Many Members of Congress have never stepped foot inside an assisted living, independent living, or memory care community, yet the laws they create affect how you care for seniors. Hosting an elected official at your senior living community is a great way to educate your representatives about what senior living is and what it is not. By inviting an elected official to your community, you can advance laws and regulations that support senior living providers and the residents you serve every day.
Steps to Hosting An Effective Visit:
- Send Your Senator or Representative An Invitation
Sending a short but detailed letter or email to your legislator is the first step in the process. Make a clear request for the legislator to visit your community in the first sentence. The letter should also include information on your community, such as the number of residents and employees at your community, and a concise idea of what the visit would entail. A sample letter is available in Appendix D of the Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit, which is free to ALFA members.
- Invite Stakeholders to the Event
Post flyers around the community and send invitations to family members. Encourage staff members to attend and invite individuals from your corporate office. Let ALFA know about your event and invite representatives from ALFA’s state affiliate or chapter as well. The more attendees, the more likely the elected official is to remember the event and return in the future.
- Issue a Media Advisory
Ask the elected official if they would like media at the event. They most likely will appreciate media coverage of their visit. Issue a media advisory a few days before the event and send out a reminder the day of the event.
Here is a sample media advisory, issued when Congressman Lloyd Doggett visited a senior living community in Texas.
- Make the Event Fun
Inviting an elected official to your community can be fun and exciting for the residents, the residents’ families, as well as the staff at the community. In addition, elected officials enjoy meeting constituents and getting to know the businesses located in their district. Make the event even more enjoyable by putting together a list of fun facts about the state and the representative. This will give attendees something to talk about while they wait to speak to their legislator.
Here is a sample from a recent event in Connecticut.
- Take Pictures
Take pictures of the legislator interacting with residents, addressing attendees, and touring the community. The legislator will be thankful for these photos if they don’t have a photographer on hand, and your company can use these photos for promotional opportunities in the future. Please share your pictures with ALFA by emailing them to Jackie Kerin, and we will happily share these photos on our website and via our various social media channels.
- Follow Up
Thank the legislator and his or her staff for their time and offer to host the elected official in the future. Issue a press release about the event, share pictures on your social media channel, and email information about the event to ALFA. Promoting the event after the fact extends the benefits of hosting a visit and may encourage other senior living communities to follow your lead.
Important Things To Keep in Mind:
- Going through all the steps above is encouraged, but even a simple tour is helpful in educating legislators about senior living. Grassroots advocacy is a cumulative effort. Do what you can.
- Legislators and their staff are extremely busy, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back right away or if the legislator can’t fit it in his or her schedule. Try again at a later point in time or ask another elected official to visit instead.
- The time period between legislative sessions is the best time to invite legislators to visit your community. View the Congressional Calendar to help time your visit.
- Senators and Representatives have an ever changing schedule. They may need to change the time of their visit at the last moment. Collect RSVPs of attendees, so you can update them if the time is changed and be flexible with the legislator and his or her office.
- Inviting state legislators to visit your community is just as valuable as inviting federal officials. Find links to state legislatures in Appendix G of the Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit.
- It is important for lawmakers to understand their constituents. Inviting elected officials to your community is beneficial for both you and the lawmaker. Relax and enjoy helping your representative better connect with his or her constituents.
It’s the small things making a big difference that attracts Rick Banas to bettering senior living communities and the resident experience.
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Read more about this and other forms of grassroots advocacy in the Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit. Ask questions or let ALFA know about a visit at your community by contacting:
Justin Worrell Assistant Director of Government Affairs
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