Elderly finger pointing on digital tablet

Senior Housing Goes Digital: Is Video Content the Next Big Thing?

Senior housing has a content problem.

A quick search of the term “assisted living” in YouTube’s search bar turns up a long library of video content produced by senior living communities, associations and marketing groups, with everything from community tours and resident documentaries to training videos popping up in the results. However, much of this content is outdated or provided sparingly from only few sources.

Just a small fraction of senior living providers actively engage with consumers on this platform or utilize these sources for their own staff, despite the fact that video content is quickly taking over the Internet.

Today’s Internet user is more likely to watch a video than read an article, research shows, and video traffic will account for more than 80% of all Internet consumer traffic by 2019, according to a study by Cisco. As video content becomes more prevalent, the implications within senior housing continue to grow, as well.

Channeling Leads Through Video

Autumn Leaves, a family owned and operated provider of assisted living communities with a focus in memory care, started producing their own videos on YouTube over one year ago as an initial extension of marketing and branding initiatives. Today, the provider, which operates more than 40 communities in seven states, has about 30 online videos showcasing caregivers, community activities and more.

“On one level, it’s a great place to showcase our marketing content and media appearances,” says Clare Dempsey, social media specialist for The LaSalle Group, which manages Autumn Leaves’ social network channels. “But more than that, YouTube gives real dimension to the user experience. It offers a much more tangible, emotional glimpse into life at Autumn Leaves, not just from the residents’ perspective, but from that of the family members and employees, as well.”

With consumers willing to spend more time watching a video than read print, Autumn Leaves has jumped on the opportunity to expand its reach and increase referral sources. The organization has even started adding videos of some of its social activities, such as author readings, to its channel. Showcasing moments of everyday life in a community can have a much deeper impact than other content forms, says Dempsey.

“Video content provides a wonderful avenue for us to reach and interact with audiences that we might not have touched otherwise,” she says. “It beautifully delivers the emotional component of our branding that can be difficult to convey in words. It drives home our core mission of compassionate and high quality memory care in a visual format that really sticks with viewers.”  

While the foray into YouTube started as a marketing idea, it has gradually evolved to include more insights into the everyday life of a resident, says Dempsey. Residents and their family members, along with staff, regularly participate in Autumn Leaves videos.

“It has evolved into something more documentary in style,” Dempsey says. “While we still create high quality production pieces periodically, the content is now much more about capturing candid moments of joy with our residents, family members, and staff. It’s honest, it’s compelling, and it gets to the heart of why we do what we do. Video is the next best thing to being here. Having a platform where we can share these special moments helps others see what we see in a much more captivating format.”

One of the biggest obstacles for operators to create video content is the investment. Some just aren’t willing to take the time and pay the cost for content on video platforms, says Dempsey. However, providers who aren’t engaging with potential leads this way could be missing out on a big opportunity that is largely unexplored.

“I think there may be hesitation to show the realities of aging, but it would be a missed opportunity to overlook the rich and vibrant culture of senior living,” says Dempsey, s. “There may also be an assumption that there is not an audience for the content, but we find the opposite to be true.”

From Tours to Tutorials

The advantages of utilizing video content go far beyond marketing ideas and engaging with consumers. While senior housing organizations may want to get their brand out through their own video content, other providers may be seeking out unbiased staff training or support videos that offer tips for best caring practices. Training staff with video tools can also save money and provide an on-demand resource for caregivers.

Blue Skies of Texas, a continuing care retirement community company with two campuses in San Antonio, Texas, has been utilizing an online resource of training videos for many years from mmLearn.org, an organization sprung from senior living provider Morningside Ministries. mmLearn.org  is a grant-funded business that creates free staff and caregiver videos within the senior housing industry and has more than 300 videos available for download, with categories of topics ranging from diabetes care to dementia and even spirituality.

With more than 250 employees, Blue Skies (formerly known as Air Force Village I) has primarily used mmLearn’s catalogue to keep compliant with CEU requirements for its staff members.

“Our professional caregivers use it primarily for the CEU content, which is extremely valuable, especially to the licensed nurses and administrators, assisted living administrators, nursing home social workers,” says Executive Director Wendy Carpenter. “They have to have a certain number of CEUs and the fact that most of mmLearn is available online 24/7, offers great convenience to staff members versus being held to scheduled webinars that other companies might offer.”

Because mmLearn is grant-funded, the videos are available online for free, though the company also offers training videos that provide continuing education credits (CEUs) for a fee, which are required for many licensed professionals such as nurses.  

What is particularly useful about mmLearn’s catalogue is that it is on demand for when staff and caregivers need the information.

“They find it relevant, it’s specific to the area in which we are trying to enhance knowledge and therefore improve care outcomes,” says Carpenter. “They can do this on their own time. They’re not restricted to a webinar. They can use it whenever. Heck, they can watch it at two in the morning should they desire to do that.”

Carpenter and her staff had used the videos to supplement other training, but she sees the need for more of this content within senior housing, noting everything else—such as health records—is becoming digitalized as well.

The founders of mmLearn.org saw a greater need for these types of videos back in 2006. This year alone, video views have topped 220,000, according to Nina Rios, executive director of mmLearn.

While there are other online resources available to senior living staff and licensed nurses, much of this content is reading material that may fail to engage its users, says Rios.

“A lot of times people who need training, they need to also be engaged,” Rios tells SHN. “Reading material isn’t always the best format.“

Carpenter agrees that the most useful interaction for online training is through video.

“There are so very few opportunities for caregivers to go online and receive education and tutorials,” says Carpenter. “Typically, a caregiver goes online and they read articles. They don’t have somebody talking to them through the computer screen, they don’t have a geriatrician there answering questions real time. That evolution is significant.”

The main reason more of these resources don’t exist is because of the cost and time required to produce video content. Compared to other industries, senior housing still lags behind.

“The creation of content requires significant resources and that is the biggest obstacle in senior care,” says Rios. “In other industries, it’s a given, you have to have it. In the senior living industry, I believe we are doing everything we can to get by. There are so many regulations in the senior living industry, and it’s all you can do to make sure that you are compliant. It’s tough enough as it is to get the training that we are getting for employees and just making sure that it’s what they need. “

Written by Amy Baxter