As declining census rates continue to be a challenge, senior living facility administrative teams must continue to find new ways to address bed occupancy.

In previous generations, as individuals aged, they expected to reach a point in their lives when they could no longer care for themselves alone and would transition to a senior living facility. However, advancements in healthcare have improved senior health and independence, allowing baby boomers to age-in-place longer. When Baby Boomers eventually do reach a point when they can no longer manage personal care independently, they have more options for care than past generations including an increasing number of senior living facilities, home and community-based care providers, and family caregivers.

So how do senior living facilities attract residents in such a highly competitive market?

Update aesthetics, increase appeal

In other words, senior living facilities that are looking to stay competitive need to update their facility to appeal to today’s modern senior. Many facilities are migrating from the outdated, sterile, institutional look toward more hospitality-like atmospheres. Ambiance doesn’t trump care, but competition has transformed the industry so much that added comfort and upgraded style are frequently the only ways to stand out.  Superior care ratings and reviews get prospective residents and their families in the door, but it’s the warm, home-like appeal within your facility that will motivate them to stay.

There are three easy steps to improving appeal:

Decide what brand message your facility is trying to send

In senior living, brand is generally connected with a name or logo that distinguishes one facility from another in the industry, but brand should be more than that: Your facility’s brand should evoke specific emotions in your residents and prospective residents that help them feel connected, safe and comfortable. Strong branding also includes the environment you create for your residents and guests, which generates expectations for levels of care and quality that they will come to anticipate.

Identifying the brand message you want to send will help you make strategic, attractive design decisions.

Focus on adding appeal through the look, feel, and smell of your building

Does your facility’s atmosphere convey the brand message you are trying to send?  Design components such as flooring, drapery, and furniture don’t just serve a functional purpose; they are vital pieces in crafting an attractive, familiar, welcoming environment. Varying textiles, colors, and lighting serve a double duty by elevating appeal while meeting multiple resident sensory needs to help them navigate. Even adding a subtle scent to common areas will help you transform your facility into the luxury destination many prospective residents and their families are looking for.

It is especially important to incorporate branding and add appeal in main entrances and lobby areas where visitors tend to gather as those areas are the first and last area in your building where you can make an impression on visitors.

Be consistent

Consistency is important for managing resident expectations and perceptions, especially if your facility has multiple locations. A consistent look-and-feel builds confidence in your brand and sends the message that all residents will have consistent, professional care experiences, regardless of which location they choose to stay.

The same applies to single-location facilities. By creating consistency throughout the facility in the look of the resident rooms, the uniforms of the staff, and the availability of certain care products or comfort items, residents and their families will feel confident that everyone is receiving top-quality care.

Investing in attractive upgrades is crucial for standing out amongst competitors.  When competing in an environment that offers aging seniors with so many care options to choose from, your facility needs to be the most appealing.

Greg Snoddy is the Vice President of Healthcare Sales-Senior Living for Encompass Group. He can be reached at