What Researchers Can Learn When They Move into a CCRC

Members | August 07, 2012

What’s the best way to learn more about how older consumer think? Live with them for 30 days and ask as many questions as you can. That’s what Pennsylvania researchers did. Two LeadingAge members helped make it possible.

Frasier Meadows Retirement Community, a LeadingAge member in Boulder, CO, welcomed a new resident in June 2012. Cheryl Slavinsky’s visit to the continuing care retirement community (CCRC) lasted only 30 days. But, by all accounts, it was a busy month filled with such activities as:

  • Going on shopping trips.
  • Eating with residents.
  • Participating in social activities. 
  • Keeping diaries and blogging.
  • Conducting interviews, focus groups and town hall meetings.
  • Learning what she could about the needs and preferences of older consumers.

Researcher Turned CCRC Resident

If you’ve guessed that Slavinsky isn’t a CCRC resident, you’d be right. She’s actually a researcher from Harrisburg, PA, who became a member of the Frasier Meadows community so its residents could help her gain a better understanding of the mature market. Slavinsky works for a firm called Varsity Branding, which specializes in marketing to older consumers.

“I applaud your sense of ‘community,’” wrote Slavinsky in her last blog posting from Frasier Meadows on July 17. “We chose this location…because it is indeed a progressive CCRC from which others can learn. The residents, staff and management provided some important observations on how retirement living has changed, on what’s on the horizon, and advice for how other CCRCs can improve their operations and services.”

Looking Glass I: Studying CCRC Residents in Pennsylvania

Slavinsky’s month-long study of Frasier Meadows residents was not Varsity Branding’s first trip into the world of senior living. Five years ago, Varsity researchers spent 30 days living with residents of Garden Spot Village, a LeadingAge member in New Holland, PA.

That first study, dubbed “Project Looking Glass I,” yielded 3 white papers about the mature market:

  • The Decision to Move and Live in a Continuing Care Retirement Community concluded that prospective residents are drawn to a CCRC by its sense of community. “Marketers would do well to stress this aspect of CCRC living to generate positive feelings about moving into one rather than the commonly experienced trepidation,” the paper suggested. 
  • The Impact of Physiology on Marketing to Older Adults stressed the importance of keeping physiological differences in mind when marketing products to seniors. “Ergonomic details may mean the difference between a given product’s success or failure,” cautions the paper. “Brands that achieve a genuine understanding of seniors’ needs can enjoy a loyalty and increased usage from this swiftly growing segment for years to come.”
  • The Psychographics of Older Adults recommended that organizations market their products and services by life stage rather than age. “An understanding of the fears of mobility and memory loss, contrasted by the desire for respect, social involvement and inner growth, can provide fertile ground for advertising messages,” advised the paper. 

Looking Glass II: Continuing the Research in Colorado

Varsity expects that it will be ready to share the findings from Project Looking Glass II by the end of 2012. Those findings will reveal how wellness, technology, finance and health care have affected and shaped the lives of today's older adults. 

Varsity will also weigh in on whether it thinks marketers are ready for the coming changes.

“The goal will be to provide actionable insights to decision makers in the retirement living, health care, technology and consumer goods industries,” wrote Shane Swisher, Varsity’s senior public relations strategist, in a recent issue of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.