Selling retirement: “And that’s all folks!”
May 6, 2008
Recently, we pitched the account of a leading builder and developer of high-end retirement communities. We did not advance very far –a mixed blessing- but I got a glimpse at what few of us know, or care to know about: the beginning of our end.
It is widely believed that no other creature is aware of its mortality save Man. Even so, we don’t have many bright ideas on how to do “it.” For all its inevitability, dying does not come naturally to us. On the contrary, I believe as a nation we are all in some form of denial. Any reminder of our passing and we turn tail and run. We avoid talk of convalescent homes -for our loved ones, and for ourselves.
The last act is seldom advertised. We see images of golf and gardening. But they are fuzzy, dated feeling. We sense reality is making puzzles, the occasional bus ride to a casino, and TV…endless hours of watching TV. And we do not want to go out that way.
The retirement community we toured claimed the very best in late life living. It had CONVENIENCE. It had RECREATION. It had SAFETY. Our guide likened the community to an idealized small town, where the doctor knew you by first name, there were never any lines at the bank, and the pool was always 80 degrees. But despite these trappings there was the unmistakable element of dread, kind of like being in a church basement or hospital. More than a keen observation, this is a confirmation of the problem, our refusal to accept the end for what it is: a great slowing down preceding collapse.
That the client wanted a better image for its brand goes without saying! I thought likening the whole experience to being on “campus” might prove invigorating. A safe but stimulating environment where people grew instead of withered. Certainly an improvement on the antiquated “Mayberry” vibe they were currently touting.
Most of us fear Death. But the step before it is just as grim: Irrelevance. Move into a retirement community and you might as well just check your relevance at the front desk with Dorothy. “You won’t be needing that here!”
As I said, we did not advance in our discussions.
Whatever. I’m sure I’ll see the dross they chose one night trolling cable. Old men on golf carts. Widows bobbing in the water. Lectures in the chapel. They’ll need 30 minutes at least to capture all this info in a ‘mercial.
In a way, I’m glad we didn’t prevail in our pitch. Winning this business would have been the kiss of death.