Newell Bowman Dickerman headshotWe recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the newest member of the myLifeSite customer success team, Newell Bowman Dickerman (pictured right). Newell joins us having spent nearly 15 years within the senior living sales and marketing arena. In our conversation, we talked about her experiences working with prospective and current retirement community residents, and what the driving forces were in their CCRC decision process.

What is your background within the senior living industry?

Newell: I started working in senior living almost 15 years ago while I was a college student. For 13 of those years, I worked on sales teams at continuing care retirement communities [CCRCs or life plan communities, which feature independent living, as well as a continuum of on-site long-term care services]. My most recent role was serving as a CCRC sales director in Kansas City. I’ve worked for a variety of business and ownership models — both large corporate and locally owned organizations — as well as for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

What were some of the top reasons why prospects told you they were considering a CCRC?

Newell: The senior living market is quickly becoming a place where companies are building places for seniors to live, but many of them are not continuing care retirement communities. For many consumers, they prioritize their senior living search to include only retirement communities that have assisted living and skilled nursing in their continuum of care.  

Over the years, I found that the top three most common reasons prospects would consider a CCRC included: 

  1. They did not want to burden their loved ones with future unexpected care needs.
  2. They recently had a health, house, or family occurrence that had the potential to diminish their independence.
  3. They watched a loved one either go through complete chaos with an unexpected health change and no plan, or they saw the opposite: a loved one who gave the gift of having a proactive senior living plan in place.

What were some of the main factors that made people hesitant to get on the waitlist or ultimately make a CCRC decision?

Newell: In my experience, the main hesitation is that people believe their independence is fully reliant upon maintaining their own home — a residence outside of a senior living community. I watched many, many people I knew stay in difficult situations on the principle of their independence being tied to their residence. The people most ready to make a CCRC decision knew that their independence would be maintained, and for longer, with a proactive senior living plan in place.

What do communities do to reduce stress and make the transition easier for new CCRC residents?

Newell: Every community does it a bit differently, but many CCRCs have a “Welcome Committee” or “Community Ambassador” group that makes sure to welcome each new resident. They typically find out interests and hobbies in order to invite new residents to things they might enjoy. 

At a very basic level, most prospects and new residents wonder what the day to day will look like when they move to a community. These welcome committees help enormously with this adjustment. Each current resident has been the new person, so they are the best at meeting needs when someone is a new resident. 

A tremendously important part of the transition is providing support for the physical move. Many CCRCs will cover a portion or all of the cost of moving to the community.  Typically, the sales team at a community will have a short list of preferred providers to help you physically move. 

These providers can support the new resident with anything from sorting through “the stuff,” creating a floor plan map with your personal items, packing items, moving, and unpacking. Some prospects even hire these professionals before making a final senior living decision to help them sort through their things. 

[Note: Nationally, there’s an association these companies can join called the National Association of Senior & Specialty Move Managers. Or senior living residents-to-be can work with a company like LivNow Relocation, which provides access to locally vetted providers, from top realtors to movers and digital solutions to meet your specific needs.]

How have you seen quality of life impacted by the decision to make a CCRC move?

Newell: Almost every single person I ever worked with experienced an improvement in their quality of life and independence with a move to a CCRC. 

The exception to the rule was when a person waited until they could no longer live independently at home and their situation was diminishing quickly. A move at the last moment might have been better suited to move directly to assisted living or skilled nursing. 

Those moves are few and far between, however, and every community does their absolute best to make sure each incoming resident is moving to the appropriate level of care in a quickly changing situation. Hence, you’ll hear time and time again CCRC residents and team members saying, “Don’t wait until it’s too late.” 

Isolation can be very common for older adults who live in a single-family residence. When a move to a CCRC or other type of retirement community is made proactively, a person’s quality of life is improved, as all of ours are, as a result of the increase in socialization. 

I think many of us can look at our experiences from the pandemic and see how we need time in community with one another. The same is true for a person becoming isolated in their single-family home without a proactive plan. Ultimately, a CCRC takes away the obstacles from having those human connections, and therefore quality of life is improved. And additionally, in many cases, independence can be maintained for longer with a proactive senior living move.

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