How Storytelling is Boosting Engagement and Sales in Senior Living Today

SA iStock-695858178_400

Oct 22, 2018 | Marketing & Branding

From early childhood, we’ve learned about the world around us through stories. They provide us with information and knowledge and, in some cases, wisdom. As we age, stories continue to be an important learning tool in our lives – one that we’ve been favorably disposed to since our earliest days.

From a senior living marketing perspective, stories enable us to communicate, educate, share and connect in ways that providing mere facts cannot. Storytelling goes above and beyond conventional marketing techniques by engaging audiences on a deeper emotional level that has proven successful in achieving greater interest, preference and purchases.

Stories Humanize Your Brand and Create a Critical Emotional Response

Studies show that today’s consumers want to hear stories as part of the marketing strategies of their relevant brands. As an example, the infographic, “80% of people want brands to tell stories”,  shows us that research into the value of brand storytelling has found that roughly eight out of ten adults want brands to tell stories as part of their marketing. And the good news for senior living communities is that older adults tend to recall brand stories better than their younger counterparts.

Says Karole CriswellSenior Writer at SageAge Strategies, “Storytelling enables you to humanize your senior living brand by describing it in the context of real people with real problems and needs who are being aided by your services. Unlike facts and figures listed in a brochure, storytelling provides an effective way of striking an emotional chord with your customers that engages and motivates, as well as educates.

“Storytelling resonates with your senior living audience in ways that the mere presentation of facts simply cannot. A well-told story will be remembered by prospective customers, while also touching their emotions, creating empathy, conveying your brand promise and influencing behavior. Honest, well-crafted stories about real people’s lives are highly influential and motivating to senior living audiences.”

So how does storytelling differ from a glowing article on your website about your community? This graphic from ReferralCandy helps outline what stories are and are not.

Like all stories, storytelling in a senior living marketing context requires a beginning, a middle and an end. This enables you to create an emotional journey for the reader that he or she can share in. When crafting your story, introduce your protagonist(s), explain their challenges, introduce the solution and describe in their own words how the solution has changed their life.

And at all times, be genuine, honest and real. Consumers can see through contrived stories that are merely promotions in disguise.

The bottom line for senior living marketers is that storytelling strongly influences buyer behavior. As noted in the Infographic, “How Storytelling Is Helping Brands Sell More Products”,  ”Origin, a consumer research firm, created a series of experiments in which consumers were shown items paired with either standard descriptions or more detailed stories—from user reviews to creator bios, and even fiction. The results were clear. Every time the product that had a story pulled in more money than the same product without one.”

How Storytelling Affects the Brain

Storytelling affects emotions, but more importantly, stories affect the brain. The intrinsic engagement and motivational aspects of storytelling are actually physiological in nature and based in neuroscience.

As Rachel Gillett wrote in Fast Company, “When we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but any other part of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about becomes activated as well.”

Likewise, the article, “Marketing: The Art Of Masterful Storytelling,” explains, Simply put, we have both a left and right side of our brain. Neuroscience shows that the left side is where we think logically and methodically, and the right side is where we engage emotionally. We know that people buy on emotion and back-fill with logic. Before you decide to drive a car off the dealer’s lot, you first must imagine yourself behind the wheel. That emotional connection is how you feel about the car. But since we see ourselves as rational people, we still need to justify our purchase decision, which is where the left side of the brain kicks in

“That’s why successful marketing campaigns focus on powerful stories that evoke emotion rather than on facts, stats and pure logic. It’s also what great salespeople do. When someone launches into facts and figures, we tend to put our guard up and not trust what that person is saying. Conversely, we can’t help but become engrossed in a powerful story, especially one that speaks directly to a pain point we’re currently experiencing.”

Tell Your Community’s Stories and Achieve New Levels of Engagement

At SageAge Strategies, we’ve found that senior living communities are a wonderful, content-rich source of compelling and highly motivating story ideas.

Each resident has their own unique story and many of their stories mirror the experiences of other older adults, making them highly relatable. Also, the adult children of residents have stories that can resonate with many other concerned children of aging parents. Your employees and volunteers might also have stories that effectively convey your mission, your culture and the myriad little things that can set you apart emotionally from your competition.

As part of our creative strategy, we use testimonials featuring senior living residents and adult children frequently – not just one liners, but real stories by real families. They speak of facing a problem, their journey of discovery, choosing the right community for their loved one and the resulting improvements in their quality of life. Our client-partners, Bridges® by EPOCH and Commonwealth Senior Living offer some compelling examples.

Marie & Allen’s Love Story

Allen first met Marie at church before being sent off to fight in World War 11, and it was there at that same church their paths crossed again after the war’s end. To ·’court” Marie, Allen had to walk miles of mountain roads just to see her.

On June 28, 1947 they were married and over the years they were blessed with three children. Allen worked nights in the coal mines to provide for his family, leaving Marie to maintain the running of the home and the raising of the children. With both of them working they probably only had time for one another in a few stolen moments here and there. I doubt they had ever had heard the term “date night.”

For my grandparents, Allen and Marie, I believe it was the whispers of love they shared every single day that determined the success of their marriage.

They instinctually wanted to do things for one another. My grandmother had an internal radar that seemed to know just what my grandfather needed and when he needed it. When he was hungry she would whip up his favorite food in what seemed like minutes. Each morning she would lay out his clothes pressed and ready to go. She seemed proud when doing these things like she was saying “this is my man and look at him.” My grandparents were never hesitant to hug or kiss one another. I can still remember thinking, “Wow, old people really still kiss?”

My grandfather is now looking down at my grandmother with a small, kind smile, almost one of adoration and I know even then, he is still sending her whispers of love.

Betty & Gene’s Love Story

Betty, an 18 year old woman born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia, was out for a night of dancing in June of 1959. Gene, a 22 year old man from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, was the admirer from afar. They never actually met that night, but they both took notice of each other.

Betty recalls stating that Friday evening, “Before 7 days is out, I am going to have a date with him.” A few days later, Betty was getting ready to go to Jam Session down in Virginia Beach and the phone rang. Betty had received a call from Gene to ask her if she would like to go to Jam Session. Betty agreed, and from that night on, their journey in life began.

They had such a deep connection. Betty and Gene began planning their wedding for November 1959, just after 5 months together. But, they decided later they couldn’t wait any longer, so off they went to the Justice of the Peace on October 25, 1959. This past year, Betty and Gene celebrated 55 years of marriage and are blessed with four children, six grandchildren, and two great grandsons

When asked about the secret to a happy marriage, Betty shares this advice: “If it’s broke, fix it. Work it out. We live in a throw away world, and people are quick to throw it away, they don’t try. You have to try and work hard for it. We have been blessed.”

Our Family’s Story

My mother, a 77-year-old, healthy woman, was living on her own all summer. In September, she was diagnosed with “significant” dementia.

My sister and I saw a dozen facilities in New York and Massachusetts. In November, we place mom in a facility on the South Shore. We soon discovered that they pulled a bait and switch on us. My sister kept looking and 24 hours later, she called me and said “I’ve found it.”

What she found was Bridges® by Epoch at Hingham.

My sister walked into Bridges® by EPOCH at Hingham and met with Jen, the marketing manager. Jen called Alicia Seaver, the Executive Director, at home. She listened to our story and came to meet us that day. Only 24 hours later, my mother was a resident of Bridges® by EPOCH at Hingham. Two months later, she passed away.

The Bridges® by EPOCH at Hingham community and staff provided the atmosphere of care, compassion and dignity that we sought and that my mother deserved.

The caregivers, front desk personnel, Wellness Director, chef, janitorial staff – all treated my mother with compassion and dignity.

One month after mom moved to Bridges® by EPOCH at Hingham, we had an assessment meeting. In attendance were Alicia, the Wellness Director, myself, a family friend, who is a psychiatric nurse, and my sister via speakerphone. Our voices were listened to; our wishes were respected.

My mother was a very proud, private and elegant woman. She thought of Alicia as another daughter. There was no “acting concerned” on Alicia’s part; she showed my mother genuine, unabashed love and compassion.

When I visited several times a week, as well as making sure other friends and family stopped in unannounced, Alicia could be found sitting and chatting with mom, checking in throughout the day.

Throughout our journey – Bridges® by EPOCH at Hingham was the only place for our family. We found a safe haven. I could sleep at night knowing Mom was not just cared for; she was loved. When the end became a reality and we had hospice care for 10 days, the entire staff was with us.

Bridges® by EPOCH by Hingham is led from the top. On what turned out to be Mom’s last weekend, I noticed the manager on duty was Alicia. I thought it odd. She is there 24/7 during the week and has a small child at home. When I asked if she had put herself on the schedule, she was quiet, which is unusual for Alicia. Then she nodded yes. That is Alicia.

Mom is gone. I thank God each and every day not only for what Bridges® by EPOCH at Hingham did for my mother, but also did for me, my siblings and my mother’s friends and family.

I unconditionally endorse, support and recommend Bridges® by EPOCH at Hingham.

There are also many opportunities for stories that focus on senior living communities’ missions and origins, and how they’ve developed to serve seniors. One such example Is our client-partner, Tuscan Gardens. Here, we collaborated with their leadership to tell the story of how the life of Maria R. Giordano inspired the Pino family to create their beautiful community.

Another example can be found in the story of our client-partner, Abe’s Garden®, which was created because their founders, the Shmerling family, watched – virtually helpless – as their father suffered with Alzheimer’s disease for more than 11 years, finally succumbing to the disease in November of 2006.

In working with senior living communities to create and share real, emotionally evocative stories, SageAge Strategies utilizes a broad array of traditional communications and new media platforms. These include social media options such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and blogging. And digital stories can be shared on YouTube and Vimeo.

With its vast sharing capabilities, social media provides an ideal means for increasing your stories’ reach and overall marketing impact. The more you share your stories, the more response you’ll have from your key audiences.

Experts in the Fine Art of Storytelling

SageAge Strategies’ exceptional team of senior living writing professionals are highly adept at taking your stories and transforming them into highly-effective communications that engage, inspire and motivate your target audiences. Our professional writers are also trained in the new science of digital writing, which combines effective storytelling with best-practice SEO techniques designed to optimize the search rankings of your content.

In today’s highly competitive digital marketplace, simply creating your content and posting it online is no longer sufficient for generating the levels of exposure and response your community desires. For optimal results, your stories and other key content must now be presented in a prescriptive digital context – one that the latest search engine algorithms will respond to favorably to provide your senior living community with the high-profile exposure it deserves.

SageAge Strategies: Leaders in Integrated Marketing and Lead Generation Solutions

At SageAge Strategies, our marketing team excels in the latest senior living best practices such as integrated marketing strategy that increase quality lead generation and grow your occupancy. If you need assistance in any areas of marketing and integrated growth strategy to improve your business results, we invite you to contact us today to learn more about our proven strategies that have transformed other senior living communities like yours.

SageAge Strategies is a multiple-award-winning, strategic growth, marketing and consulting organization that operates exclusively in the unique senior living marketplace. For more information, please call or email Tom Senger at 704.619.9337 or [email protected]. You can also visit us on our website at

Contact Us Today!

Where Should I Advertise to Seniors and Baby Boomers?

Marketing and advertising to seniors and Baby Boomers doesn’t need to be difficult. We’re here to help.

Senior Living Social Media 101

There’s a lot to know about senior living social media. From choosing a community’s social media platforms to implementing content marketing strategies and more, it can feel overwhelming to even the most seasoned social media gurus. What’s more, according to the Pew...

How To Develop a Senior Living Marketing Plan

What Is a Senior Living Marketing Plan? A marketing plan is also regarded as an advertising strategy that a company, in this case a retirement community, will implement to help them achieve (or exceed) their operational goals and marketing initiatives for a set period...

40 Years and 40 Pieces of Sage Advice

2023 has been a year full of new ideas, growth, and planning for the future. At SageAge, 2023 brings a significant milestone for our company – our 40th anniversary. In honor of our 40 years of delivering strategic marketing and business growth strategies to the senior...

The Best Senior Living CRM: Three Experts Weigh In

Looking to end your days of manually entering customer data in Excel? If so, a customer relationship management (CRM) tool is the perfect choice. Three of our senior living industry experts are weighing in on everything you need to know about CRM. Meet the SageAge...

How To Generate Leads for Senior Living Communities

Are you looking for ways to spark robust lead generation through your senior living marketing strategy? With the right team on your side and the right approach, it might be easier than you think. Check out some of these top ways to generate senior living leads through...

Senior Living SEO: 7 Tactics That Work

Want to discover a cost-effective way to provide value to others while enhancing your senior living strategy? Through Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, you can do just that.  What Is SEO? SEO is about improving your website’s visibility to search engines, increasing...

The Importance of Responding to Online Reviews

Did you know: 95% of people consult reviews before purchasing products or services. 88% of consumers are likely to use a business if they can see the business owner responds to all reviews, whether positive or negative. 87% of consumers used Google to evaluate local...

What Are the Housing Restrictions for Facebook and PPC?

As we know, technology is always changing and adapting. It’s something many of those in the senior housing and marketing fields are used to. One of the most recent changes is making a larger impact on how we target ad audiences on Facebook and through pay-per-click...

The Rise of Senior Living Occupancy

As COVID-19 created a landscape of uncertainty in senior living facilities, experts knew there would be challenges and effects that lasted long after. Although the pandemic continues, many types of senior living communities and care facilities, like continuing care...
Share This