The Four B’s Bow Out

This Guest Point of View is courtesy of Joe Anderson, President, ABHOW Foundation; President, Seniority, Inc.; Chairman, SQLC Charitable Foundation. Mr. Anderson is a nationally-recognized leader in senior living marketing, with over 40 years of experience in advertising, marketing and public relations. He is frequently featured as a guest speaker at senior housing meetings and conferences across the nation and is admired throughout the industry for his exemplary leadership and selflessness in philanthropic efforts. 

This past week I received a photo tweeted by a resident standing on an ice floe in Antarctica. I also hosted a community wine-tasting event featuring a Laird Family Estate cabernet sauvignon that garnered 93 points from Wine Spectator.   That’s living large—and at least a light year away from the original “four Bs” that defined senior living—bingo, bridge, birthdays and the Bible.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of those—well, maybe bingo—that’s just wrong.  But this all points to the dramatic shift that has happened in the last 25 years in senior housing. Maybe the key question is: “Based on the paradigm shift that we’ve seen in the area of resident services, what will the residents’ expectations be like 25 years from now?”

Enter the term hospitality.

Hospitality is the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests—or in our case—residents. But hospitality may just be a temporary state of mind for those who anticipate the needs of our residents of the future.  Perhaps author Danny Meyer said it best:

“Hospitality is the foundation of my business philosophy. Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side. The converse is just as true. Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions – for and to- express it all.”

That quote offers a very interesting, well, preposition for change in our industry.

This is a great sea change for those of us who have operated retirement communities over the past several decades. We need a whole new mindset, a better-focused team and a whole bunch of training modules to be ready for older consumers with higher standards of housing, programming and healthcare. The company I work for is trying to meet this new challenge with a significant commitment to hospitality. One of my favorite phrases from our program is this:

“I own every problem I see.”

Six little words that make hospitality and customer service come alive. I’m responsible for anything within my sight or control that affects my guests. My company gives me the latitude to solve any problem, make every situation better and not second-guess me when I try and fail—whether I’m the CEO or the housekeeper. What a great approach!

The delivery of any successful hospitality program is the same, whether it’s geared for the general public or a more specific target group such as older adults. The Ritz-Carlton group has led the pack, creating a level of hospitality that is difficult to duplicate or even imitate. It’s based on a culture of excellence and a daily devotion to team member training and discipline.

So back to our future residents – Do you think they’re looking for a retirement environment of hospitality like they would find at the Ritz-Carlton? Or do you think they’ll be happy to play bingo?

Pour me a glass of that cab . . .

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