The emergence of modern senior living facilities in the United States is a relatively new occurrence, having really only sprung up during the latter half of the 1970’s. Originally dubbed homes for the aged, these institutions have undergone a paradigm shift from focusing predominantly on medical treatment for seniors with health problems, to today’s facilities, which seek to offer the aging populace medical care in addition to meeting lifestyle expectations and amenities that many have grown accustomed to over the years.
The number of Americans over the age of 65 is predicted to hit nearly 100 million by 2060 and will comprise nearly 25% of the population. That number alone ensures the need for growth and expansion in the senior living space, but as a free-wheeling generation focused on being active and independent, facilities need to meet the service demands when either remodeling, expanding or building an entirely new property.
At ML Group, we’ve helped design and develop many projects and renovations in the healthcare and senior living space and feel there will be a continued need to update, maintain and maximize amenities for seniors of all walks of life in the years to come. Over a ten-year span from 2006—2015, there were less than 2,000 new assisted living facilities built to help with the number of seniors needing assistance, meaning many are potentially behind the times in providing the requisite amenities for a meaningful health and life balance. Here are just a few of the ways senior living facilities will need to adapt to meet the needs of the aging population in the coming years.
AN ABUNDANCE OF OPTIONS
To put it mildly, this is a generation that loathes being bored, and the sterile atmosphere of older communities won’t cut it. As they age, seniors are expecting more and more, and want it all in one place. Just shy of becoming a land-locked cruise ship, tomorrow’s senior living facilities will need to put an emphasis on providing an abundance of activities and opportunities that will help enrich each individual’s retirement experience, from on-site fine dining to hobbies.
TECHNOLOGY IS ON THE RISE
There’s a big misconception about older folks being averse to technology, and for the fastest growing online demographic, accessibility isn’t a nice perk, it’s a necessity. Unfortunately, many older communities are woefully equipped to handle the technology needs of seniors looking to enter facilities in the coming years. Seniors today crave the convenience of technology, which enables them to stay in touch with family and friends across the globe, read and enjoy media more easily, and gives the added bonus for those with mobility problems the ability to shop easier.
A NEED FOR HYBRID CARE AND SOCIAL SETTINGS
For a good portion of the years senior living facilities have been around, medical care and comfortable living were not mutually exclusive. Often seniors were placed in more of a sterile, medical setting to receive treatment (i.e. a “nursing home”) or, if able-bodied enough, in something vaguely resembling a run-of-the-mill hotel. In either case, aesthetically speaking, these facilities were designed “for the old folks,” which is no longer the case. Whether it’s long-term care, short-term care or assisted living, taste and sensibilities are synchronous across all levels, and today’s aging populace is seeking a more contemporary, resort-inspired setting to align with their awareness of design trends. It also comes down to perceived quality of care: if the facility looks good, they’ll feel they’re receiving better care. Tomorrow’s seniors will seek a variety of care services that will enable them to remain in a setting where they’re comfortable, known and loved, yet still have access to top-notch medical care. A hybridization of these facilities will be the norm in coming years, and facilities will need to make alterations or adapt to fit growing demand.
While senior living facilities may never have a fully defined set of services, it’s becoming abundantly clear that for tomorrow’s seniors, communities will need to provide a wealth of options. Person-centered approaches will need to become the norm rather than the exception and will need to be thoughtfully weaved into the fabric of these communities.