Opinion: What Innovations Are Needed Within Senior Living Communities?

Innovations in Senior Living

Were you born between 1946 to 1964? If so, that would put you in the age range of 56 to 74 — hopefully active and healthy — and the first generation of the “informed & proactive” who are not shying away from the changes they are experiencing as they age and have a lifestyle expectation unlike anything we have seen in the past. I, myself, have escaped this group, but only by one year, and I have many years of senior care and senior living experience to reflect on when I tell you that, “We need to get to work, People.”

Charcuterie Boards, Goat Yoga, and Hanky Panky…Oh My!

The median age of an assisted living resident is 85. That means the senior living industry has about 10 years to get their act together and lose the Jell-O and Bingo in favor of DIY Charcuterie Board Pinterest Parties and Goat Yoga! Don’t get me wrong — I am not saying there aren’t some companies out there who are upping their game. But our elders are living longer and have active lives — and with that comes a consumer expectation for comfort, adventure, and socialization that will enrich their lifestyles and stimulate their brains.

We aren’t going to be able to get away with the “storage” aspect of senior care anymore. The customer base will shift from Daughter to Donna, and Donna likes to take cruises and run 5Ks. And don’t forget that nagging unmentionable of sex and love. It is every human’s instinct to seek the comfort of another person, and we need to find a way to not only embrace the intimate activity of our elders but also educate, inform, and protect their carnal wellness.

Innovations in Dementia Care

So now that I have you wondering what your granny was really up to back at “Golden Acres,” I want to touch on Dementia Care and what we can do to relate better and provide a more dignified experience for the resident and family, as well.

Imagine the physically active senior I described above, and now imagine arriving to visit your mom and her clothing is on inside out, three burners of the stove are on high with nothing cooking, and she is sitting on newspaper on the living room couch because she can’t always remember where the bathroom is, or that she even needs to go to the bathroom. I actually met this woman, and she was not 85 — she was 67, and her daughter wanted to know two things: “How will I know that my mom will still live a dignified existence within the safety of your memory care community? And, with your focus on her cognitive health, how do you plan to support her physical health?”

My point is this: Boomers, though statistically the most physically active and healthy of the elder generations, as opposed to their parents and grandparents at their age, are unfortunately plagued exponentially with the dreaded brain plaquing diseases that steal their cognitive health and lead them to a diagnosis under the umbrella term of “Dementia.” Granted, I have been witness to remarkable dementia care therapies involving music, psychosocial interventions, and reminiscence exercise to stimulate the memory banks, but I would be remiss if I did not admit that with such heavy emphasis on one thing comes the neglect of another. Many of these residents are so active and physically healthy that they are pacing holes in the carpet, trying to burn energy every day. What can we do to get them out more? What can we do to engage their physicality, support their cardiac health, overall circulation, and get the sacred serotonin release that comes with all of that?!

Here is where I feel out of my depth, as I do not have an answer — but the problem remains. Chances are, in 2040, I may be that resident. I hope and pray that if I am, my children will have the choices in my care that will not just keep me safe but also keep my adventure going. That is what I hope. I also would totally dig making my own Charcuterie Board, but I may skip the Goat Yoga!

Are you looking to hire professionals who value innovative care within your senior living community?

Goodwin Recruiting can help you find top talent! We have been on the cutting edge of recruiting for over 20 years and were recently named one of America’s Best Recruiting Firms by Forbes. Our recruiters understand that running a successful, innovative senior living community is a complex endeavor. People of all ages and backgrounds have unique personalities with different preferences, expectations, and needs. With that said, it’s important that staff members strive to understand residents and build strong relationships with them. Anything that encourages positive interaction and communication will help to achieve this goal!