Not Your Grandparent’s Assisted Living Any Longer – Even if you or a loved one are not enthusiastic about a move to assisted living, everyone can take some encouragement from how residential communities have developed over the past decades.
Options range from more affordable care for middle-income, value-minded consumers to luxury facilities featuring concierge, cultural and culinary options. Wellness programs are popular. Physical, intellectual and social engagement are designed to improve the overall quality of life. Food has become more palatable and is no longer centered on bland ingredients!
The demographic tidal wave
A demographic wave fuels the progress as the sheer number of U.S. seniors hits a sweet spot and baby boomers turn gray. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2022, 10.6 million Americans were already 82 or older; that number should grow to 12.3 million by 2026 and to 14.8 million by 2030. The ratio of adult children available to care for parents will meanwhile contract from 6:1 as of 2022 to 4:1 in 2031.
Meanwhile, the time window has narrowed for those who use senior residential facilities. That slot opens later in life as populations grow more active and healthier. Today, most 65-to-70-year-olds are still a decade away from the period when their demand will hit the system.
The COVID-19 watershed
The pandemic dealt an overwhelming blow to senior housing, which is governed at the state level; many states were not allowing new residents to enter. Basically, senior facilities were often shut down to the outside world, with the exception of essential workers. Families were not allowed to visit; some of those who did not want to lose their personal connection decided to keep their relatives at home instead.
The COVID-19 era was not the first time senior residential centers had needed to lock down communities due to outbreaks. Severe influenza seasons had previously threatened vulnerable populations. By the summer of 2020, facilities once again were allowed to accept new residents. When people had temporarily moved in with relatives, some households found they could not manage the challenges of tending to elderly relatives at home.
They also recognized the risks of caring for them themselves as long as the virus remained rampant. For instance, a home health care aide might visit and spend time with vulnerable seniors, carrying contagion from house to house. Therefore, facilities provided the most secure and safe living environment in the circumstances. Residents’ lives went on as normal, with their clinical wellness and dietary needs routinely met.
A ladder of care
Some retirees may start the process at an age-restricted community comprising townhouses where each occupant has their own front door. A seniors’ living group might maintain the streets and gardening. When the resident feels ready, he or she can move into a single building that has a more apartment-like feel. The wing next door offers a more secure environment with more communal-oriented amenities, such as a single restaurant rather than multiple private kitchens.
Independent living, at the earlier stage, is more like an extension of residential, rent-based occupancy. Residents sign up at an earlier age and stay somewhat longer. The age-in-place product may suit fairly independent residents. When they move to an assisted living community, they will find wellness and hospitality features as well as culinary and social engagement programs.
Contemporary senior facilities are planned around a potentially longer residency and a continuum of care. They are also distinguished from earlier versions in offering wider lifestyle options. Baby boomers are staying healthier longer and may have more expectations for remaining independent well beyond past generations. From what it meant in 1970, it is quite different to be 65 today.
The stereotype of grandma languishing in a nursing home no longer fully applies: Baby boomers differ from prior generations. The communities where they live will change too. Boomers want to live in towns and be able to walk to the coffee shop, the wine bar or the performing arts center. They look for access to university courses, museums, art classes and lectures, and an altogether more urban and walkable lifestyle.
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