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The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

219: StoryPoint

The indoor tubing seniors that went viral on TikTok is now being used as a recruiting tool for StoryPoint Senior Living. VP of Marketing Irina Olgart and Life Enrichment Director Erin Griffiths describe the day in the life of activities at StoryPoint, and how residents having FUN can be used as a recruiting tool. 

The leadership team has conducted multiple national interviews and are proud to give a positive spotlight on the industry. Here is the video that caught traction nationally!

Looking for more conversations about life enrichment? Listen to the Activities Strong Podcast.

Request your invite to the VIP Ignite Experience: Dream Again. August 28-30, 2022 in Nashville, TN.


Welcome to Bridge the Gap podcast, the senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. We have an incredible story on today with some awesome VP of marketing and life enrichment directors from StoryPoint senior living. We want to welcome Erin and Irina to the program. Welcome to the show.

Erin & Irina
Thank you. Thank so much.

Lucas 01:03
So great to see you again, we have had really good conversations and getting to know each other. And because y’all are known now all over the world. You produced and filmed a viral social media clip in one of your communities of seniors going essentially tubing down the corridors. And it has gotten millions, upon millions, upon millions of views on every social media channel imaginable. You have received national recognition from media outlets outside of social media, and it has been a really awesome thing to watch. And so as most of our listeners have probably seen this video, we want to dive in, not only do we want to get the background around the video, some feedback from y’all about your thoughts, some feedback from the residents, and we’re also going to dive some basic principles around life enrichment and changing the perspective and the ways that people see senior living, because this video did exactly that. So Irina, I’ll start with you. You have been at StoryPoint for a number of years. Did you ever expect that you guys would have hundreds of millions of views off of a social media video?

No, no. Yet alone, I didn’t think we would break TikTok or Instagram or anything. I didn’t think we would be any of those. One of my goals is to get verified as a legit, like Beyonce kind of account right, for senior senior housing. But one of the most exciting parts was the fact that we did break the barrier I believe of what typical social media is in our industry. It’s Facebook, right? That’s where the adult children are. And that’s where everything goes viral. That’s where you share the photos. But the fact that it did go viral on a platform like TikTok and Instagram is just amazing. It’s a goal, definitely a goal

Lucas 03:14
I’m going to flip back and forth here because Erin, are we correct? You were the one that had the cell phone, the smartphone in hand and filmed it, correct?

Erin 03:23
Yeah, between me and my team, we had throughout the day each of us had been taking pictures and videos and then compiled it together onto the TikTok video to post to our Facebook page.

Lucas 03:35
So walk us through that day when you guys were planning this. The is my presumption is, is that you guys didn’t sit down that morning and say, “alright guys, let’s create a viral TikTok moment. This is how we’re gonna do it.” Was this just a day in the life at your community?

Erin 03:51
Yeah, this was just our day-to-day. We had gone into January with a plan of a winter wonderland theme. A lot, we were gonna embrace the cold, embrace the snow. We were going to build igloos outside. We were going to have a snowball fight. We were gonna go tubing. It kind of didn’t work out when it didn’t snow until the end of January. And we’re in Michigan, so typically we have a lot of snow throughout the month. And so when it came the day for tubing we had to figure out a way to make it happen. We struggled to figure out how to get that tube to move on the carpet, my team. And I were sitting on the floor in our lobby for a good 45 minutes, trying to figure out how to make it go. And then we did, we had a great day, but yeah, that was just our day-to-day.

Erin 04:32
We took pictures and videos like we normally did. We had a lot of fun, so we decided to make a TikTok out of it and posted to our Facebook page. For the first week, we got the attention of our residents and their families. And then it was the week after that, that suddenly things started to escalate a little bit. And we realized that it was getting a lot of views. and we expected it to go for maybe two or three days and then slow down. But it didn’t. It just kept going and going. And that was the amazing thing was that it, it was just our day-to-day. We definitely didn’t walk in and say, “today’s the day we go viral.”

Josh 05:11
Oh man. So this is such a cool story to me for so many reasons, not just because you guys went viral and that’s a really cool thing, but you were showing the world not necessarily that snow tubing indoors is a normal activity in the senior living industry. But what I heard you say just a moment ago is you guys, as a team had to make it happen. You sat on the floor for 45 minutes, figuring out how you’re going to make this happen for the residents. That is the norm in our industry, in that people just like you and your teams are out there working just tirelessly to make these experiences happen. And at what me and Lucas have talked about so much that you guys are doing such a good job on is you’re actually showing the world the kinds of things that you can do as an aging person in a senior living community.

That is not what we think of as a society when you think of senior living. And how important Lucas is this during this time that we’ve come out of this, and still in really at the pandemic period where our industry has kind of taken some black eyes. Unfortunately, this was a really perfect timing release from you guys on TikTok. I would love to know when you guys are thinking about activities and life enrichment. Tell us a little bit about your approach, because I think it’s great for other listeners in other communities to really talk about how you plan these kind of things and kind of your outlook on life enrichment for other professionals to learn from.

Erin Griffith 06:55
You know, going into it. We spend a lot of time with the residents to figure out really what they’re wanting. Not necessarily like what their hobbies are and what their career was, that’s the baseline. That information we know. But what, what gets the residents out of bed in the morning? What makes them tick? What’s in their heart? What do they want? And then planning things from there. So I think the great thing, especially with StoryPoint is that’s felt company-wide. And so it’s like, we’re gonna do anything we can for the residents. We’re not going to stop. We’re not going to say no. We’re not going to put limitations on it. And so it’s constantly that like bigger and better mindset of, we’re not just gonna make something small, we’re gonna really blow it out of the park for the residents, they deserve this.

Erin Griffiths 07:37
And so when it comes to planning, knowing that essentially like the world is our playground, we’re going to give the residents exactly what they want, exactly what they deserve. We’re going to help the residents thrive. And that’s our goal coming in every day. And so planning things for life enrichment, that’s kind of where it starts. And so there’s no like small thing. I know a lot of life enrichment can get viewed as like, “oh, it’s fun. You go into work and you play bingo and play games.” And it sounds like a lot of fun. But it’s so much more than that. There’s so much planning, but it really starts with like getting at the heart of the residents.

Josh 08:14
Oh man. So talk to me a little bit Irina, you lead marketing and have done a wonderful job with this. When you think about content and when you think about enabling your team to be able to do things like they did with their smartphones, and capture the fun things that are happening, what were the maybe unexpected things that have happened or audiences that you were able to reach through TikTok through, Facebook that maybe you didn’t really anticipate, maybe that were a surprise to you?

Irina Olgart
Well, one, and just to mention, the partnership marketing, if they didn’t have the partnership that they did with the community and the life of enrichment department, it wouldn’t be able to go viral, right? I would, I think the part that is exciting is that we just keep pushing for more and more, just for more people to be able to see it. Because while the world is talking about healthcare predominantly in the senior housing industry, we’re talking about tubing and a bunch of other things. But so I think the partnership and again, having our standards marketing of what we want to see with the team, and the team in the StoryPoint communities and the Independence Village communities and our leisure communities at the end of the day, that’s our expectations.

Irina Olgart 09:50
They have expectations of us and we have expectations with them. And I think that partnership works. But getting in into the surprising factor of when the video went viral, typically where we do see all the clicks and just where we usually post all of our content is on Facebook, right? So that is where we target our specific audience of adult children. That is where we see seniors, as far as watching their families grow up, and sharing content, that is the majority of the platform that they use for social media. The fact that this was recorded on TikTok and that it went viral through TikTok and through Instagram, Instagram Reels. The exciting part is that we were able to break that barrier of just adult children. So you didn’t only have 50 plus age group following and commenting, right?

Irina Olgart.
You had a great group of teenagers that were like, “man, this looks cool, I would love to work here.” Or you had the 20 year olds, the 30 year olds that were surprised. And again, there was that youth factor of bringing them back to their youth of when they would do stuff like that because the reality is the day to day, whether we’re working from home, or were working at a community, or were working at a home office, we’re working. And so sometimes some of it is it’s hard. And you see something fun and it brings you back to your youth. It brings you back to something that you could relate to. You share it and you end up getting excited about it. And so the comments and breaking that barrier of seeing your housing and what it looks like, a nursing home stigma type of thing.

Irina Olgart 11:41
I think the exciting part was that you did have the teenagers and the 20 and 30-year-olds that were saying, “I’d live there, I’d come work there. That looks like a cool place to be.” And so we’re doing that. It’s a testament to Erin and all the hard work she’s doing with changing that perception, right? We’re the little guys technically on this, even on this podcast, I’m the little guy here. It’s Erin, she’s changing the perception of it. I’m marketing it for her, but she’s changing it, you know? So I think that’s a cool part.

Josh 12:13
Well, and I’ll tell you, the partnership between marketing and community life engagement teams, community teams is such a key ingredient. And I think that is a great lesson along with a million other ones that we could talk about today if we had time. But you know, Lucas, we’ve talked about this changing the perception in senior housing means you have to get out of the industry and reach people that really have some preconceived idea or a notion of what senior living is because they haven’t personally experienced or a loved one hasn’t personally experienced through living there or through working there through visiting there. And I know organizations that we are part of, and we’ve given to campaigns and we are trying hard to change the perception and spend millions of dollars. And you guys have showed us, right here that with some partnerships, some hard work creativity and leveraging platforms that are already out there and accessible, you can make efforts that go much further in a smaller amount of time with a lot less budget than oftentimes what we try to do with these very strategic advertising campaigns and things like that.

Josh 13:28
And there’s a genuineness behind it that I think people are just really drawn to. So it’s it really interesting to me. So I’m also interested TikTok, right? I think there’s definitely some forward-thinking communities, developers, owner-operators that are using various platforms, not just your traditional forms of social media that have been out there for a long time, but some of the more viral, fast emerging, new emerging platforms that seem to be it’s. It’s hard to learn how to use them for some of us. Was there intentionality, is this something that Erin you and your team just knew how to use because you’re young and savvy, or had you guys had training on this or how did that all happen?

Erin Griffiths
Yeah. I been trying really, really hard to learn TikTok, but my team is a lot younger than me. And so they have been pretty savvy with TikTok. We kind of get an idea of what we want to do. We’ve done a couple of tos in the past, whether it’s like, “hey, this is a trend that we’ve seen on TikTok. We’re going to take it and mold to Senior Living. Or we just had a lot of great content from an activity, so we’re gonna take that and put it into a TikTok. But my team has been the ones kind of getting together the TikTok and I’m kind of helping create the content. Recently I just made my first TikTok like completely on my own, and that was something really exciting for me. But I, I think it’s been a cool tool just because TikTok videos are so short. And so in a matter of 30 seconds, you can very quickly tell a story. And I think that’s where, especially with this video, it kind of went viral. You can see it’s real, it’s genuine, it’s authentic. You can see the smiles, you can see the fun. And I think that’s where TikTok is becoming really big for us. Is that in a short amount of time, you can grasp all of that.

Lucas 15:23
So a couple of points I want to dive into let’s talk about, so what is the number right now? Do you guys…and I’m sure hard to quantify? What number are you guys at on that video right now that you know of.

Irina Olgart 15:36
That I know of for sure. And I can triple check cuz I know things change over the weekend and I haven’t checked.

It may have gotten a few million more.

Irina Olgart 15:45
But we were at 20.2 million views. And then there was shares obviously. And and I did want to mention that it did break international headlines as well. Germany, Brazil re-shared it on some of their news channels. And somebody reached out wanting to do a whole campaign around it. We have of our legal counsel looking through that right now. But it is it’s bananas. I don’t know how to explain it more than that. Like, it’s crazy.

Lucas 16:20
Yea okay so a marketing campaign 10, 20 years ago, you know, even let’s say before social media, or at least before social media really caught big, you know, something like that. you would’ve had to hire a PR agency, a marketing firm, you would be trying to place things in, I don’t know, People Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, one of the big network morning shows something like that. And you would’ve spent millions and millions of dollars on a campaign to change and narrative of what senior housing was. So basically impossible, no operator would’ve been able to do that. And by no way is this minimizing what you guys have accomplished because obviously there’s a strategy behind putting marketing dollars into you know, developing a platform and a purpose behind this. You have a smartphone that you film something, it goes on to a free platform and you get tens and tens of millions of views that go around the world.

Lucas 17:26
I mean it’s next level. And so I guess I’m illustrating the impact of this, to the operators that are listening right now to say, start doing this, get your, get, empower your teams, to be able to film something like this and leverage it on the platforms that are popular right now, because one video that y’all have been able to produce has literally probably changed the perception of senior housing, maybe more than the history of senior housing. I would argue that it potentially could have done that. And think if you weren’t doing that. One person, one community is putting it on a free platform has done that. Give us Erin, give us the feedback from the residents at the community, as they have learned the, how far that this has gone, do they even… I’m sure they understand it, but it’s hard for even us to understand.

Erin Griffiths 18:28
It took them a while to kind of really like understand how far this has gone. Especially, we talked about earlier, it was the day-to-day. And so when we started explaining to residents, “hey, a couple weeks ago when we did this tubing and we were taking pictures and videos.” And in their mind, it’s…”yeah, we go to these activities every day. You’re always taking pictures and videos.” And so explaining to them we did a kind of a follow-up TikTok in a way of the residents saying what they think it means to go viral. Because that’s definitely a new age term that some knew and some didn’t. And so really explaining how far it’s gone as we were seeing this kind of pop up in other countries. It did appear on every continent. And being able to explain that to them and just how far I think they have the same response to us as why, how, we just did what we do every day.

Erin Griffith 19:25
We did have, I was sitting with about 20 residents and we had a really cool conversation because were asking why this? What, what prompted this? As they’re trying to wrap their heads around what caught the world’s attention in this video? And we were able to talk about the fact that most people, if they’re not living or working in senior living, the stigmas there. Most people have that stereotypical nursing home vibe. Senior living’s not a place anybody wants to be. And this video showed exactly the opposite of that. And so the people that we got attention from are people who aren’t in the industry, that’s not what they expected to see. So it did change their perception. And so that was a really cool conversation to have with the residents about why this went viral and they could be part of showing the world what senior living is. And that there might be, there’s a change coming to senior living. This is what it is. And so it was really cool for them to kind of like walk through that whole process with them of explaining what TikTok is, what it means to go viral and kind of all that new social media stuff. As well as the side of, why people were so excited about this video.

Josh 20:38
Well, so Irina I’m curious as I’m thinking through listening to this amazing story, I think something that prevents all of us, many of us, obviously, not you guys, but many of us in the industry from doing things, and even humans from doing things is this fear of the unknown, or fear of change. And you think of like a platform like TikTok and oh five or six team members that are using phones, and what are they going to film? What are they not going to film? Is this because it could go viral bad or viral good? You’re constantly worried, but it seems like you’ve really created a culture that empowers your team to problem solve, to use tools and resources that are available to them to create moments like these, because this just it was intentional, but it was also organic. It wasn’t like these were actors, this was produced so to speak. Can you talk a little bit about what you can do if, if you’re a marketing or a life engagement person or community leader to create an environment that empowers this kind of creativity?

Irina Olgart 21:49
I think one of the things to go back to too is that we have residents at our community, so just for everybody who’s listening, as far as operators go, you do have residents. And I think Erin can speak to that, that you have residents that don’t want to be filled, right? And we are respectful of that. So at no given time or point are we filming them out of their own comfort, right? And if they are, they’re cut out. So I think we do, our life enrichment team, and again led through Erin with her districts. She does an amazing job with making sure that we’re respectful of that factor. And the second part of it is really going back to, I think, what else, how, how we get to some of these ideas and it goes back to the partnership. There is a risk part of it.

Irina Olgart
Like you do have to take a risk because I would probably say that in the next 12 to 24 months, there will be another social media platform that will have to learn and figure out, sorry, Erin. And it’ll be 15 second viral videos, right. But the part too, that you have to adjust with, and I think this has been the hardest thing in the senior housing industry, has been adjusting from the old school mentality of being, and this isn’t a bad thing, but being in a paper, And putting your print ad in a paper that you’re located here, and, and this is your senior housing thing. There are different ways to get the word out and there’s going to be different search engines that will be out there in the next few years. It’s all a matter of, are you willing to risk it if you can?
And if you can’t totally doable and understandable, but it’s part of it for us is that I don’t think that and, and where I’m proud of this for our organization and proud to be a part of it, is that I don’t believe there is anything cookie-cutter about us. I think that we are very human. We believe in creating a great experience, an absolute best experience, but we also have our bad days, right? So I think that, and we’re okay with that. But I do believe that we take risks, we take the chance and we also know in the back of our heads, if we don’t do it, who else is going to do it? It’s interesting because with TikTok, it did truly allow us to have that platform to break to multiple countries, and multiple age groups. To go back a few years, and again, I’ve been here for eight and a half and Erin, you said, I think you’ve been here for six and a half.

Irina Olgart 24:42
We were doing videos on of if, if, and this dates back to, if anybody’s familiar with the Drake song of “Kiki, do you love me?” And there was a whole dance of when somebody jumps out of the car and they do this whole dance, right. We film that and put multiple communities on YouTube. It did not go viral. We took a chance, right? We had our residents coming off of the shuttles, doing the dance with the life enrichment directors. It was, I thought it was the best thing that ever happened to us. And nothing. I got nothing from it, right? Like it was, it was a flop. but we had to risk it. And the reality is the residents had a great time. And that’s what it matters. Like the, if, if anything, it was an activity and, and it’s, it’s what they value.

Irina Olgart 25:33
The family members got a chance to laugh. They connected with their grandkids that know the song. So it’s another connection point for those, for those grandkids to be able to save my, my grandpa’s cute, and knows Drake, right? We did four years ago, a cookie madness competition between 20 plus of our communities around this time, and we did it like March madness themed. And again, we’re throughout the Midwest. It was a great event that was between us, and it got a little bit of press, but it didn’t really break viral, but it’s a matter of we took the chance. Because everybody else will stay in the box and talk about healthcare. And I think that’s the thing that I love about our life enrichment team, our team in whole, but specifically around this is that Erin risks it, and she takes it, not risks the resident safety, but she takes a risk on how she wants to show what we do and how we do it.

Josh 26:43
Oh man, Lucas, I feel like we need to risk it and do a TikTok together. And I heard there’s this thing called a duet. And so I feel like we should do a duet together. We just need to get out of our comfort zones and do it.

Lucas 26:58
Well, let’s we’ll, we’ll consult with Erin and Irina about how that should go, because clearly we are with the experts. The most viral video in senior living history is on the program today. But before we depart there was a song associated with the video that I think had to have some play into how all this was done. There’s so many songs that you could have chosen. To me, when I watch the video, it’s perfect. Like you really, it just like it embodies exactly what is taking place. I believe it was a Walker Hayes if I’m correct. Maybe you can correct me.

Erin Griffiths
We did “Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes and we had the TikTok done, and my lead was kind of working with it on her phone and just playing through different sound options on TikTok. And I think we initially went with the Mario cart background in different things. And then she picked that one and played it, me and my team were like, ‘that’s it!’ The song fits perfectly with what we were doing. And it just kind of the upbeat nature of the song. It really fit. So I do think that that’s obviously part of what caught on. It’s a popular song right now. I think one of our most exciting moments with this was when Walker Hayes actually shared the video and then commented on Instagram on it, was definitely something that I think had us all really, really excited.

Lucas McCurdy
That’s amazing. I mean, it’s just the perfect collision of things coming together at the right moment in the right time. And as you guys, I think it’s also important to note for people that are listening. Look, you have to start, you’ve got to start. And when it comes to social media and content in general, you’re going to become obsolete if you do not risk it and go down these paths. And it’s important to understand you’re not going to hit this with one post, on your first post overnight, getting a viral sensation like this. You’ve been at this for years, you’ve been creating videos. You’ve been creating these moments in time. And it’s in doing that and trying it and risking it and coming up with stuff and filming the moments in your community’s lives is when a moment like this can come around.

Lucas 29:24
And so I think it’s an incredible time for us to celebrate the fact that there are people out there, millions of people out there, that had no clue or a wrong idea of what took place inside a senior living community. This has been a great tool to help educate them which is a big part of what we all want to do. It’s a big part of what the Bridge the Gap platform wants to do, which is to educate, inform, and influence. And as a byproduct of that change, the perception of what senior housing and senior living truly is. And we salute y’all for what you have accomplished. Any final parting words on, on this topic before we sign off?

Irina Olgart.
For m, no. I’m thankful that we were asked to, to chat with you guys and to be able to share the story. But again, it means so much just the fact that we’re able to to break some of the barriers to what you just said. I think that that’s, that was the goal all along for us t this kind of stuff for Erin. To show what she does on a day-to-day. And I think that that’s the funny part is that when you continue to go and see some of the rest of the videos. You’ll see the residents not realizing that they did go viral. So we’re just happy that we were able to break that barrier

Lucas 30:49
And Erin what’s next what’s the next video?

Erin Griffiths 30:53
I don’t know. I don’t know. I think, some of the things like this one, obviously wasn’t planned, and I think that’s where kind of our best moments come is that in the moment stuff,, what’s more, like I said, more authentic, more genuine, more real, and that’s where you really get these experiences. So no set plan for the next video, but, we’ll see what happens.
No pressure.

Well Josh as we have said many times we have to showcase the love stories, and this is a great example of doing exactly that, right?

It really is. This is really a testimony. And I think you just said, without saying the words, you’re not planning the next video, you’re planning the next moment for the residents. And then you capture that, and it may go viral. It may not, but that’s not why you’re doing it. But while you’re doing it, you’re changing the perception of senior housing. So great congratulations. A well-deserved viral post to you all. You’ve been putting in the time and effort for years, doing great work and glad that you took some time for us and our listeners to, to talk about it and best wishes and everything that you’re doing. Lucas. I know our audience has probably seen this video, but we’re going to connect them many ways to everything that this group is doing.

Absolutely. We’ll put all the contact information and the links in the show notes here on the podcast platform, you can go to and access all of our content there and get the transcripts, download the videos. Connect with us on social and follow Bridge the Gap there. Thank you for being on the program today and thanks to everyone for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.

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219: StoryPoint