By Lori Alford, COO of Avanti Senior Living
It’s no secret that men and women are wired differently, especially in regards to how they respond to sensitive situations and their level of emotional intuitiveness — in addition to their basic needs, desires, and interpersonal interactions. After all, there are a multitude of books written on the varying differences between what men and women want, how they approach social situations, how they handle business, dating, and more. So what happens when an industry like senior living is predominantly made up of female consumers and decision-makers? How do we make sure we are catering to what the female decision-makers are looking for? The answer is we bring female sensibility to the industry, of course.
Why is female sensibility so important to the design of senior living communities? For starters, women are outliving men, so many of the residents are female. According to a new report on mortality in the United States from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, average life expectancy in 2012 for females was 81.2 years, and for males it was 76.4 years. That is a difference of 4.8 years. Previous studies indicated the same results, so this is not news to us. Second, more often than not it is the adult daughter who assists the prospective resident in finding a place to live, whether she is the daughter or the daughter-in-law. Typically, when a senior and the family decides it would be a good time to move into a senior living community, the female adult child can better connect with the parent on an emotional level, because she is empathetic and understands the concerns, needs and sensitivities. Usually the son or son-in-law is supportive, but cannot completely relate to how his mother or mother-in-law thinks.
Catering To Women
In order to cater to what women are looking for, we make sure our amenities, aesthetics and programming speak to women, such as a nail bars and spas, vibrant artwork, visuals and lighting, a ballet barre in the fitness center, opportunities for involvement with charity work, social events such as wine pairings and painting classes, as well as intellectual programming centered around cultural outings and educational discussions. These are things that stand out for women; they are activities and add-ons that women look for throughout the entire course of their lives. A woman may pick one gym over another because of the type of environment or exercise program. Another may desire to live in one senior living community over another because it offers continued learning classes. These needs and wants do not change as we get older. We still appreciate doing things like getting our nails done with friends, or relaxing during a much needed facial when life gets to be stressful, or trying something new to change up our everyday routine. Regardless of age, women want to feel beautiful, valued and cherished, and proud of how they present themselves to the world. They want to continue to learn, expose themselves to new things and discuss current events. Older women now have time to do things they couldn’t do while raising families; or now is the perfect time to try something they have never done before. It’s imperative that we cater to the inner desires and wants that all women share.
Key Components That Appeal To Women
Thinking this way comes easy to me because I can relate! When I’m working with our partners and team to plan a community, I am quick to defend and ensure we do not value-engineer or eliminate services and amenities that some men may feel are unnecessary. To me, they are key components that attract and appeal to women and adult female children. If communities are comprised of a large number of women, why would we cut the very services and features they value the most? These are differentiating factors for the female consumer when choosing one community over another. Instead, Avanti looks for other ways to cut costs without removing the very things our consumers appreciate the most. We work to value-engineer our communities by standardizing anything we can versus customizing them, such as window sizes, for example.
Caregivers and Nurses
Beyond having amenities and services that cater to what women want, female residents and adult daughters value female caregivers and nurses, as they tend to be perceived as nurturing and motherly. We recently held focus groups with residents of Avanti Senior Living at Towne Lake, and many of the participants expressed that they prefer female caregivers due to the nurturing side of women, but are not opposed to men. In this industry, a majority of applicants are female, so the industry generally employs more female caregivers; however, I have worked with several fantastic male care partners who go above and beyond for residents in their care.
Women In The Workplace
With most of our team being female, I find it important to create a work environment that is open and understanding in regards to supporting the working mom, significant other and friends. I understand how hard it is to devote time to raising a family while trying to excel in the business world at the same time. I know a woman whose children couldn’t go to school one day, and even though she knew they were old enough to come to work and behave, she was afraid to ask if that was permitted because her place of employment did not openly embrace that idea. Our company creates an environment in which it is okay to discuss these situations, so employees do not feel scared about being a working mom and needing to ask these things. I can personally relate to problem-solving these types of scenarios, and I know what it’s like to go on maternity leave and have a baby. Not all women are accustomed to having the freedom to discuss what they are struggling with, and as a result they hide their emotions and needs from their team. Avanti prides itself on empowering and supporting women in the workplace. We are fortunate that Tim Hekker, CEO for Avanti Senior Living, supports women and is working with me to make this kind of environment possible.
Not only is it important that we as a company are equipped to emotionally understand and support women in the workplace, we must also connect with residents and adult children in this same way. As women, I feel that we are better able to relate to and understand the emotions of a senior and an adult child—such as feelings of guilt or fear, or being overwhelmed. Women are not afraid to address these issues, whereas some men may be less inclined to want to talk about feelings they may or may not be able to relate to when presented with these concerns or questions.
When Tim and I founded Avanti, we sought to be change-agents for women in senior living, and we are happy to have made our vision a reality. If the customer is always right, then we must give them what they want—and that is what women want.