The population of senior citizens in the United States is projected to more than double in the next 40 years, from about 46 million today to more than 98 million by 2060, according to the Population Reference Bureau. For current caregivers and adults with aging parents, it’s important to choose a senior living community that is staying ahead of the curve to meet the needs of a growing senior population that wants to remain engaged and active.
The senior living community of the future will include a greater focus on life enrichment activities, be more attuned to resident needs, and put a greater emphasis on personalized care. Here are some predictions for the future of senior living communities.
A greater focus on hospitality
In the future, senior living operators will need to function more like the hospitality industry to compete. Senior living communities will need to invest in premium amenities and offer a range of flexible choices to meet varied resident preferences. The most successful senior living communities will innovate with on-demand services such as a 24/7 concierge, room service, and spa treatments. Culinary programs will also need to change, as residents will expect organic or locally grown foods, the ability to order off a more diverse menu and pre-dining experiences, such as the ability to order a cocktail from an on-site pub.
Increased technology integration – both for personal and medical use
In the future, older adults entering senior living communities will have a much higher level of comfort with personal technologies such as computers, tablets, and smartphones than today’s seniors. Senior living communities will need to offer high-speed Wi-Fi access for residents and guests in all areas of the building, not just common areas. Communities may even consider providing residents with personal iPads that are pre-loaded with memory games and brain twisters, which can also be used to order meals or schedule life enrichment activities.
Another place that technology will be increasingly utilized is in communication with families. Residents’ children are used to communicating via email and will expect more real-time communication about their family member’s health status and activities. This could include facilitating video communications with families via Skype and Facetime.
For medical purposes, communities will integrate more care technologies such as wearables to monitor body functions (heart rate, blood pressure, sleep, etc.), and increase the use of electronic health records. There also will likely be a rise in telemedicine usage, which will give residents the opportunity to seek care from outside providers such as doctors, physical therapists, speech therapists, etc., from the comfort of their apartment home.
More urban locations
More Americans are moving to urban areas upon retirement. This trend will eventually make its way to senior living communities. Rather than being relegated to senior living communities in suburban areas that are off the beaten path, more seniors will want to continue their urban lifestyle within proximity of museums, entertainment, shopping, and dining. Senior living communities will become more a part of their urban surroundings versus “park-like,” isolated retirement communities. Urban senior living communities will require creative planning to ensure outdoor spaces and communal dining rooms are safe and easy to access.
Specialized staff to administer the full continuum of care
The traditional nursing home model is predicted to decline by about 20% by 2021, according to recent studies. Older adults are preferring to age in place at a community that offers the full continuum of care, from independent living to assisted living to enhanced assisted living and memory care, so they do not need to go through a disruptive move as their health needs shift.
As Millennials and Gen Xers age, they will have spent most of their lives attuned to sustainability and eco-living. In order to reach these customers, senior living communities will need to demonstrate LEED certification and other sustainability efforts, such as green roofs, increased recycling options, and better energy efficiency.
A personalized approach
Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, both resident care and the design of communities will need to become much more personalized for everyone’s holistic needs – from activities to culinary options to apartment homes – not just their health care needs. Customer service in all areas of care will become more crucial. This will require flexible life enrichment programming, access to a variety of medical specialists, and highly trained staff. Communities will likely be smaller and include varied apartment layouts and larger communal spaces, so that residents are not confined to their individual homes but can utilize the entire community like guests at a hotel.
In addition to individualized care plans for each resident, nutrition services will also become more personalized. Maintaining physical fitness – above and beyond physical therapy services – will also become more of a priority, with more communities offering full gyms and even personal trainers.
Enhanced outdoor spaces
According to the American Public Health Association, people of all ages and abilities enjoy higher levels of health and well-being when they have nature nearby. Because today’s seniors are remaining active longer and understand the benefits of outdoor activities, they will no longer be content with a small patio or courtyard. More and more senior living communities will incorporate space for residents to garden, pathways to enjoy walks, and outdoor relaxation areas such as ponds or gazebos.
Lifelong learning opportunities
In the future, residents will want increased on-site access to enhanced educational programming, such as classes, guest speakers, new experiences, online language learning, etc. Creative senior living communities will look for opportunities to offer intergenerational learning, such as seniors teaching high school students how to knit or middle school students creating art with seniors.
Increased non-medication therapies, especially in memory care communities
Many senior living communities are already starting to offer sensory therapies, such as aromatherapy, music therapy, art therapy, culinary therapy and intergenerational therapy, to better engage with residents. This is especially critical for memory care communities that offer specialized services for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Some memory care communities are already offering discovery stations, which allow residents to touch familiar objects in a safe environment. For example, a desk would have drawers that open but don’t slam, a workbench might have a soft hammer but no nails, and a fishing station may have a pole but no hooks. The idea is that these were once familiar activities for residents and by participating in them again in a safe environment, residents use multiple senses that can stimulate the brain in different ways and cause deeper engagement with the real world.
Expanded community partnerships
With more seniors remaining active and engaged in their local communities, senior living providers will need to bring the community to their residents through a renewed focus on partnerships with libraries, museums, and other community assets who can provide educational speakers, traveling exhibits, etc. This is a win-win for both parties and helps senior citizens maintain connections to their communities while fostering lifelong learning.
Helping you through the process
If your parent or loved one needs more help than you can provide, contact Oasis Senior Advisors for assistance. We offer resources for seniors and their families, as well as support and guidance every step of the way so you can feel confident in your senior housing selection. Deciding to make the move to a long-term care community is an emotional, financial, and physically taxing process, and you don’t have to do it alone.