I have the great pleasure of speaking to prospective residents at many wonderful continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, or “life plan communities” across the country. Quite often the host retirement community will graciously offer for me to stay in one of their guest suites. I enjoy doing so because I typically arrive the day before the event and staying on site allows me to get a better sense of the community.

I have stayed in many guest suites that were outstanding. They were clean, comfortable, and inviting. The TVs worked, the walls were in good shape, and the bathrooms were clean. Some of the nicest ones have even left a fruit and cheese tray in the refrigerator for me, which is a very nice touch. Yet, other times I am quite surprised by what I find.

I recall one suite in particular where the inside of the front door and the running boards were badly banged up with marks all over.  In another one there was a screw attaching part of the walk-in shower to the floor, which wasn’t screwed in completely so it was sticking out by about a half inch. It was right in the path of where you step in and out of the shower.

There was still another one where the toilet was as dirty as what I have seen in some gas stations. I’ll spare you the details but the message to me was that the cleaning crew cuts corners and isn’t thorough. At that point I started to wonder whether the sheets and bath towels were clean. And as if that wasn’t enough, when I turned on the water in the bathroom it came out solid brown. Clearly, water had not run from that sink in quite some time.

Most recently, I arrived a little later in the evening and as I was getting ready to go to bed I noticed it was a little warm inside. I spent ten minutes trying to find a thermastat or figure out a way to adjust the temparature on the wall unit, but to no avail. Fortunately it was a little cooler outside and I kept the windows open all night.

As someone looking in from the outside it is hard for me to understand how management could ever allow this with their guest suites. Maybe management is so far “in the weeds” with day to day operations that they just do not notice things like this, or even bother to check it out from time to time. But they should.

No matter whether the guest is a family member of a current resident or a prospective resident, no one should leave a guest suite with a bad experience. They should leave thinking, “I could live here!” For family members it is important that they have a good impression of the community where their loved one is residing.

Regardless of how many services and amenities are available, if a guest has a bad experience in a guest suite they will not choose to live in the community. A poorly kept guest suite indicates that the entire community may also be poorly cared for. It is an in indication of the culture and mindset of the community. Invariable one begins to think, “If the community does not take care of the little details then what about the big ones?”

Retirement communities have a chance to “shine” by offering guest suites that are clean and well-maintained. Otherwise, it could be a major deterrent for someone who is trying to determine if this is the the place where they want to live for the rest of their lives.

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