Researchers recently investigated Life Plan Community resident loyalty outcomes from a hospitality perspective. They proposed that a focus on residents’ needs would make the community more meaningful as a place, and this higher meaning would lead to a stronger sense of loyalty to the community.
In a study that earned a 2018 Mather LifeWays Innovative Research on Aging Award, researchers investigated Life Plan Community resident loyalty outcomes from a hospitality perspective. They proposed that a focus on residents’ needs would make the community more meaningful as a place, and this higher meaning would lead to a stronger sense of loyalty to the community.
A third place is a place outside the home, such as restaurants and community centers, that satisfy an older adult’s social, emotional, and consumption needs. The researchers suggested that a Life Plan Community serves not only as its’ residents’ home, but also as an all-encompassing third place. The researchers expected that the Life Plan Community’s ability to fulfill resident needs would be directly related to how meaningful the place is to them, thus leading to greater loyalty.
A total of 157 residents in a Life Plan Community completed a questionnaire examining their needs of the community, place meaning of the community, and loyalty to the community. Resident needs were assessed based on the environmental characteristics of the Life Plan Community, the community’s ability to provide services promised, and the level of personal attention the community offers residents. Place meaning was assessed by residents’ perceptions of trust, comfort, belongingness, and safety in the community. Loyalty refers to residents’ satisfaction with the community, as well as how they talk about the community with others.
As expected, place meaning of the Life Plan Community was linked to its ability to fulfill residents’ needs for physical, instrumental, and emotional support. Consequentially, residents’ loyalty was dependent on how meaningful the community was as a place. This means that a greater ability to satisfy each type of need makes the community more meaningful to residents, which results in a stronger sense of loyalty.
What this means for senior housing is that fulfilling residents’ physical needs is not enough. In order to enhance loyalty, as well as residents’ lives, a greater emphasis should be put on hospitality by providing emotional and social support, programs to help residents transition to the community, and developing a sense of home.
Lee J-E and Severt D. The role of hospitality service quality in third places for the elderly: An exploratory study. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly (2017); 58(2) 214-221.