Cole Marvin

Working with retirement communities for the past 15 years has given me many opportunities to see firsthand how beneficial this lifestyle can be for seniors. Many of my colleagues and friends who work in this industry feel the same way — we’re passionate about what we do because we know communities help seniors live fuller, happier and healthier lives.

But, I’ve noticed a disappointing trend in the long-term care industry as a whole, especially in CCRCs. The average age of people moving to independent living, and even assisted living, is creeping up. It’s understandable that the economy may have hindered some people’s ability to sell their homes, but as the real estate market is improving in most areas, the entrance age of residents doesn’t seem to be changing. In fact, it seems that many people are beginning the process of searching for a retirement community at an older age. According to the American Seniors Housing Association, the proportion of residents who moved in at age 85 and older increased by 63% in 2012 compared to 2001.

From a personal perspective, this bothers me because I’ve seen the value of moving to a community for seniors. And I fear that many of them may be missing out on some of the opportunities to stay active and engaged when they wait so long to move in.

It’s important for the future of seniors that those of us in this industry work to reverse the trend of waiting to move to a retirement community. At Friendship Village Tempe, we actually have a great number of younger residents, with the average age of current residents at 80. We’ve made an effort to target these prospects and show them the true value of the lifestyle at our community, and I’d like to share some of our tactics with you.

Residents are our greatest supporters. They help create the excellent lifestyle we have available, and in turn we work to meet all their needs and desires to create a truly vibrant community culture. Residents continue to recommend Friendship Village to their family, friends and colleagues, and they typically say they wish they would’ve moved in at an even younger age. These comments encourage other seniors to do just that.

As we’ve developed this genuinely vibrant and active culture at our community, we’ve worked with our marketing consultants to ensure this culture is represented in our brand — whether it’s in a direct mail piece, on our website, through an event we’re planning, or via social media. We want seniors of all ages to relate to our community’s personality, even through a postcard in the mail.

Another element of our culture that appeals to younger seniors is our partnership with Arizona State University. This has created many educational and lifelong learning opportunities for our residents. The partnership has also led to many retired professors choosing to move to our community, and they help create a culture of lifelong learning, forward thinking and overall engaged residents.

In addition to marketing, we’ve also been successful with public relations efforts. We identify those superstar residents who exemplify the personality of our community, and share their stories with local media. I’ve also been contributing a bimonthly column, “Happy Retirement,” for the last couple of years to a local publication. All this enhances our reputation as the community for young, fun seniors in Tempe.

All of us in the long-term care industry have a responsibility to help older adults live positive, full and active lives. As baby boomers reach their senior years and with the over-65 demographic becoming the largest group in the U.S. population, our industry’s impact on society will grow. I ask that we begin to help this group fully enjoy their senior years, and work to show younger seniors how our moving to our communities can be the best move they’ve ever made.

Cole Marvin is the executive director of Friendship Village Tempe. He can be reached at [email protected].