you end up with a stronger community, happier residents, happier associates, and less move-outs.

How can Craft & Communicate help?

If you’re interested in learning more about these surveys or would like for us to set up a series for your company, please reach out to us today. We love data and diving through responses, and most importantly, we love coming up with ways to make seniors’ lives better.