Senior Living Communities

Sales Tips

Caring Partners

Senior Care Marketing

Senior Living Industry Reflections and Predictions: An Interview with Steve Moran of Senior Living Foresight

160d43fc-91be-556e-9049-3e99877ebeac

If you went to any senior living industry events in 2022 or joined industry conversations on LinkedIn, chances are you’ve likely seen, encountered or heard about Steve Moran of Senior Living Foresight. Described by aging expert, Dr. Bill Thomas as “the town crier of this industry” and known for being forthright in sharing his opinions, Steve’s been writing about and discussing various aspects of senior living for over a decade — covering topics spanning from resident and staff engagement and enrichment, to sales, marketing and building a successful brand. 

Caring partnered with Steve early on, to support the mission of advancing our industry’s knowledge and success, and recently interviewed him to learn more about his influence in our industry and where he thinks the greatest opportunities lie for the months and years ahead.

Caring: You began writing the “Senior Housing Forum” blog back in 2011, and changed the name to “Senior Living Foresight” in August 2019, with an expanded content offering and increased event participation in recent years. 

Why did you start blogging about this industry — were any of your prior professional experiences relevant to senior living blogging (if so, how)? 

What were some of the industry shifts or other influences behind the name change and programmatic additions you’ve made over the years? 

Steve: I worked for a senior living organization out of Beverly Hills for several years and fell in love with the business.  When that company collapsed, I spent some time working in the electronics industry in Silicon Valley.  I didn’t like it very much and wasn’t that good at it.   

When I decided to change directions, I got to thinking about what I could do, what I liked and realized that senior living was it. I took the first job I could find which was selling emergency call systems and the same week launched the new website, Senior Housing Forum using a $5-a-month hosting plan and a free WordPress template.   My original idea was that it would help me sell more call systems.  

Then I started seeing ways the industry could improve and started writing about my ideas and those ideas resonated with the industry and helped leaders lead better.  

Since that initial website, we have done about four major redesigns and countless minor revisions. Since we launched, we have expanded a lot. At first it was a website and an email newsletter. Today those still exist, but we have a huge LinkedIn presence, a strong Facebook leadership group, a podcast, and several livestreams every week. 

At the end of the day, we are 100% committed to the idea that we want to improve the lives of people who work and live in senior living. 

Caring: At the top left of your homepage near the platform logo are these words: “Increasing Occupancy. Reducing Turnover. Creating Culture.” Tell us more about why you chose these 3 areas, and if/how these themes play out across your partnerships and content. 

Steve: The initial idea was to ask ourselves, “What are the big problems that we can help industry leaders solve?” and it was those three things. We continue to believe that when senior living organizations get those things right, they will make the world a better place for their residents and family members, for team members and for their local marketplace communities.   I would add though that in some sense the list is backward. It starts with culture and when you get culture right you will have lower turnover, and when you get those two things right you will have higher occupancy. 

Over the last year, I developed a new keynote speech titled, “Look to the Sky,” where I talk about how to create a culture where everyone loves coming to work every day.  While working on that speech, I came to realize that it all starts with having a purpose for your organization — that purpose has to be profound and something that every single team member in the organization can call their own.  

For us at Senior Living Foresight, it is making the lives of people who live and work in senior living better. 

Caring: What have been some of the most surprising or most exciting things you’ve learned about the senior living industry since you started covering it? 

Steve: The first thing is that almost everyone in the industry really cares about making the world a better place for older people. There is also a certain level of restlessness and frustration about the state of the industry as it is today, meaning there is a recognition that as great as it is, we can be better. 

At the same time, we are a pretty risk averse industry which makes us timid about changing even when we know we should. It’s easy to understand, change equals risk and not changing feels less risky, even though it may not be.  There are so many companies that didn’t change that are out of business like Kodak, Palm Pilot, Blockbuster Video and more. 

Caring: You have a lot of opinions on how large providers are doing with respect to their overall business. What are two or three things you think they need to do better immediately?

Steve: You would ask me that wouldn’t you?! The biggest challenge that large providers have is that their systems for doing business become more important than people. This in turn means that people are viewed as more of a cost center than as an asset. Team members have great ideas about how to make their communities better.  They understand problems better than corporate leaders, they understand solutions better than corporate leaders and they want to be heard.  Mostly they feel like they are not valued and not heard. If I had a poor performing building, I would start by going to that building (or those buildings) and say, “We are struggling here, you know it and I know. What are your ideas for making it better?”  Then really listen and figure out which things make sense and how to make them happen.  It sounds stupid simple — actually it is, but it will yield results and rapidly. 

Caring: Sometimes your opinions are viewed as controversial or challenging of the status quo. Are you finding your approach effective for initiating positive change in the industry? Have there been instances in which you regretted how you approached a subject, or conversely, instances you wish you’d done further with ‘pushing the envelope’? What does it take to get you to change your point of view on a subject? 

Steve: Heavy question. First, I am a huge, huge fan of senior living. It is making a positive impact on the lives of residents and team members and yet we have big challenges that are reflected in occupancy and staff turnover.   

Early on, I would write scathing articles about something in senior living, then realize they were simply rants and I didn’t publish them.  I have also written articles, then rethought the topic and written a follow-up article saying, “I changed my mind.”  I am sure if I went through every article, there would be a few I wish I hadn’t written but there are none that stand out as embarrassingly cringe worthy. 

One of the most curious parts of writing critical articles is how often I will get messages from people inside the organizations I am critical of, who say, “I am glad someone had the courage to say that.”

Part of what makes this hard is that I am someone who welcomes criticism, even if I disagree with it. I love the fans, and the kind words. 

It is much harder to be critical today than it was when I started out.  Back then, I knew very few people so it was easier to blast away.  Today when I write something critical, I can usually put names and faces of people I know, people I have met and even spent time with that will be upset with what I wrote.  

Right now I have an article I wrote several weeks ago that I have not submitted for publication because I know a significant number of people will be unhappy about it.  But it is something that needs to be talked about. 

Finally I try to never write a critical article about anything without offering up an idea for a better way to do things. 

Caring: In this industry, there’s a lot of emphasis on lead generation. What do you think the lead generation landscape looks like in 5 years?

Steve: There are several clumps of low-hanging fruit that are mostly unpicked when it comes to lead gen. 

  • Just getting out into the marketplace, building relationships with people who can help you help residents. 

  • Making the community more available to people who need a place to do an event or have a meeting.  I am talking about groups with no obvious tie to older people.  Scouting groups, mom’s groups, social clubs, climbing and fishing groups. The more people a community touches, the more leads that will show up. 

  • We are terrible about telling stories of changed lives. Giving a spouse who is not yet ready for senior living a new lease on life. Relieving the guilt and worry of a daughter or son. Telling those stories rather than simply saying we do that are hugely different. We are not telling stories about residents who come back to life, who fall in love, who find new hobbies, who are continuing to change the world.  There are so many stories.

  • The most recent thing I am thinking about is this question: How do we make senior living more fun?  For residents, for adult family members, for team members. Right now, pretty much no one would describe living in or visiting senior living as fun. But I believe that could change. 

Caring: You’ve regularly written about your own personal experiences caring for aging loved ones and the numerous senior living community tours you’ve taken. What are the top 3 things you think a senior living community should do on every tour they give? 

Has your experience covering the industry helped your loved ones in their search for senior living? Are there things you think communities or organizations like Caring can do to help ensure any consumer can optimize their senior living search experience (that they don’t need the industry insider ‘leg up’ to be successful in their search)? 

Steve: I wish I had a better answer to this question but shopping for senior living is hard. Choosing to move a family member into senior living is life altering and very hard to roll back.  I wish senior living communities would spend a lot more time thinking about how to reduce the friction when it comes to learning about senior living.  A very simple one is putting pricing front and center on your websites.  

Here is what I wish Caring.com would do, maybe we can even work on this together.  There needs to be a series of very short tutorials for family members on what senior living is, how to make these decisions, and what to expect.  Maybe we do them with music and with comedy — I don’t know, but I think it would help people know what to do.  Or maybe we take some of your prospects and do some videos of them asking questions and then we answer them.   I have looked at what you have and I don’t know if it quite really hits the mark. What if your tutorials were the one place everyone had to go? I have so many ideas about this. 

(Caring Note: Thank you for this suggestion and others! We have some exciting updates coming to our website in 2023 — to further support the millions of people who access our senior living content during their search and selection process.)

Caring: When you think about our industry, what keeps you up at night? What most excites you and brings a smile to your daily work? What are you most passionate about, and find most meaningful in your senior living work?

Steve: What keeps me up at night: I talk to a lot of people who are terminally discouraged about senior living, but I am not one of them. While there is a lot still to be done, the industry is evolving and changing.  I see lots of small evidences of positive change nearly every day.   

My very public confession is that my passion is more for the front-line workers, many of whom would live on public assistance but choose to work in senior living instead.  More than any other time, they are making better money and having more of a voice.  

I find meaning every time I hear from a leader who is leading better because of some bit of content we have produced.  We get those messages nearly every day via email, private messenger, in the form of online comments. It means we are making a difference in the lives of people.  We are making the lives of those who live and work in senior living better.  

***

We appreciate Steve taking time to answer these questions, hosting the Senior Living Foresight platform for relevant and constructive industry discussions, and sharing about his passion for senior living.  

We’d love to hear from you too! Please comment on our LinkedIn post or email us to share your thoughts on any of the topics in this interview, or others you think are important for our industry to reflect upon. 

a8ad03cd-5f37-55c8-876c-b757a1a318d7

Senior Living Communities

Sales Tips

Caring Partners

Senior Care Marketing

Senior Living Industry Reflections and Predictions: An Interview with Steve Moran of Senior Living Foresight

160d43fc-91be-556e-9049-3e99877ebeac

If you went to any senior living industry events in 2022 or joined industry conversations on LinkedIn, chances are you’ve likely seen, encountered or heard about Steve Moran of Senior Living Foresight. Described by aging expert, Dr. Bill Thomas as “the town crier of this industry” and known for being forthright in sharing his opinions, Steve’s been writing about and discussing various aspects of senior living for over a decade — covering topics spanning from resident and staff engagement and enrichment, to sales, marketing and building a successful brand. 

Caring partnered with Steve early on, to support the mission of advancing our industry’s knowledge and success, and recently interviewed him to learn more about his influence in our industry and where he thinks the greatest opportunities lie for the months and years ahead.

Caring: You began writing the “Senior Housing Forum” blog back in 2011, and changed the name to “Senior Living Foresight” in August 2019, with an expanded content offering and increased event participation in recent years. 

Why did you start blogging about this industry — were any of your prior professional experiences relevant to senior living blogging (if so, how)? 

What were some of the industry shifts or other influences behind the name change and programmatic additions you’ve made over the years? 

Steve: I worked for a senior living organization out of Beverly Hills for several years and fell in love with the business.  When that company collapsed, I spent some time working in the electronics industry in Silicon Valley.  I didn’t like it very much and wasn’t that good at it.   

When I decided to change directions, I got to thinking about what I could do, what I liked and realized that senior living was it. I took the first job I could find which was selling emergency call systems and the same week launched the new website, Senior Housing Forum using a $5-a-month hosting plan and a free WordPress template.   My original idea was that it would help me sell more call systems.  

Then I started seeing ways the industry could improve and started writing about my ideas and those ideas resonated with the industry and helped leaders lead better.  

Since that initial website, we have done about four major redesigns and countless minor revisions. Since we launched, we have expanded a lot. At first it was a website and an email newsletter. Today those still exist, but we have a huge LinkedIn presence, a strong Facebook leadership group, a podcast, and several livestreams every week. 

At the end of the day, we are 100% committed to the idea that we want to improve the lives of people who work and live in senior living. 

Caring: At the top left of your homepage near the platform logo are these words: “Increasing Occupancy. Reducing Turnover. Creating Culture.” Tell us more about why you chose these 3 areas, and if/how these themes play out across your partnerships and content. 

Steve: The initial idea was to ask ourselves, “What are the big problems that we can help industry leaders solve?” and it was those three things. We continue to believe that when senior living organizations get those things right, they will make the world a better place for their residents and family members, for team members and for their local marketplace communities.   I would add though that in some sense the list is backward. It starts with culture and when you get culture right you will have lower turnover, and when you get those two things right you will have higher occupancy. 

Over the last year, I developed a new keynote speech titled, “Look to the Sky,” where I talk about how to create a culture where everyone loves coming to work every day.  While working on that speech, I came to realize that it all starts with having a purpose for your organization — that purpose has to be profound and something that every single team member in the organization can call their own.  

For us at Senior Living Foresight, it is making the lives of people who live and work in senior living better. 

Caring: What have been some of the most surprising or most exciting things you’ve learned about the senior living industry since you started covering it? 

Steve: The first thing is that almost everyone in the industry really cares about making the world a better place for older people. There is also a certain level of restlessness and frustration about the state of the industry as it is today, meaning there is a recognition that as great as it is, we can be better. 

At the same time, we are a pretty risk averse industry which makes us timid about changing even when we know we should. It’s easy to understand, change equals risk and not changing feels less risky, even though it may not be.  There are so many companies that didn’t change that are out of business like Kodak, Palm Pilot, Blockbuster Video and more. 

Caring: You have a lot of opinions on how large providers are doing with respect to their overall business. What are two or three things you think they need to do better immediately?

Steve: You would ask me that wouldn’t you?! The biggest challenge that large providers have is that their systems for doing business become more important than people. This in turn means that people are viewed as more of a cost center than as an asset. Team members have great ideas about how to make their communities better.  They understand problems better than corporate leaders, they understand solutions better than corporate leaders and they want to be heard.  Mostly they feel like they are not valued and not heard. If I had a poor performing building, I would start by going to that building (or those buildings) and say, “We are struggling here, you know it and I know. What are your ideas for making it better?”  Then really listen and figure out which things make sense and how to make them happen.  It sounds stupid simple — actually it is, but it will yield results and rapidly. 

Caring: Sometimes your opinions are viewed as controversial or challenging of the status quo. Are you finding your approach effective for initiating positive change in the industry? Have there been instances in which you regretted how you approached a subject, or conversely, instances you wish you’d done further with ‘pushing the envelope’? What does it take to get you to change your point of view on a subject? 

Steve: Heavy question. First, I am a huge, huge fan of senior living. It is making a positive impact on the lives of residents and team members and yet we have big challenges that are reflected in occupancy and staff turnover.   

Early on, I would write scathing articles about something in senior living, then realize they were simply rants and I didn’t publish them.  I have also written articles, then rethought the topic and written a follow-up article saying, “I changed my mind.”  I am sure if I went through every article, there would be a few I wish I hadn’t written but there are none that stand out as embarrassingly cringe worthy. 

One of the most curious parts of writing critical articles is how often I will get messages from people inside the organizations I am critical of, who say, “I am glad someone had the courage to say that.”

Part of what makes this hard is that I am someone who welcomes criticism, even if I disagree with it. I love the fans, and the kind words. 

It is much harder to be critical today than it was when I started out.  Back then, I knew very few people so it was easier to blast away.  Today when I write something critical, I can usually put names and faces of people I know, people I have met and even spent time with that will be upset with what I wrote.  

Right now I have an article I wrote several weeks ago that I have not submitted for publication because I know a significant number of people will be unhappy about it.  But it is something that needs to be talked about. 

Finally I try to never write a critical article about anything without offering up an idea for a better way to do things. 

Caring: In this industry, there’s a lot of emphasis on lead generation. What do you think the lead generation landscape looks like in 5 years?

Steve: There are several clumps of low-hanging fruit that are mostly unpicked when it comes to lead gen. 

  • Just getting out into the marketplace, building relationships with people who can help you help residents. 

  • Making the community more available to people who need a place to do an event or have a meeting.  I am talking about groups with no obvious tie to older people.  Scouting groups, mom’s groups, social clubs, climbing and fishing groups. The more people a community touches, the more leads that will show up. 

  • We are terrible about telling stories of changed lives. Giving a spouse who is not yet ready for senior living a new lease on life. Relieving the guilt and worry of a daughter or son. Telling those stories rather than simply saying we do that are hugely different. We are not telling stories about residents who come back to life, who fall in love, who find new hobbies, who are continuing to change the world.  There are so many stories.

  • The most recent thing I am thinking about is this question: How do we make senior living more fun?  For residents, for adult family members, for team members. Right now, pretty much no one would describe living in or visiting senior living as fun. But I believe that could change. 

Caring: You’ve regularly written about your own personal experiences caring for aging loved ones and the numerous senior living community tours you’ve taken. What are the top 3 things you think a senior living community should do on every tour they give? 

Has your experience covering the industry helped your loved ones in their search for senior living? Are there things you think communities or organizations like Caring can do to help ensure any consumer can optimize their senior living search experience (that they don’t need the industry insider ‘leg up’ to be successful in their search)? 

Steve: I wish I had a better answer to this question but shopping for senior living is hard. Choosing to move a family member into senior living is life altering and very hard to roll back.  I wish senior living communities would spend a lot more time thinking about how to reduce the friction when it comes to learning about senior living.  A very simple one is putting pricing front and center on your websites.  

Here is what I wish Caring.com would do, maybe we can even work on this together.  There needs to be a series of very short tutorials for family members on what senior living is, how to make these decisions, and what to expect.  Maybe we do them with music and with comedy — I don’t know, but I think it would help people know what to do.  Or maybe we take some of your prospects and do some videos of them asking questions and then we answer them.   I have looked at what you have and I don’t know if it quite really hits the mark. What if your tutorials were the one place everyone had to go? I have so many ideas about this. 

(Caring Note: Thank you for this suggestion and others! We have some exciting updates coming to our website in 2023 — to further support the millions of people who access our senior living content during their search and selection process.)

Caring: When you think about our industry, what keeps you up at night? What most excites you and brings a smile to your daily work? What are you most passionate about, and find most meaningful in your senior living work?

Steve: What keeps me up at night: I talk to a lot of people who are terminally discouraged about senior living, but I am not one of them. While there is a lot still to be done, the industry is evolving and changing.  I see lots of small evidences of positive change nearly every day.   

My very public confession is that my passion is more for the front-line workers, many of whom would live on public assistance but choose to work in senior living instead.  More than any other time, they are making better money and having more of a voice.  

I find meaning every time I hear from a leader who is leading better because of some bit of content we have produced.  We get those messages nearly every day via email, private messenger, in the form of online comments. It means we are making a difference in the lives of people.  We are making the lives of those who live and work in senior living better.  

***

We appreciate Steve taking time to answer these questions, hosting the Senior Living Foresight platform for relevant and constructive industry discussions, and sharing about his passion for senior living.  

We’d love to hear from you too! Please comment on our LinkedIn post or email us to share your thoughts on any of the topics in this interview, or others you think are important for our industry to reflect upon. 

a8ad03cd-5f37-55c8-876c-b757a1a318d7