Models of senior living are primed for change.
Much has evolved culturally, economically, socially and technologically over the past decade or two, and Baby Boomers, active participants in much of that change, will be seeking senior living options that cater to modern tastes, specifically their tastes.
Senior living providers will face a challenge as they continue to serve the Greatest Generation and simultaneously hope to appeal to the upcoming Baby Boom Generation.
Here are a few hot trends to watch for as the very large senior living market changes gears:
- Micro-apartments, designed for younger residents, are unexpectedly attracting senior users. The units are fully furnished and offer hotel-like amenities such as weekly housekeeping services, linens and towels, and regularly replenished toiletries. Ollie is one such company offering this living model in New York City. Units are small but positioned in culturally-rich, service-heavy areas. The 55+ demographic has shown a strong inclination to rent rather than own a home, posting a 28% increase in the number of renters in this age group between 2009 and 2015.
- Shared housing not only curbs isolation but reduces costs, as well. In this model, residents enjoy private bedrooms and bathrooms, with shared kitchens and common areas. Like college suites, this living arrangement permits both privacy and communal benefits.
- Dedicated senior-living communities are being planned in downtown locations. Baby Boomers have shown great interest in being closer to services, social activities, transportation and entertainment. Rather than having a fitness center in the building, residents are encouraged to utilize the same nearby fitness center the rest of the community uses, opening up the opportunity for residents to remain connected to the world and a part of the wider community. Some buildings will have their own salons and restaurants, but they will be street-facing, open to the community, and patronized by people of all ages.
- Affinity branding is another emerging idea. Appealing more to lifestyle than to aging, some senior living brands are positioning their properties to appeal to particular affinity groups, whether based on religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or vocations/interests. This approach affords seniors the ability to live among people with whom they have something meaningful in common (other than age) with the hopes this will translate to strong relationships and social connections.
- Purposeful engagement is a priority in programming. To the degree that they can participate, residents will take an active role in meal preparation, gardening, laundry and other vital functions. While not always glamorous, daily-living tasks help people feel useful, “normal”, and gratifyingly self-sufficient. A sense of purpose is widely recognized as pivotal to successful aging. Also on the activities docket: classes at high school or college levels, volunteer programs, spiritual enrichment, cultural exploration, tai chi and meditation.
- Restaurant-level dining will be the norm. Fresh, chef-prepared options are both wanted and expected. Some innovators in the senior living space have house-branded coffee and wine, locally-sourced offerings and a farm-to-table emphasis.
- Modern buildings will be technologically equipped. Free Wi-Fi will enable use of a host of devices, and gaming consoles and Netflix access will be standard. Residents will make liberal use of wearable technologies and use of telehealth is expected to expand.
- Traditional skilled nursing homes have lost currency—changes to Medicare and Medicaid have slowed the flow of patients to a trickle, and most people emphatically wish to live elsewhere. As this segment contracts, watch for the possibility of SNF buildings being “repurposed” as memory care or assisted-living facilities.
The coming years will likely be a period of great innovation and change in the way services are delivered to a new and different crop of seniors. Housing options will multiply with a focus on personalization and continued, active participation in all that the wider community has to offer.
© Lifecare Innovations