More seniors are choosing to age in place, and they favor technologies that help them do so. A recent Merrill-Lynch retirement study points out the range of choices available to retirees today. If current trends continue, will senior living communities encounter increased competition from the age-in-place and age-tech movements? With move-ins potentially threatened, should your community go with the flow, or try to stem the receding tide?
Based on responses to the Merrill-Lynch study, here are five areas where senior living communities can choose to compete with age-in-place technologies or diversify and collaborate to ride the waves of change.
Technology offers many affordable solutions for independent living, from sensory monitoring devices to smart thermostats and heated driveways. Find your competitive edge with technology that eliminates or eases the concerns of daily upkeep.
- Provide all-inclusive rates to keep utility costs consistent and budget-friendly.
- Commit to sustainability technology (e.g., green buildings, solar power, energy efficiency).
- Offer wearable sensors, in-room alerts, or software applications that reduce staff involvement and increase independence.
- Develop or partner with home care services to expand your reach beyond your facility’s walls. Make platforms like HomeHero or Honor into collaborators, rather than competitors.
- Go beyond medicine to maintenance: Use technology to make housekeeping, grocery shopping, or home upkeep part of your distributed offerings.
Community connection is a major motivator for many seniors to age in place. Whether it’s welcoming a cross-generational crowd or reaching out to the greater community, helping residents stay connected will keep your services in higher demand.
- Keep wi-fi access strong and consistently available to keep residents connected to the outside world.
- Open your space to the neighborhood, whether it’s a library, swimming pool, dance hall, or dining room.
- Make resident spaces family-friendly and conducive to visits from loved ones and friends.
- Sponsor community activities like a 10K or an artisan’s bazaar. Look for ways in the greater community to draw generations together and demystify the aging process.
- Consider development in urban centers with easy walking or transit access to markets, shops, and social attractions.
A homelike environment, especially for memory care, is an essential element for security and well-being. Nobody wants to feel institutionalized, and a home’s emotional value takes precedence over its financial value as owners age. That means your community’s physical design could have a huge impact on a decision to move.
- Design flexible-use, homelike areas around fewer private resident spaces. Create “neighborhoods” where smaller communities can thrive within larger ones.
- Design for freedom while maintaining safety. Walking paths, communal kitchens, clear sightlines and varied ceiling heights all contribute to a stronger sense of both security and independence.
- Investigate options for co-housing communities that bring generations together by design.
- Collaborate with construction or construction supply companies to retrofit seniors’ homes with age-friendly furniture or home designs.
- Consider partnerships that use software-as-a-service to meet customers’ physical needs.
Health and Wellness
67% of those surveyed expressed interest in technologies that help maintain overall health and well-being. Wherever older adults choose to live, they shouldn’t have to make a choice about health.
- Offer healthy, holistic environments for eating, sleeping, and staying active: Locally-sourced dining options, clean air in resident living quarters, and a full range of social programs that cater to residents’ wellness priorities.
- Equip residents with FitBits or similar activity trackers that help them monitor their physical health.
- Organize wellness initiatives or events to engage older adults living on their own with residents in your community.
- Contract locally to install air purifiers or other wellness technology in the homes of seniors living outside your doors.
You may never encounter some clients until they or their loved ones need to choose how they will die. This aspect of senior living services can provide truly meaningful opportunities to serve those who have stayed in their homes, as well as those you have welcomed to your community.
- Open your campus to hospice care, eliminating, if possible, the need to move once residents have joined your community.
- Emphasize or develop your community’s life care options to provide comprehensive care through the end of life with minimal disruption to a resident’s home environment.
- Partner with hospice care in your community to serve those still living in their homes.
- Offer up-to-date resources on end-of-life care to families of seniors living on their own.
The future of senior living will be defined by those who anticipate the changing needs of a growing population of adults. Additionally, technology allows for increasingly distributed service models which vastly multiply senior living options. Recognizing your customers’ options will increase their likelihood of choosing you as those options begin to close.