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257: Maureen Longoria

The move to a senior living community for any senior adult is an emotional process. Maureen Longoria, Co-founder and CEO of LivNow Relocation, explains the journey of relocating and how addressing important factors will impact occupancy. 

Maureen was featured in the Summer 2022 Issue of the BTG Magazine.

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Welcome to season six of Bridge The Gap, a podcast dedicated to informing, educating, and influencing the future of housing and services for seniors. Powered by sponsors AccuShield, Connected Living, Hamilton CapTel, Referah, The Bridge Group Construction and Solinity. The contributors are brought to you by Peak Senior Living and produced by Solinity Marketing.

Lucas 00:33

Welcome to Bridge The Gap podcast, the Senior Living podcast with Josh and Lucas. A great topic on today, one that is very, very relevant as occupancy continues to be a major theme and conversation in the industry coming out of years of challenges that the industry has had in getting the units filled. We have our guest on today, Maureen Longoria. She is a BTG ambassador and also a contributor, Co-founder of LivNow Relocation. Welcome to the show.

Maureen 1:01

Thanks Lucas. Thanks for having me.

Lucas 1:04

We are so excited to continue conversations we’ve had as you’ve been a Bridge The Gap ambassador, you’ve always been a part of our conversations internally amongst our groups and also a contributor, bringing your skills and your time and your attention to the mission of Bridge The Gap to educate, inform, and influence. And today we’re gonna be talking about that very emotional journey that an older adult takes when they’re moving out of their home into a community. And you have firsthand, you know, experience in this. Can you walk us through and walk some of our listeners you know, well first, many of our listeners are on this journey cuz they’re in the communities and they witness this every day. And for the people that are on the sales and marketing side, I think you’re gonna help maybe uncover some of the, maybe some things that are unknown, unlock a few ideas that can maybe help them in their conversations. So walk us through that process that the emotions process that it takes for an older adult to move into a community.

Maureen 2:08

Yeah, absolutely. It is. It’s the greatest obstacle the sales team has to getting the person from their home and to the community, right? That’s that giant leap. It’s absolutely huge. For most people it’s gonna be their most emotional and complicated move. Emotional because they’re leaving behind most of them a home where they have a lot of memories. A lot of ’em have raised their children in that home whatever it might be. Maybe their spouse is now gone and they lived in that home for many years together. They could have built it together, whatever it is, right? It’s extremely emotional. But add to that, the complicated part is now you’re you know, in your later years and the idea of organizing and downsizing, all that stuff that’s been collected over the years is daunting. And it’s daunting for anyone even in their fifties that just got through raising their kids, set their last one off to college, someone like myself, right?

And the idea of organizing downsizing seems overwhelming, but I can still climb up into the attic or, you know, go into the crawl space. I can physically do a lot of those things still. But when you get to be in your late seventies or eighties, you know, the physical aspect of moving is really overwhelming as well. So now you’ve got the combination of the emotional and the physical. And then add to that just the logistical aspect of it, right? They have to find movers, which is a scary process these days. They have to find a realtor. So much has changed in real estate and everybody thinks their home has to be HGTV ready, right? So you start adding all of this up and that senior that was visiting your community that seemed so excited to move in, they said they don’t wanna have to worry about their home anymore.

They love the idea of having meals ready for them. They love the idea of the socialization and the activities. They love it, but they can’t when they get home, envision how they’re going to get from their home to the community because all those things I just outlined, right? And that’s actually why we called our company LiveNow Relocation cuz we really believe there are so many seniors in that space and they’re the, “I’m not ready,” right? And they, some of ’em say the obstacle is, I have a home to sell where I have stuff. But Julie Pedowitz did a survey of 150 sales leaders saying, what are the biggest objections you hear? 83% of the time they hear, “I’m not ready,” or that I’m not ready means exactly what I just described. They don’t know how they’re going to do all that and get to the community.

So we call the company LivNow because we really believe that so many of those people could be living their best lives in that community, but they don’t know how to get themselves from their home to the community. Now, there is one person that plays a big role in that, and that is the adult children. A lot of times those seniors really lean into their adult children to help ’em with that process. But their adult children are people like me as well, dual career, right? Kids, they’re busy and they’re wondering how they’re supposed to help their parent manage this process as well. So this is the dilemma that we’ve come to solve for the senior living communities and those sales teams is helping them through that transition.

Josh 5:24

Well, Maureen, you’ve done a really good job kind of identifying you know, this huge, I I guess you would say strain this problem, this physical, this emotional, this logistical challenge of getting people transitioned from home and the place that they’re living into a senior community, whatever that community may look like. But for the people that kind of get stuck in the middle, you know, I put myself kind of in the role of these frontline community members who get the inbound call, let’s just call it the distress call from that adult center daughter. They don’t really oftentimes even know where to begin. They just know they have to begin this process. Can you give some practical takeaways of how you take this potentially emotional, chaotic, logistical challenge, how can we take some practical steps to begin to organize that, to organize a smooth and orderly transition into a community?

Maureen 6:34

Yeah. The first step is to provide resources to them. Cuz you’re right Josh, the adult child, it could be they’re helping the independent living parent or the memory care, the assisted living, right? And the adult child is that person that’s often involved. And you’re right, some of ’em don’t even live near their parents. And now they have to find all these resources. They have to find a mover. They have to find a senior move manager, they have to find a realtor. You know what if maybe they could have access to bridge loans. So I think it’s just starting with providing them with access. Oftentimes in those situations, if they had a bridge loan, they could get mom or dad settled, and then they can deal on the back end with getting the house organized and downsized and on the market and things like that.

So I think the best thing to do for those adult children is to let ’em know that you’ll be providing them with the resources to be able to manage through this process. There’s also an emotional part of it. The things that people don’t talk about that really do hinder the process. And that’s a lot of times when the kids are involved and the parent is moving, the parent can’t let go and move forward because of a lot of the stuff that they have that are tied to memories, right? And that might be china or silver or, you know what I mean? It could be a woodworking room, it could be the dining room table, you know what I mean? And so a lot of times if parents are asking the children, do you wanna take this?

And the kid is saying, the adult child is saying, “No, I don’t need your silver. I’m not interested. I don’t want your china,” that’s hindering the process. The smartest thing kids can do is to say, “I’d love to have it, mom,” and then worry about it later, what you’re gonna do with it, but take it. Because when they take it from the parent, then the parent can let it go and feel good about it and move forward. And that is, when you talk about the emotional aspects and stuff, one of the biggest hindrances to this process is when the children are like, mom, nobody wants that stuff. You know, you can’t even sell it. It’s not worth anything. I can’t tell you how debilitating that can be to this process. So providing, I think the adult children and the senior with their resources to be able to make this smooth transition, vetted providers, you know, that understand the emotions around this process.

And then just giving ’em some guidance on you know, we often talk about writing a book for the kids. It could be literally five pages, what to do and what not to do, you know, during this process to make it go more smoothly. But I can’t tell you how many of my friends have said, “Oh yeah, I told my mom that, you know, I told her I don’t want that.” So she goes, “Oh gosh, in hindsight, you’re right. I should have just taken it. She would’ve felt so much better about it.” Right? and it could be the father too that has certain memories, pictures, whatever it is.

9:22

We’re taking a break in our scheduled show to tell you about exciting opportunities for you to be featured on the Bridge The Gap Network. Click on the show notes to schedule your call with Josh and Lucas. Yeah, what he said. 

Josh 9:36

Well you’re definitely preaching on something that I’ve already done the wrong thing myself. So my parents are probably at least hopefully 15, maybe 20 years away from what I would say traditional senior living, but I can tell you that thankfully they recently already began their downsizing process. And my biggest struggle for my mom was getting rid of just all the stuff. Lucas, I could not believe – it would be embarrassing for me to tell you all what was still in these hope chest, these cedar chest and things. And I’m like, “Mom, why do you still have this?” And it was so tormenting to her, I could tell to say like, “No, I don’t want any of it.”

And I went so far, the bad son to say, “Mom, here’s what’s gonna happen, when it’s time for you to go from this earth, this is not gonna be with me or anyone. This is gonna be sold.” And so I can already, I have probably done traumatic emotional things to my parents right now, I can already see this, but at least we’ve started the process early. So, but I think that’s such a critical piece. Are there some other top five, as whether you’re the community person or the family person, that you could educate the family of? Don’t, do’s because I’m making a list right here. I need to make my list of don’t, do’s – don’t say this, don’t do this. I’ve already got one of ’em.

Maureen 11:02

Yeah. Well, I would say you know, aside from just focusing on like, don’t tell ’em that their stuff is not worth anything. I think, you know, the biggest thing is we had an outside sales consultant, well respected in the senior living industry, create a training program for our team on empathy and action. Because we recognize that, you know, they’ve decided to move into the community. Usually when we’re working with them, sometimes it’s prospect phase, a lot of times we’re helping to move along through prospect phase, but you know, they’re still considering, you know, what this means to them when they go along. I mean, and you’ve seen it, sales teams that say, “Oh, she canceled her contract,” right? There are things that go along in this process that can stop it in its tracks. And the most important thing that we can be doing is bringing empathy.

If they feel seen and heard, they can move forward, right? So when they wanna talk about the stuff, you know, rather than dismissing it, I think just letting them feel the emotions behind it, but move forward, right? And that’s what our team has been trained on, that not only understand the relocation process and how to put the logistics together for that, and then project manage it and everything else, but they also understand the emotional aspect. So they sit there and they have those conversations with them and they listen and one of the first things they ask ’em is, “What’s the most stressful part about this move for you?,” to really start to, you know, peel back the onion and figure out, right, what could stop this in its tracks or what’s gonna be the most emotional piece of it for them, whatever it might be.

And I think that that’s really important too, is just to acknowledge this is not necessarily gonna be easy. It’s exciting when you get there. You know, we always say to ’em, “Nobody’s ever said I wish I didn’t do this.” Instead they always say, “I wish I’d done this sooner.” So we always share that with them. “I wish I had done this sooner.” Keep that in mind. But they need to go through that emotional process. There’s a book called Demand Side Sales that I read, and it was fascinating. There was a case study in there and it was an active adult community and their sales weren’t great and somebody new came in and started to ask the right questions during the customer journey. And one of the things they found out was the dining room table was an issue. They didn’t create enough room to bring the dining room table with them.

Now, so this is active adults, they still envision having those family dinners, right? Having the grandkids over and stuff. And once they shortened the bedroom and created enough room in the dining room, their sales went up over 30%. We think that this isn’t important, that these memories, you know in these things that they’ve collected over the years aren’t important. That just further confirms that. So it’s just, you know, listening, right? Listening to them talk about it, giving them that place to talk about it and then allowing them to move forward once they feel like they’ve had that opportunity to talk about them. It’s been acknowledged. People have acknowledged their feelings, it’s easier for them to move forward. And hence why I go back to when the kids say, “I don’t want your stuff, mom. It’s not worth anything.” It really hampers the process.

Josh 14:10

Well, that’s a huge note to self. And you know, I’m just sitting here thinking about, it seems like the complexity of transitions have really grown in senior living for so many factors, even from the last 17 years that I’ve been in this industry. I feel like not only has the type of senior living community products and services gotten so much wider, there’s so much more to choose from, but you know, also the demographic that is now beginning to move into senior living, this boomer generation that we’re starting to see enter it is so much different. That has created a lot of the complexity. And we’ve talked about this a little bit before. You know, that greatest generation, like my grandparents, they kind of lived in the same place, wasn’t exposed to a lot of technology, didn’t even travel a lot, prepared for the moment they were going to retire and then start to slow down.

You’d compare and contrast that to my parents moving all over the place, traveling the world, exposed to everything, everything at their fingertips, and the complexity of that and all of the offerings and all of the options. I mean, it’s amazing. And so I do think realizing that you’re not going to be able to just pinpoint and say, this is what the transition looks like for everyone. You have to be prepared for what emotionally you’re going to potentially confront. So I think it’s such a valid topic, Lucas, God love the people that are going to, you know, experience us living in a senior living community one day, you know?

Lucas 16:06

Yes! And you know what, Josh? Don’t sell yourself short. Those GI Joes and the Barbies with the heads pulled off that you have in that hope chest, you know, those may be worth some money someday, buddy. I know somebody out wants it.

Josh 16:19

Might pay for my senior living, actually. You know, you may be onto something there.

Lucas 16:24

Well, this is a great conversation, you know, Maureen, I think that this is gonna be something that all of our listeners are gonna want to continue to engage with you on and in particular on LinkedIn. You know, we’re gonna be posting this and we’d love to hear some of the listeners’ stories of how they’ve overcome this, what you are calling “the greatest challenge” in the part of this relocation. We’d love to hear from our listeners that are active in this world and on the journey with older adults moving into communities across the United States. Maureen, thank you for your time today.

Maureen 16:56

Oh, thank you for having me. It was great to speak with you guys. Appreciate it.

Lucas 16:58

And to all of our listeners, if you wanna learn more, you can go to btgvoice.com, connect with us there. And thanks for listening to another great episode of Bridge The Gap.

17:07

Thanks for listening to Bridge The Gap podcast with Josh and Lucas. Connect with the BTG network team and use your voice to influence the industry by connecting with us at btgvoice.com.

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257: Maureen Longoria