Move-ins have tripled and retention rates have improved at a Florida senior living community following the launch of a comprehensive wellness program that addresses the community’s most prevalent risk factors of falls, arthritis, diabetes, cognitive decline, and incontinence.
In the 22 months since the Vitality Program was launched, occupancy at 639-unit North Florida Retirement Village, Inc., a not-for-profit rental retirement community in Gainesville, Fla., went from 62% to 89% as of July 2013.
The Village, which is affiliated with SantaFe HealthCare, Inc., has 511 independent living units, 96 assisted living units, and 32 dementia care units. The campus opened in 1986 and expanded in 2009 by 50%. With the additional units and a troubled economic atmosphere, occupancy went from a previous 98% down to 62%.
While multiple factors of the program and campus offerings are at play, Jim Antonucci, the community’s executive director, says the introduction of the Vitality Program is “absolutely” tied into one month that saw a tripling in sales along with an overall increase in occupancy. On a two-year average, the community has doubled sales.
“The return on investment—you can’t even measure it,” he says. “We don’t want to call [the program] the magic pill, but it really is a retention strategy; it is a marketing strategy; it is the right thing to do for the resident, because they’re healthier, staying longer, and the community has become more active than it’s ever been as people engage in their own healthcare.”
The Vitality Program starts for residents with a “vitality score” that’s scaled from 0 to 48. The assessment looks at four main things: health factors, impairments, activities of daily living, and life satisfaction. Each section is scored and weighted to produce a score for the resident. Program participants can then receive recommendations of how to maintain or improve their health, using community resources.
Campus nurses are available 24/7, and residents have access to home health aides and physical therapists who can conduct home evaluation assessments to determine ways to make apartments more amenable to independent living. The Village has partnerships with a variety of other third-party providers ranging from a nearby medical center’s outpatient department to a senior-specializing rehabilitation group and a hospice provider.
More than 97% of The Village’s more than 700 residents have participated in the Vitality Assessment, and Rebecca Catalanotto, director of health services, says there has been a quantifiable change, evidenced by an increase from the average initial score of 36 to 39 in six months.
“What we’ve seen, as we’ve implemented these plans, is that scores are improving,” says Catalanotto. “We’ve seen measurable improvements in our residents’ health across the board. As scores improve, there’s a higher level of vitality.”
Participation in the wellness program is free to residents. But the net impact in sales, according to Antonucci, has been substantial: a $2.8 million revenue turnaround since the program’s introduction.
“It’s been so ground shaking for us as a company that we’ve implemented vitality programs in our other two communities [also affiliated with SantaFe HealthCare], and they’re seeing significant differences too,” says Antonucci. “This is the real ‘aha’ of what we’re doing.”
Prior to the introduction of the wellness program, for every seven move-ins to The Village, seven other people would move out. Now, the community is experiencing fewer move-outs than move-ins.
“All of a sudden, we put the Vitality Program in, and that changed dramatically,” says Antonucci of the change in net retention. “The ‘save rate’ is about four to five residents a month, because of the services we have on campus, coordinated by the program and helping to keep them on campus.”
While the rental community is still averaging about nine move-outs a month, the percentage of people leaving is much smaller now that the community has gained around 35 basis points in occupancy, and residents have a greater ability to stay longer.
“[Return on investment] isn’t really measurable because you don’t know what would have happened with the residents [if the program didn’t exist]. But we’re seeing them more frequently in our clinics, catching things earlier, preventing falls, hospitalizations and readmissions, and making recommendations,” says Catalanotto, who adds the program also helps residents and their families make proactive transitions through the care continuum in place of reactive situations. “It really is the right thing to do.”