How Good Are We At Preventing Loneliness?

We sent our first community survey to a carefully chosen Senior Housing Community, an upscale CCRC, in early 2016. A cover letter accompanied our one-page survey asking for recipients feedback and opinions. We explained the reason for our journey and promised to keep all answers anonymous. The response was wonderful!  Many respondents added notes and suggestions to their survey responses! Thank you!

Community Survey

Why survey communities and what are we looking to learn? Our ultimate goal is to understand and define each community’s personality. These are the intangibles you can’t see looking at buildings and financial statements. Students search to select the right college. Retirees need  to find the retirement community that matches their own needs and personality. Our immediate goal was to test the clarity of the community survey questions. The questions covered a mix of demographic identifiers and opinions. We asked residents about their satisfaction with Senior Housing and also about why they selected this Continuing Care Retirement Community. 




We’ve toured and like this particular community. More than 25% of the residents surveyed responded to our survey.

We consider the community survey tool to be “in development” and not a final product. The survey evaluates resident satisfaction with the benefits a great CCRC value should provide. And to date, we’ve only survey one single community. Yet what we learned from this one survey at one community surprised us. 

We surveyed by mail because we thought not all residents would have email.

Here’s what we learned about our survey format.  

  1. Email. We were right. Several respondents told us they did not have or use email. Is this community specific or is no email common among residents? Our parents were early adopters of email. The internet is an easy way to keep connected with family and friends.  Facebook, Skype and FaceTime often come up in discussions with residents and staff. But the internet is not yet universal for older Americans. We think there’s an opportunity here for Senior Housing to innovate. We’d appreciate any insights you have on residents’ use of email and social media.  Usage will change with the incoming Baby Boom cohort. For now, a purely electronic community survey would exclude many current residents.
  2. Management. Management doesn’t like scrutiny. Ideally, a survey would have management’s support and cooperation. Ideally, management should not influence the vote.  A note included in a response informed us management asked that residents not respond. A good share apparently ignored the request. Still, this is a roadblock to good data we’d like to resolve while keeping the data consumer focused. We know that other industries struggle with transparency. The empowered consumer is here to stay with the internet and social media. Smart management will learn to deal with social feedback. Secrecy is not a long term success strategy in an industry that depends upon trust. There are survey tools used by management. Consumers need a community survey providing information for prospective residents and current residents.
  3. Format. The survey format worked well. We used large print and lots of white space. It was a single page, front and back. We offered four (4) response options: strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, strongly disagree. We forced a positive or negative direction by not allowing a neutral choice. There were more things we’d like to ask, but we settled for short and sweet. Both brevity and readability boost the response rate.

We are happy with the survey results.  The results give us a better understanding of the community’s personality. Here’s a summary of what we learned.  

Lonely

All respondents reported being happy most of the time (100%).  Yet, 20% also reported they are often lonely. And 7% are not engaged with other residents and community activities. This surprised us. We believe a primary benefit of Senior Housing and co-living is the avoidance of being lonely. Respondents who reported being lonely also reported engagement with the community.  Why then are they often lonely?  Is it the level of engagement?  Are community activities offered not satisfying?  Is independent living too independent?  We ask communities’ about their wellness and lifetime learning programs in our reviews.  A common response is, “This is independent living. We can’t force anyone to do anything.”  We fear management and resident groups are confusing outreach with force. Or do these types of community programs not work in offsetting loneliness? 

These are questions we plan to explore. We don’t have comparative information for other communities yet.  We expected this community to score high on social engagement, happiness, and loneliness prevention.

Architecture, Food, Management and Financials

The surveyed community is older and the residents didn’t love the current architectural design. But several residents pointed out planned updates and additions. They had mixed feelings about the quality of the meals and generally liked their management team. They felt the community financials are good to great!  

If you want more information please sign-up for our newsletter.  We will be sharing further details in our newsletter at the end of February.






Updates/Additions

I suspect it’s difficult to feel so lonely if you are happy, these evidence based tips were filmed for a BBC series “Making Slough Happy“.

The basis of the programme was to test 10 simple measures (the Happiness Manifesto) on a group of volunteers:

1. Plant something and nurture it

2. Count your blessings – at least 5 – at the end of the day

3. Take time to talk – have an hour-long conversation with a loved one each week

4. Phone a friend whom you have not spoken to for a while and arrange to meet up

5. Give yourself a treat every day and take the time to really enjoy it

6. Have a good laugh at least once a day

7. Get physical – exercise for half an hour three times a week

8. Smile at and/or say hello to a stranger at least once a day

9. Cut your TV viewing in half

10. Spread some kindness – do a good turn for someone else

https://itsthetimeofyourlife.com/2020/04/06/if-covid-19-doesnt-kill-you-the-loneliness-if-isolation-just-might/ (4/6/2020)
10 tips to fight loneliness