The Future of Senior Living

Gone are the days of soggy vegetables and bingo. With improving standards and expectations, senior living has seen a world of improvement from what was the case years ago. Today, senior living communities can look more like an upscale hotel than what you may have considered them to be in the past! From the food and the activities offered, to the benefits that technology will allow, the future of senior living seems to be a bright one.

COVID-19 has been a catalyst for some changes to the senior living dining experience that may not be quick to disappear once the pandemic is over. In an effort to improve social distancing for residents, communities have introduced convertible dining spaces, such as coffee shops that offer salads and sandwiches during the day, and outdoor patios that offer additional seating to dining rooms. Smoothie bars and prepackaged sandwich stands have also been popular grab-and-go options. These changes have been popular with residents, and are likely to stay and adapt past the pandemic, providing more variety and convenience than in the past. 

In general, expectations around food quality have been on the rise, and gone are the days where food seems to be an afterthought for senior living communities. Studies have shown that one of the biggest factors when it comes to resident satisfaction is the food–and that’s becoming more important as new generations step into senior living. Today, it’s common to see full service, restaurant style dining with seasonal meals, happy hours every evening, and top notch desserts. While farm to table dining is likely too expensive for the majority of communities, as generation X and eventually Y head towards senior living, the push towards local sourcing will only become stronger as well.

What comes to your mind when you think about a calendar of activities for a senior living community? If you thought bingo and water aerobics are the extent of it, you thought wrong! Senior living communities have upped their game when it comes to a varied calendar of activities. In order to attract active residents who might otherwise opt to age in place, communities are introducing full fitness calendars, volunteer opportunities, as well as college-style classes on art, wine tasting, and cooking. As seniors continue to stay healthier for longer, these communities will likely continue to offer increasingly exciting events calendars to make senior living more about actually living–not just about passing time.

Finally, technology is offering ways to provide advanced care to residents. In the near future, it’s likely to be the norm to provide residents with wearables that track health, fitness level, as well as offer a way to contact emergency services (many communities do this already, or provide this for a small fee). With all of the new options available for meals, staff are challenged with monitoring residents’ nutrition. Technology can play an important role here as well, and many communities integrate automated nutrition tracking systems to monitor that residents are receiving a balanced diet.

Robots are on the rise, too. From comforting pet-like robots that meow and bark, to care-oriented robots that help lift you out of a bed and into a chair and robots that help with eating and drinking, robots already exist within the senior care space. As technology continues to advance, it’s not far-fetched for robots to become more standard in many communities.

The future for senior living seems like a bright one, but there will be challenges as well. Currently, we’re already seeing a gap between the affordable, subsidized senior living options and the high-end luxury communities, leaving the middle class without many options. This will continue to grow as the above changes get implemented, driving prices up further for the highest-end communities. Developers are faced with the challenge of creating affordable options that still provide a great quality level of care to residents. A big factor will be implementing new technology, both to reduce the amount of staff needed, as well as to offer a more attractive work environment for younger, more technologically driven caregivers. 

While we can never know what the future holds, there are a lot of things hinting at a bright future for senior living. Personally, I’m looking forward to the day I head over from my daily yoga class to happy hour on a patio where a robot serves me a cocktail (included in the room price, mind you). Cheers!

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