“Embrace Evolution”: Discovery Launches Experiential Brand Choreography for Seniors with Baby Boomers in Mind
Discovery Senior Living addresses the changing preferences of the next generation of baby boomers with a new brand of experience-driven communities called Choreograph.
As expected, Choreograph communities will focus on the experiences they can host for residents. For example, the Bonita Springs, Florida-based company is opening a new community near the University of Florida in Gainesville to give residents the full experience of living in “alligator country.”
In Daytona Beach, the company is planning another community that will provide a “vibe that’s a bit racetrack and a bit beachy,” according to CEO Richard Hutchinson.
Both communities align with Hutchinson’s philosophy that, as baby boomers age, they want to live in communities in “lifestyle hubs” that can provide people-focused experiences and well-being. location rather than just health care.
“The baby boomer generation has made it pretty simple and clear that it’s about experiences,” Hutchinson said during a discussion at the recent 2022 Senior Housing News BUILD conference in Chicago.
In a nutshell, Hutchinson said the new brand is meant to “choreograph, personalize the lifestyle [residents] want.” Its goal is to attract residents seeking specific, sometimes niche, lifestyles; then provide residents with as many unique experiences as possible.
Looking ahead, Discovery is adopting the Choreograph brand for all of its experiential living communities.
Choreograph is just part of Discovery’s development pipeline and overall growth, and the operator is also working on some community expansions beyond the new brand. In October, the company announced a new recapitalization with Coastwood Senior Housing Partners and Lee Equity Partners in an effort to address the big challenges and opportunities that Hutchinson sees in play at the end of 2022.
“Everyone is looking at evolutionary change…those who don’t probably won’t be in the industry five years from now,” Hutchinson said. “I’m tired of saying this industry needs to catch up. I think we are wonderfully positioned to turn this scenario around.
While all of Discovery’s experiential living communities will all operate under the Choreograph brand, that doesn’t mean they’ll be identical to each other—far from it, Hutchinson said.
Instead of delivering a one-size-fits-all experience as part of a national platform, Discovery’s Choreograph Communities will deliver experiences based on the “vibes” of the local market. As noted, a resident might want to relive his days as an alligator at the University of Florida in Gainesville; or enjoy the amenities of the upcoming One Daytona mixed-use redevelopment, which has been described as “an irresistible getaway for racing fans.”
“[The communities] will be different not only in the construction itself, but also in its location and ambiance,” Hutchinson said. It will be a personalized experience.
The idea of creating experiential seniors’ residences dates back to the aftermath of the Great Recession, a time when Hutchinson said the industry had lost touch with young residents aged 70 to 75.
“I’ve always lamented that as this new-generation inflection is happening with baby boomers, it made perfect sense for us to reconnect with this group,” Hutchinson said.
In an effort to better connect with demographics, Discovery has begun working with Brand Verve, a branding and information company that, in addition to operators like Sunrise Senior Living, works with hotel clients such as Loews Hotels, Marriott and Hampton by Hilton.
The goal was to investigate the market with an open mind and collect data, rather than basing any future strategy on purely anecdotal evidence, Hutchinson said.
What they discovered is that residents want experiences based not on geographies or regions, but on “destinations” like the University of Florida or Daytona International Speedway.
Hutchinson added, “The other great thing about experience is that you can market it differently.”
As for locations, Discovery plans to expand into “lifestyle hubs” where many different types of people mingle in spaces such as retail stores, hotels, and restaurants.
The advantage of building in these lifestyle centers is that intergenerational and other programming fits into operations like a key in a lock, according to Hutchinson.
Helping to fulfill this experiential model of living is technology that allows residents to get what they want, when they want it, like DoorDash. Using such an approach can not only increase resident satisfaction, but also ease the staffing burden of a community.
“You bring in and take out services in a very seamless and transparent way,” Hutchinson said. “For example, we have a rooftop bar, but it’s also designed to be a pop-up dining space. So we can literally take PF Chang’s on the road and have them come and have a pop-up experience.
As this industry has evolved over the years, Hutchinson sees some “set in” bad habits that he thinks the industry can change. For example, high turnover rates among community associates have become commonplace over the years.
But Hutchinson thinks that’s unacceptable and is working to change the way the industry views work. Discovery’s capital and ownership partners are on board and willing to “embrace evolution” by helping to fund it. They include Welltower (NYSE: WELL), Ventas (NYSE: VTR), National Health Investors (NYSE: NHI), Kayne Anderson, White Oak and Lonestar.
One of the company’s ongoing evolutions is finding a way to break the current industry staffing paradigm. For example, Hutchinson said he believes the industry needs to “stop feeling guilty and realize that we need to compensate our employees better.”
That’s why the company is moving forward with a new certification infrastructure that will create a framework for increasing salaries as new education benchmarks are met. Currently, the program is called Discovery University, although this may change in the future.
“We will begin to certify our employees so they can get salary increases as they are accredited at different levels of education,” Hutchinson said. “It’s a retention tool, because your general managers are very important — you want them to stay there. But… how do you pay them?
In addition to finding ways to increase workers’ wages, those who participate in the Discovery University program will create opportunities for advancement in their senior careers. The larger idea is to create a sense of ownership in a community’s operations, Hutchinson said.
But Hutchinson doesn’t just want to create a sense of belonging. Rather, he wants CEOs to benefit from the success of communities as if they owned them.
“All of my communities over the next two years will evolve into executive directors receiving some value creation in some form or another, which is more akin to ownership,” Hutchinson said. “People there, they create a lot of value, they should be part of it.”
Looking ahead, Hutchinson sees a real need for others in the industry to do the same and get involved in more efforts like the one he is undertaking at Discovery. For him, it is a process that should start with capital and ownership.
“Now we need to focus more on bringing in sophisticated capital and putting pressure on managing these business processes in a sophisticated way,” he said. “Rather than just saying, ‘Oh, that person doesn’t understand that. Let me take them and move them around and find someone who does.