Marriott's Senior Living Communities: Meeting the Need of Older Americans for Housing Options - By Kathleen Tindell (HSMAI Marketing Review)
As the Baby Boomers age and as life expectancy among the already elderly increases, the demand for senior housing grows. Marriott is meeting the challenge not only by building new senior living communities and buying existing ones, but also by positioning itself to be "a preeminent information resource to people considering moving into a senior community and their families."
Marriott is already one of the three largest providers of senior living residences. "We are transforming the entire industry," Himelstein said. When interviewed in December, 2000, Himelstein was excited about Marriott's new creative campaign to bring its senior living communities to the attention of the public. "In early 2001, we will begin giving seminars across the country, featuring panels of health care and geriatric experts and social services professionals. The seminars will be advertised locally and given as a service to the community. It's wonderful if people want to know more about our communities, but we won't be selling ourselves at these seminars. We hope to continue to be the preeminent information resource to people considering moving into a senior community and their families."Assisted Living Residences
Marriott now has 154 senior living communities in 31 states across the country. They have opened new ones and bought existing communities and put their own stamp on them. Their assisted living brands include Brighton Gardens, Marriott Maple Ridge, Hearthside, and Village Oaks. Designed for seniors who need some type of assistance with daily activities, such as bathing, dressing, and medication reminders, they focus on wellness and on keeping the residents as independent as possible. A tailored plan of assistance is developed based on each individual's needs, and monthly fees include three daily meals, housekeeping and linen services, scheduled local transportation, a 24-hour medical alert system, and social, cultural, and educational programs to keep residents as active and involved as they wish to be.
A growing component of Marriott communities is care for people with Alzheimer's Disease or other memory-related disorders. Not all Marriott communities offer this service, but a large percentage do. Residents participate in a wide variety of activities according to their abilities and preferences, including exercise classes, crafts, and local outings. Scheduled transportation to off-site activities is offered. Frequent family visits are encouraged and reinforced with individual counseling, support groups, and family advisory councils.
Nursing and rehabilitative care is also available in some Marriott communities, offering 24-hour skilled nursing care, post-hospital and post-surgical care, restorative care, and physician and pharmacy services.Independent Living Communities
Similar to their assisted living program, Marriott also offers independent living in some communities. Seniors live in their own apartments or cottages free from the worry of household maintenance. Monthly fees include daily meals and weekly housekeeping. Amenities can include various recreational facilities such as a swimming pool, gym, whirlpool, woodworking shop, guest apartments, tennis courts, golf driving range, banks, library, and beauty and barber shops—all within easy walking distance. Many communities allow pets—an important consideration for many seniors. Living with a beloved animal has been shown to lower blood pressure, alleviate depression, and decrease recovery time for post surgical patients.
Social activities, classes, group outings, entertainment, and the opportunity to enjoy the company of one's peers are big pluses for many seniors who might otherwise live much more isolated lives. Living in houses where they may have once raised their children, some older people find themselves alone much of the time. Transportation can be a problem for seniors who no longer drive. Often friends and contemporaries have moved away, and working couples and their school-aged children can leave older people in neighborhoods that seem like ghost towns during weekdays.
Many companies are moving to fill the growing need for senior housing. Sunrise Assisted Living, Inc., is well known, with facilities in 24 states, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Hyatt is moving into the field, with seven of its 17 retirement communities offering continuing care services. There are literally thousands of independent facilities, large and small senior community management companies, and apartment complexes springing up or converting to senior living across the country. They offer a variety of residences and a mix-and-match array of services to seniors.
Marriott Senior Living Services is well positioned to be a leader in the field, calling on its vast network and working relationships with other businesses and local communities across the country. Himelstein is putting together cooperative marketing and other strategies with a number of organizations. If the company's history is any indication, its Senior Living Services division will continue to grow and prosper.
Marriott began in 1927 when the current CEO's father, J. Willard Marriott, opened a small root beer stand in Washington, D.C. Now a leading worldwide hospitality company, employing 4,200 people at its Bethesda headquarters alone and approximately 151,000 employees worldwide, Marriott International is comprised of lodging, senior living, and distribution services, and is dedicated to providing exceptional service to its customers.Serving Residents and Their Families
"It is this dedication to service that guides our senior living division," Himelstein said. For instance, if a resident in an assisted living apartment in a Marriott community must move to nursing or Alzheimer's care, staff will work with the resident and his or her family to make the transition as easy as possible. For the seniors able to live independently or with little assistance, staff is available when needed without being intrusive.
The business is growing with referrals and Himelstein's new marketing strategies. Visit Marriott's Web site [www.marriott.com] and you'll note that clicking on Senior Living Communities leads you to detailed descriptions of services and locations of Marriott's senior communities nationwide, with links to each. Marriott is reaching out to the "influencers"—the generation aged 45-65, often the children of seniors wanting or needing a change in their living environment. That's where the community seminars come in. "We want to be able to educate seniors and their families about what is out there for them," Himelstein stressed.
To that end, Marriott contributed to a special edition of a book, How to Care for Aging Parents, which will be available at its seminars. The book offers common sense advice on how to approach a parent about making decisions to ensure his or her safety and well being. It lists organizations and other resources helpful to seniors and caregivers, tips for daily living, exercise programs, and some important advice for dealing with the stress of being a caregiver or decision maker for a parent or other elderly person.
This is a role being thrust upon the Baby Boom generation, as well as spouses who find their loved one slipping away from them through Alzheimer's or other illnesses. The National Family Caregivers Association estimates that more than 25 million Americans are caregivers, fulfilling functions from occasionally driving an older person to doctors' appointments, to cooking and cleaning, to companionship, to full-time nursing care. Caregivers often must balance jobs, children and families of their own, resistance from the parent (or spouse), worry, sadness, and love. It's a tough juggling act and the stress level can go off the scale. Caregivers need all the help they can get. The marketing strategy that recognizes that, and seeks to serve as well as sell, will succeed.About Bruce Himelstein
By the time Himelstein takes the helm at HSMAI, chances are you will have been hearing more about Marriott's senior living division. Just two months into his new role when interviewed, Himelstein is filled with enthusiasm for where he intends to take the large Marriott division, as well as for what he hopes to contribute to the association. A member of HSMAI for about 20 years, he's brought a number of Marriott executives into the
"HSMAI is so valuable to people like myself," he said. "Executives in this industry work long hours, they have families, and there are never enough hours. It's important to take the time to talk to other people in other organizations. HSMAI offers a great opportunity for that activity. For me, it's an enriching experience."
Himelstein graduated from college with a degree in communications and a goal of entering broadcasting. To finance his trips to New York for interviews, and to pay the bills, he got a job as a bellman in an independent hotel in upper New York state. The sales director of the hotel approached him several times asking him to join the sales and marketing staff, but Himelstein said no. He liked the tips he made as a bellman, and the hotel business wasn't going to be his life's work. Finally, the hotel's general manager and director of sales made him an offer he couldn't refuse. Himelstein began his marketing career in the hotel business and joined the local Albany Chapter of HSMAI. He's been with Marriott about 20 years, and is ebullient about the success and enormous potential for its senior living division, as well as HSMAI's plans for the coming year.
"The future," as the late football coach George Allen once said, "is now," and Bruce Himelstein is ready for it.