New Trends in Senior Living

If there is one thing that can be said about the Baby Boomer generation, we do not accept things passively.  Apparently this is also true in how we are approaching the twilight years.

According to Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, control, choice, connections, and continued intellectual stimulation and physical activity will be in great demand within this demographic.   Of course, one might reflect on the fact that these same needs/demands might be true of anyone who has found themselves sidelined because their hair has turned white or they take a little longer processing their thoughts or tend to become forgetful.  That being said, however, let’s look at how a convergence of aging boomers might change the face of aging now that we have arrived at that point ourselves.

Aging in place is probably one of the things that most people wish for themselves.  Besides remaining in one’s home, there is the choice of entering continuing care facilities.  When one does that, they invest in a “villa” [usually a two bedroom one story home that has easy access everything] where they are able to live in relative autonomy.  They have the choice to participate in a meal plan and are able to participate in all of the activities offered by the retirement community.

When they are no longer able to do for themselves, they move to an assisted living section of the facility.  If they are a couple, this permits the healthier person easy access to their spouse.  But make no mistake, the hardest transition is the one from independent to assisted living.  There are at least two reasons for this: 1)  when one enters assisted living, they know there is no turning back and this takes its toll on one’s psyche; 2) one’s autonomy, one’s sense of dignity is undermined by the fact that their personal care needs are being taken care of by a “stranger.”

The third level is the nursing care facility.  The two most attractive aspects of a continuing care facility is the independent aspect and the nursing care aspect.  In most continuing care facilities, the nursing care section is well run with caring staff.  However, as I have cautioned in previous entries, it is always important to ask to see all levels when being given a tour, as you will be looking at your future.

But, of course, when retirement communities invite prospective clients to their “home,” they are catering to the independent client who is wanting to downsize but sees themselves as living an intellectually and physically active life for some years to come.

So what should retirement communities do to more fully cater to the upcoming seniors of America?  First, know that you are dealing with one of the most educated group of aging citizens ever.  Secondly, you are dealing with the most active group of aging citizens ever.  Thirdly, you are dealing with a group that is not shy to demand responsiveness on the part of their circumstances.  Fourthly, this is a group that, for the most part, has lived the good life and does not want to minimize that experience by virtue of age.

According to Mather Lifeways,

Older adult living communities and care providers must anticipate and cater to the personal needs and interests of residents by offering options beyond the basics and plan to include more comprehensive provision for in-home care.

Technology will be important as will keeping mentally and physically healthy.  Thus retirement facilities will have to anticipate access to the WWW and be able to provide home care and home health services, onsite health clinics, and geriatric assessment programs.  Resident participation in lifelong learning opportunities will continue to grow.

Mather LifeWays states that:

Senior living providers will provide services “beyond” their four walls. Social connections are just as important to one’s health, and thus programs to prevent social isolation are important for community-dwelling older adults. For example, the Mather’s—More Than a Café model provides services and programs for older adults in a single location, serving as a dining venue and as a place for social engagement, learning, wellness activities, and community resources.

The Institutionalized environment of “old people’s homes”of the 20th century  will not draw this generation of aging citizens.

Again, from Mather LifeWays’s study on the subject:

Above all, consumers want choices and value. If there is a single phrase that sums up the future of senior living, it is “resident choice.” The model of senior living has come a long way from the “we know best” view. There is no one-size-fits-all community or program. Older adults are demanding more choices, control, a redefinition of what community means, and convenience within and outside of the community. These choices include financing options and customized portfolios of services that take into account individual expectations, services, and programs considered to be “added value,” access to “on demand” services, and purposeful engagement in activities.

Although there is no dollar value put on this attractive projection of what retirement communities will need to provide, having this ideal environment to spend one’s remaining years will not come with a small price tag, and thus will mostly be catering to a certain class of people.

© Yvonne Behrens

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