DeAnne Clune is a 30-year sales and marketing veteran, specializing in marketing senior living communities and organizations since 1999. She has worked with both forprofit and not-for-profit communities, serving in corporate, regional, and consulting roles. Her expertise includes a variety of community types, such as CCRC’s/LPC’s, Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, Affordable communities (bond and tax credit) and Active Adult (55+) communities. She also has experience with both entrance fee and monthly rental agreements.
DeAnne is passionate about helping others in the senior living sector to successfully launch new brands and effectively address challenges of existing communities to reach their full potential. She approaches all of her projects in a collaborative manner and enjoys finding creative solutions and achieving results.
DeAnne is a frequent speaker at industry conferences such as Leading Age, Argentum, MASH, and Environments for Aging.
While she aspires to continually learn and grow, her formal education includes a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, from Oregon State University and she has earned the professional designation of Certified Senior Advisor.
DeAnne's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/deanneclune/
Zola Consulting: https://zolaconsulting.com/
Seniors Better Together: https://www.seniorsbettertogether.com/
Hanh Brown: [00:00:00] Today I am Excited to welcome to DeAnne Clune to boomer lending podcast. Thank you so much to DeAnne for being here and it’s good to have you here with us and share with us what you’re doing in the senior living industry.
[00:01:20] So how are you doing today?
DeAnne Clune: [00:01:26] Thank you, Hanh. It’s great to be here. I’m doing well. And I’m excited to talk about our new program.
Hanh Brown: [00:01:36] Okay, great. So please do that. Share with us some of your background. Where are you from? What is your expertise lie and how did you get interested in this field?
DeAnne Clune: [00:01:44] Yes, I’m in Washington state. So I’m in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and I’ve worked in senior living marketing for over 20 years now. I came to it from a supermarket shopping centers.
[00:01:59] It’s a little different, but surprisingly similar. And so I’ve worked with several organizations you’d probably be familiar with. And then the last several years I’ve worked as a consultant, which I’ve really enjoyed the experience because that gives me for-profit not-for-profit life plan communities, affordable rental, active aging, 55, plus just the gamut.
[00:02:24] And so it’s been really fun.
Hanh Brown: [00:02:27]Wow Exciting. Okay. So could you share with us about your current projects, seniors, better together, what it is and what is the message of the seniors better together to a potential community partners?
DeAnne Clune: [00:02:40] Yes. I like to say seniors better together is three things. It’s a, co-op, it’s a campaign and it’s a movement.
[00:02:47] And what I mean by that is the entity itself is structured as a marketing co-op of unaffiliated communities. And the campaign. Is all about messages to senior consumers, about the bright side of senior living and all the options that exist within that sector and to share stories about what is really happening and give people a perspective that they don’t always find just strictly in the media.
[00:03:20] The news stories are not always favorable. And then it’s a movement because. It’s at least intended to be a movement that unifies senior living communities in a common cause. And as we were talking earlier, I think we’ve always had both kind of a programming issue internally in our communities and a perception, reputation issue.
[00:03:47] And so the current pandemic just really brought those things to light and it seems that. There’s really no better time to collaborate than when we all have the same common challenge.
Hanh Brown: [00:04:02] Absolutely. It is much needed. I think there’s like we discussed previously there’s mixed messages. And then on top of that, I know the media doesn’t help by smearing some of the exceptions about the few communities that perhaps didn’t.
[00:04:16] Then you live up to the expectation, but there’s a lot of great communities and many great people with a passion to serve, make a difference and impact older adults. So I think it’s a great effort of what you’re doing. I commend you for that.
DeAnne Clune: [00:04:31] Awesome. Yeah, it’s really a waterfall of interest, I guess you can say, which is very exciting.
[00:04:41] Have an idea where we were also talking earlier about when the pandemic hit things came to a halt and there wasn’t a lot of business happening there. Wasn’t obviously a lot of marketing happening for senior communities. People were just hunkering down and figuring out what to do next. And so the idea of this was born of the situation.
[00:05:04] How do we help everybody get out of the situation together and inform people on this really important service and option that is really valuable to a lot of people. And it hearkened back to my shopping center marketing days, because it was always a fund like a co-op fund of the merchants at the shopping center that contributed.
[00:05:32] That’s it for them. So this is very similar in that it’s open to any senior living community. However they want to define themselves simply in age qualified, congregate living environment is what we’re looking at. Yeah. I love that idea of kind of living environment.
Hanh Brown: [00:05:47] of living environment. Co-living I think there’s a lot of benefits to that because honestly, when I’m in my mid, let’s say eighties, I do to be around other people who are in the same life stage.
[00:05:59] But I think I like it even more to be around people that are younger. There’s a lot to still learn from kids that are, let’s say 25 thirties and fifties. So I love that idea. Yeah, I think it’s great. So now let me ask you about your, your effort in seniors, better together. Now, how does pooling resources make the group of community partners worth more than the sum of their cards?
[00:06:21] In other words, what’s unlocked. When they work together, that isn’t possible when they’re separate.
[00:06:26] DeAnne Clune: [00:06:26] They’re all separate, they’re all competing. And there is, this is what happens in every business sector. You know why to choose this place over another place. It’s all about distinguishing our unique differences and capturing, you know, that piece of the market pie that.
[00:06:46] Is going to want to choose your place over another. And so there’s lots of reasons why people would do that. They all have occupants equals to a T and it’s just naturally competitive. But common methods that we have right now is not which community do I choose it’s should I even consider. A community living environment, people are fearful and dealing with the unexpected and dealing with the situation they haven’t experienced before.
[00:07:22] And it’s not, they’re not really having these thoughts about what are my options, what can I do now? It’s more about hunkering down, staying where I’m at, whether it’s a good place or the right place or the best place. And so we need to collectively let consumers know we’re open for business. We’re in great industry.
[00:07:42] These are all the wonderful things that are provided and get them to the point where they are now. Seriously, considering looking for a specific location in their market.
Hanh Brown: [00:07:54] That’s wonderful. So basically provide a very clear, concise unified message of what that value proposition is for the consumer and not a projecting this image that we’re in competition.
[00:08:06] And then also that senior living is more than. Real estate is the agent journey. It’s the vibrancy, engagement, wellness, and purposeful driven setting that you can get all of that in singular.
DeAnne Clune: [00:08:21] It absolutely is. And despite what you might hear in the press, communities by and large have done an extraordinary job of keeping residents safe and healthy.
[00:08:32] During the pandemic. A lot of them that we speak to across the country put measures in place in advance of any sort of state directives. And even to this day are often more stringent than whatever has been outlined by the health department or state government. There is, but this is natural people that are drawn to this industry are, have a heart for people and especially older adults and take the responsibility very seriously about know the health and wellbeing and welfare of everyone in their, in their community environment.
[00:09:10] And it’s not unprecedented in the fact that there’s always. Flu outbreaks and things like that. There’s an infection protocols in place, particularly for licensed communities. And so the industry itself has been fairly well-prepared. The difference is the longevity of it. We haven’t had this amount of time that we’ve had to go through that.
[00:09:31] So the other thing that’s happening is communities have to adjust. And deliver on the promise. One of the things we really talk about in marketing is that you’re choosing a lifestyle. You’re choosing a community, which is like a second family to you. It’s what’s inside that counts how you feel, what the atmosphere is and.
[00:09:54] And of course, one of the big selling points is having a group of peers to interact with and the restrictions to keep people safe and healthy have also contributed to more isolation in some cases. So we’ve expanded our. We’re really we’re offering a marketing solution to a sales problem. If you will, that we’re expanding our mission to include a pledge that the community is joining the comm community partners, the community partners that opt in to senior Saturday together also pledge that they are considering and taking.
[00:10:36] Great. Great. Care to provide for a residents, social, emotional wellbeing in addition to their physical health. So people have had, there’s a lot of great stories out there, but there’s still some meat to. Step up to the plate and understand that this is not just about locking down and keeping COVID out of the building.
[00:11:01] It’s also about nurturing someone’s spirit and finding ways to do that while still keeping people safe.
Hanh Brown: [00:11:08] Exactly. I agree with what you just said there, obviously first and foremost, safety and compliance to the CDC. So we get that, but I think in parallel to it, you can still keep folks engaged, still have a purpose.
[00:11:21] I know there’s challenges. We can use technology to some effectiveness and we’ll just kinda have to make do with what’s out there. There’s still effort that we can operate on to ensure that folks are still thriving.
DeAnne Clune: [00:11:34] Of course, it’s a challenge,
Hanh Brown: [00:11:36] but those are solutions or creativity that we as an industry need to put more effort on.
DeAnne Clune: [00:11:42] And here’s the thing.
Hanh Brown: [00:11:43] Safety does not necessarily ends that isolation. Sometimes. That’s what you hear. You isolate folks. You might see them greeting each other through a glass through a screen. And I get that. It’s a very sad scene, but I think there’s a lot of activities that still can go within the operation to continue, continue to live.
DeAnne Clune: [00:12:04] Yeah, absolutely have chosen particularly that the people who have chosen community living prior to the pandemic. So they’re living there through this period of time. Really the vast majority that we’ve heard from are so grateful that they have people looking out for their best interest and they’re taking care of the central thing, and they’re not having to go out into the world and deal with those things on their own.
[00:12:31] It’s been a long time. It’s been many months now. And so the ones that are now thriving have figured out ways, whether it’s like, I call it a pod system where you have your own little group of your social group and you do everything together. And therefore you’re not just in the larger population of residents, keeping it small is one way they’re doing virtual events.
[00:12:55] Hallway or hallway exercise where you just step outside your door and exercise. Leader is teaching a class and waiting program and socially distanced, happy hours and things like that. So we’re making headway, there’s this, there’s a ways to go, I think, to access to this situation, but overwhelmingly people that are seeking this situation.
[00:13:24] Hello, very hopeful attitude about it, that they are looking for that peer to peer belonging and sense of joy that comes from interaction. However, that interact interaction looks these days.
Hanh Brown: [00:13:38] Very true. Very true. As you were speaking, I had a couple of thoughts going through my mind, everything that you described, it made me think of the role of the person who is organizing the weekly activities.
[00:13:51] Is now so important, more than ever, who are orchestrating activities that will include physical, mental, spiritual in every week guard. And when you want to, when you sum it up, you want all that to create a setting that is. Provide some purpose or at least lends itself for them to have a purpose, right?
[00:14:13] Because when you move into a community that individual at one time was a teacher, an accountant, an engineer, someone did contributed to society. So because you’re 85 moving into a community, you did not check out dignity, contribution or service. I think the role of activities coordinator is huge.
[00:14:34] You have to come up with all the activities to provide a setting for them to continue to thrive.
[00:14:40] If you had to say one thing, what would that message be of seniors better together to the senior consumers, to the folks who’ve never experienced in senior living options? What would your one message be?
DeAnne Clune: [00:14:53] But even today, and these really trying times. There is a sense of belonging and purpose and moments of joy that are happening in communities all across our country.
[00:15:04] And the doors are open for you to check it out. Don’t discount this as an option, explore it as a very viable option for you now and in the near future. Absolutely.
Hanh Brown: [00:15:17] I echo that. How do you assure the consumers that a communal living is a safe option?
DeAnne Clune: [00:15:21] Uh, how are they keeping residents safe is a lot, like you might consider what the airline industry is dealing with the mass, with the disinfecting, with the stretch policies.
[00:15:37] Who can participate, right? Who can actually fly and who can’t fly. And so with retirement communities, they have very strict visitor protocols, staffing health checks. So we know that staff members are coming and going every day and they have exposure to the outside world and their families of all ages.
[00:16:02] And there’s strict health checks. Team members. And I can’t speak to every single community because there is some disparity depending on the location, but generally speaking, as everyone clocks in and there’s a health check. And when they check out there’s a health check and a routine screening and testing of both staff and residents, then very similar.
[00:16:28] If visitors are allowed, it’s a similar screening process. There’s a really a controlled atmosphere of who’s coming and going and regular consistent health screenings, which may include temperature checks or questionnaires screening for all sorts of symptoms before people come in, they’re starting in many places to DMV.
[00:16:49] Rapid testing as well. Let’s give also a shout out to the housekeepers and maintenance directors out there who are going above and beyond keeping places. Then of course, the executive directors, I think really the unsung heroes of this whole thing, because they are managing the situation. They’ve never had absolutely.
Hanh Brown: [00:17:13] What are the communities doing to prevent social isolation in the time of COVID?
DeAnne Clune: [00:17:19] We were so fortunate with the spring and summer to have good weather, pretty much everywhere. And so a lot of activities were able to get outside. Now that we’re going into a colder weather time. That’s a different scenario.
[00:17:33] So you are seeing more, both virtual things and then distance activities. And then I mentioned like the hallway exercise, people will get together in a more distance physically distanced way to do things where in close quarters, before the same with happy hours and that kind of thing. I’ve seen rotational dining programs.
[00:17:58] So you can have. A small percentage of the resident population kind of dining in shifts. So they’re not all 200 people in one room at a time. And then the pod idea where you have a social circle and that’s your group to dining with or played bridge with or whatever your other activities of interest are.
Hanh Brown: [00:18:19] No, that’s wonderful. I commend all of those that are being creative, coming up with solutions who keep residents safe and still engaging.
DeAnne Clune: [00:18:28] That’s a tough task.
Hanh Brown: [00:18:29] Yeah. I come in everyone holding this up. So now with regard to community partners, I noticed that your partners right now are based in Washington.
[00:18:38] So do you have plans to expand nationwide?
DeAnne Clune: [00:18:41] Yes, absolutely. We, as I mentioned, I’m based in Washington. And so this is where the idea was floated. And I started talking with my connections in this area and really proud of the efforts so far, because it has all been completely 100% voluntary and pro bono in terms of.
[00:19:05] That talent and services that have been provided our wonderful design team at Stafford creative, who came up with the slogan and the website, social media, and all of that helped make the seniors better together, the entity professional. And then I have other independent contractor type people who are experts.
[00:19:33] Right. Eric social media management and sales business development activities happening all the time. And this is really where we’re a newborn infant at this point, I think to have roughly 20 communities in our state that have signed up and many more that we’ve talked to who are verbally committed and taking steps.
[00:20:00] Budget wise and such to participate leading AIDS, Washington, the state affiliate of leading AIDS trade association also has been instrumental in helping connect us to their membership. And they’re one of our, they are our first founding sponsor. And so through that connection, we have. Been able to also talk with leading age national and all the other state affiliates.
[00:20:27] So we’re really in the middle of a process right now, this grassroots communication, doing meetings with groups of communities in these different States and getting the word out that way. And we’re really anticipating that. We’ll continue those activities through the forest quarter of this year, and really launch bigger at the beginning of next year with community partners beyond our state, kind of a breaking news.
[00:20:58] This hasn’t been officially said anywhere publicly yet. Is that Ziglar? The financial advisory group, it has also agreed to sponsor seniors bender together. And so we think that is indicative of the importance of this message and the nature of everyone collaborating to get the word out.
Hanh Brown: [00:21:23] Yeah, absolutely.
[00:21:24] Congratulations for that. I wholeheartedly believe that it is a message that needs to get out there. And I think why do it individually and collaboratively, because there’s no competition, we need to have one unified message. And what better way to do this and to do it together?
DeAnne Clune: [00:21:39] I think it would be my dream that.
[00:21:44] Anyone affiliated. I know there’s other people out there that have similar ideas or having discussions about this whole idea of how do we reach consumers right now and let them know about the bright side of what we have to offer and private companies and ad agencies and trade associations who are looking for the magic secret to help out the situation.
[00:22:09] I applaud all of the efforts. But how wonderful would it be to have every one of those groups collaborate really a truly unified effort of all the trade associations or any of these groups that want to help. In the current situation, we would love senior center together to be the central hub of all those ideas and efforts.
[00:22:37] And. Somehow, put it all together to make it work for everybody.
Hanh Brown: [00:22:42] I agree. Congratulations for the efforts and I’m confident that it will continue to grow. Do you have any other thoughts for the listeners?
DeAnne Clune: [00:22:51] How am I? Gosh, I hope that they will take a firstname.lastname@example.org and. Contact us if they’re interested in learning more and we would just love to talk with anybody who has any even remote interest in participating.
Hanh Brown: [00:23:09] Great. And I’ll make sure I’ll include that into the show notes and also the link when I post this.
DeAnne Clune: [00:23:14] Wonderful. Wonderful. Thank you so much. Thank you.