With a new cohort of older adults entering senior living communities nationwide, Juniper Communities is taking a fresh approach to identifying just what the next generation of consumer wants — and membership-based offerings are playing a big role in that process.
In August of last year, the Bloomfield, New Jersey-based senior living operator launched Catalyst, an ecosystem of programs and services where residents pay a membership fee in addition to monthly rates to access lifestyle concierge services.
Membership has become a key component in the company’s effort to maximize residents’ “wellspan,” a concept that refers to adding not only years to their lives, but good years.
And the wellspan approach is just what the Baby Boomer generation is after, according to the national director of Juniper’s Catalyst program, Patricia Jacobs.
“We have to know what our residents want not only en masse as a giant group, but also individually,”Jacobs said during the Argentum conference in New Orleans.
Juniper Communities uses technology to personalize the resident experience. This personalization of care has led to senior living operators integrating new technology and establishing programs that create new revenue sources from resident care.
And through programs like Catalyst, Juniper Communities is able to connect not just with residents, but a crucial and relatively untapped market for operators: Older adults who don’t reside in senior housing.
Personalizing lifestyle and care for the next generation
In 2019, Juniper — along with Christian Living Communities and Ohio Living — formed the Perennial Consortium, an operator-owned Medicare Advantage (MA) network. At the outset, the companies’ goal was in part to maximize the revenue upside of MA, in addition to improving quality of care.
Juniper coordinates and integrates care through a model called Connect4Life. Since its launch years ago, the program has helped Juniper improve workflows, wield new technology and better allocate staffing resources to keep residents healthier and happier, according to Juniper Communities CEO Lynne Katzmann.
With Connect4Life providing operators with a more robust way to generate care revenue, she said any successful model must also include components of hospitality, engagement and wellness as part of lifestyle management. For Juniper, that’s done through its Catalyst membership program, which builds on the foundation that Connect4Life laid.
“We have the ability to offer services to people who’ve been in 55+ communities near us or they’ve been home or can’t afford our communities or decided they aren’t moving,” Jacobs said. “We can offer services in a wide range and we are broadening by many factors the number of people we can serve.”
Subscription-based services and technology-supported services will help support “more embedded options” for older adults in senior living communities, Jacobs said. With information and technology, Jacobs added that is how Juniper Communities is “creating a personalized experience” for residents.
As an example, Jacobs outlined an anecdote at a Juniper community in Pennsylvania where a resident was having mobility issues that led to the resident feeling more lonely. Juniper team members talked to the resident about their goals for the future and came up with an individualized therapy plan for an ongoing exercise program.
Thanks to that plan, the resident was able to begin participating in community activities.
“We really find out who they are, and we have a range of programming we can personalize,” Jacobs said. “That’s what Catalyst is all about and that’s what personalizing programming does.”
Tech as an ‘invisible touchstone’
Senior living operators have accelerated the use of technology in communities since the pandemic forced their hand to continue various activities remotely. Fast-forward to today, both Katzmann and Jacobs feel that the industry needs to do even more to innovate on technology integration in its quest to advance wellness.
Technology integration in communities ranges from sensors in rooms to watch for falls and changes in activity level to virtual reality. That’s not to mention the numerous content management systems in use by operators to support staff to allow them to spend more time with residents.
Jacobs said Juniper wants its use of technology through the Catalyst program to evolve to be “an invisible touchstone” for residents to interact with seamlessly. Currently, residents can access the Catalyst through a tech-supported platform.
Juniper plans to track satisfaction of residents and attendance of programming, and through technology, the company is able to seamlessly track all service requests by residents and respond quicker to resident needs.
That can be as simple as having an Amazon Alexa device in the home to remind residents of upcoming appointments or functions.
“We’re moving from siloed apps on smart devices to voice first and we’ve learned clearly it is what we see as the future,” Jacobs said. “We know how many consumers want choices and we have to be able to offer it and it’s only through technology that we’re going to be able to try and offer it.”
The Catalyst program involved the rollout of 1,000 Alexa devices into communities since last October. In the first three weeks of the program’s Alexa pairing, Juniper reported 10,000 interactions with the devices. Now, that number is 70,000 interactions monthly among the company’s 16 communities.
That’s a stark contrast to Juniper previously trying to roll out smart phone-based apps that saw engagement below 300 interactions.
“Our residents are responding and a tremendous amount of information is being shared,” Jacobs said. “We’re confident that this is the way we want to go.”
The rollout also has had benefits for staff, and Jacobs noted that the devices can broadcast personalized messages and community reminders to residents. The devices are also used for ordering and tracking billing for ancillary services.
Jacobs said Juniper was working on “a lot more features” to complement the company’s software array.
“Technology is actually getting easier and easier to access and we need to bring our residents and our customers in closer,” Jacobs said.
Challenging the role of senior living
To break down misconceptions of senior living, Juniper Communities looked at ways to engage older adults not yet residing at their locations with services as part of Catalyst.
In doing that, Juniper Communities Director of Marketing and Partnerships Katie Kensinger said Juniper created a “two-way door” with the outside world and in the process changed the resident experience.
“Not only is it new friendships, new relationships, new programming, but it’s also affected externally how senior living is perceived and ultimately what it means to be an older adult,” Kensinger said. “We think that we are addressing ageism through experience.”
That’s done by “reimagining space” within the communities, Kensinger said. Traditional senior living is thought of as separate from the at-large community with segmented care levels for residents.
That led to Juniper opening its community spaces to outside organizations who needed meeting space or local theater companies bringing auditions and rehearsals to a community.
Juniper also has made strides to participate in outside events, including a chicken wing cookoff in which the community’s garlic-tinged wings actually took top prize.
“Be more present in spaces where senior living is not traditionally represented,” with a focus on intergenerational engagement. For example, the company Kensinger said.
Juniper also held a geocaching event at its community in Chatham Township, New Jersey where dozens of treasure-seekers descended upon the community in search of a hidden “cache.”
Doing so helped foster organic experiences between residents and members of the general public, Kensinger said.
“I challenge you to think of other places that we as an industry can be present to help to change not only the perception, but also truly the experience of the people who call our communities home, whether it’s inside our walls, or in the outer community.”
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