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During these challenging times, the demographic most highly at risk for COVID-19, seniors, are sometimes nervous about leaving their homes in order to look at retirement communities. Ironically, they’re strongly motivated to move so as not to have to spend another Chicago winter at home, especially during the pandemic. “Moving to one of our senior living communities means that a senior is safe and has access to everything they need without having to go out. There are friends and activities to keep them busy, a fitness and aquatic center, live and taped entertainment, prepared meals that can be delivered to their apartment, housekeeping, maintenance, and access to a medical center and pharmacy,” said Katherine St. Clair. She is the director of sales for Friendship Senior Options which operates two of the most prominent senior living communities in the Chicago area: Friendship Village of Schaumburg and GreenFields of Geneva. “We are offering a variety of options for presenting our communities to prospective residents and their families. It’s important to us that we accommodate them in whatever ways are most comfortable.”
Setting the Stage
Interest and subsequent inquires often originate on the senior living community’s website. “Our websites are designed as windows into our communities, showing off our beautiful campuses and amenities, as well as showcasing our programs and services,” said St. Clair. “We are always working at enhancing our websites to provide the most comprehensive information about our communities.” The websites make it easy for individuals to do their preliminary groundwork researching the communities before venturing out to visit in-person. In addition to showcasing the communities’ services, there are also videos of the campuses and common areas and floor plans, some of which are interactive.
St. Clair added that the communities’ residency counselors are happy to talk with prospects and their family members at the start of their research to get a feel for their interests, needs, and wishes for their new home. “They will use the information to help optimize tours so that they are designed specifically for the individual,” she said.
With enhanced cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitization, both Friendship Village and GreenFields have been impressively successful at keeping residents and staff safe during the pandemic. One of their safety protocols requires everyone entering the building to be carefully screened before being admitted. Furthermore, everyone is masked. “Earlier this autumn, we sent out a mailer to prospects that included a cloth mask with the community’s logo. It assures guests that they can enter the building with confidence,” St. Clair said.
Prospective residents and their families are graciously welcome to physically visit the communities, abiding by the significant safety protocols. Residency counselors will have identified ahead of time, individual apartments with the space, rooms, and amenities most suited to the prospect’s request and interests.
Virtual tours, which are becoming increasingly popular in senior living communities, comprise visual simulations through video, a series of images, or both.
GreenFields and Friendship Village both utilize the OneDay app. After the residency counselor has visited with a prospective resident on the phone and determined the best ways to meet their needs, the OneDay app enables the easy creation and delivery of personalized video tours from their iPad.
Virtual tours, which can be posted on the website, offer a visual overview of what the community offers. These tours include footage of Friendship Village’s outdoor areas and common spaces such as the restaurants and the aquatic and fitness centers. They also provide a sneak peek of some of the community’s apartments. Their innovative 3D walking tour offers an overhead view of a furnished apartment, with the option to switch to a walk-through tour. Their interactive virtual tours allow prospects to move furniture through the apartment.
Virtual Marketing Events
GreenFields hosted a virtual open house marketing event. Executive director Tony Madl and St. Clair started the program to introduce the benefits of living in a retirement community. Guests then ‘walked through’ several apartments virtually.
Friendship Village’s popular residents panels are virtual as well. Called Friendship in Focus, the virtual marketing event features residents answering various questions about senior living. A pop-up feature on the website enables the prospect to chat with the panel during the event.
“We are eager to help prospective residents and their loved ones explore our superb senior living options in the way that they are most comfortable,” said St. Clair.
In 2010 the 75 and older population was 19 million. By 2020 the number is projected to reach 66 million.
—Administration on aging