Social connection in life plan communities: the need to innovate

A Personal Story

I was having lunch with my in-laws several years ago at a Life Plan Community in Virginia when I asked them the following question: What do you like most about living here and what do you like least about living here? They had been living at this particular community for almost seven years, long enough to have formed an opinion. This was an important question for me because I have spent the last 30 years of my professional life serving nonprofit senior living communities. I believe they do good work, and I was extremely curious to hear my in-laws’ response.

Sarah sat there for what seemed like several minutes, looked at her husband and said the following: “What T.C. and I like most about living here are the friends we have made and the sense of community and social connection we have. What we like the least about living here is losing those same friends to death on a routine basis. However, we would have it no other way.” Looking back on that conversation we had in the Westminster Canterbury dining room with its spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, I realized the awesome power of Sarah’s statement. My mother in-law had identified two sides of the same coin. More than anything else, the value of that Life Plan Community to my wife’s parents was social connection and a sense of belonging.

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