2020 Senior Living Trends: Get Ready for Changes

The start of the year is an exciting time because we’re open and motivated to accept new opportunities, trends and ideas. However, there are also new challenges to be tackled. Like never before, senior living communities need to prepare for change because of uncertainty in the industry. Too many changes are happening too fast. New trends and technologies emerge with unparalleled speed and old proven techniques stop working.

In November 2019, Health Dimensions Group published a report called “Top Trends in Aging Services: Preparing for Historic Changes”. Here’s a quick overview of what’s in it.

The Need for Low- and Middle-Income Senior Living Is Increasing

Baby boomers are aging, which means that in the next decade, the USA will see an increase of seniors aged over 75 who have middle or low income. The senior living industry will need to adjust and provide new solutions to serve large numbers of new seniors whose financial resources are limited in terms of the type of care and accommodation they can cover.

The increase of low-income older adults who’re going to need comprehensive care will impact state and federal budgets. It will also create new challenges for all kinds of organizations whose aim is to help seniors to have a better quality of life in their communities.

There already are care models, such as PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly), which can be a great deal of help for eligible older adults. The program offers comprehensive care that helps participants to live in the community and postpone moving to institutional long-term care. 

As for assisted living facilities and other types of senior living, they will need to come up with ways to offer more affordable care for this group of seniors. These solutions could include:

  • Coming up with more affordable models of care
  • Tweaking expectations of return for services aimed at middle-income seniors
  • Exploring cost-effective construction alternatives
  • Rethinking the use of existing real estate
  • Exploring new partnership opportunities
  • Leveraging technology to increase efficiency

Occupancy Challenges

Despite our growing senior population, maintaining occupancy remains a challenge, particularly in saturated markets. In the second quarter of 2019, occupancy took a plunge to 87.8%, which is the lowest level since 2011. Because even the oldest baby boomers are still below the average assisted living resident age, 2020 will be a difficult year for communities struggling with occupancy. Conducting detailed demographic research and combining it with financial analysis will help senior living facilities to move forward and tweak their model according to future supply and demand.

Staff Challenges

Staff shortages and turnover are a big issue in the senior living industry. With healthcare unemployment rates being as low as 2%, assisted living communities find it harder than ever to find qualified and trustworthy care staff. Stricter immigration controls, rising rates per hour and fierce competition add to the problem. 

Another staff challenge senior living communities are facing is navigating through a variety o work cultures, as currently there are five generations working (from the silent generation to Generation Z). These differences in employees’ views and expectations can be difficult to manage. That’s why communities need to offer flexibility and advancements, as well as utilize social media to connect with the right audience and build awareness.

Call for Outstanding Customer Experience

All of the above-mentioned challenges mean that your assisted living community needs to offer the very best to continue making profits and survive. Like never before, prospective residents and their families are looking for the best possible quality of service.

2020 is the year to differentiate your facility in the marketplace and invest in improving literally everything, from amenities and quality public spaces to better use of technology. Think better and friendlier service, higher quality of accommodation and care, more spaces to alleviate depression and improve socialization, smart watches to monitor residents’ health and track movement of residents of the Memory Care unit, and partnerships with related service providers. The list of ideas goes on!

These are only a few of senior living trends and challenges we expect to see in 2020. The bottom line is that only those who thrive to provide a great service and market their community effectively will be able to benefit from the change.

What Is Assisted Living Like from a Resident’s Perspective?

Many seniors are biased against assisted living communities because they confuse them with hospitals and nursing homes. However, surveys show that a vast majority of assisted living residents state that they wish they had moved sooner because their quality of life has increased a lot. Recently, I had a conversation with Jennifer H., a lady in her eighties who move to assisted living a couple of months ago. Here’s her story:

“My husband and I lived in a 2000 sq ft house with an acre of land for many years. Our children grew up there and neither of us thought we’d ever move out of it. But life worked out differently. Two years ago, my husband died of a heart attack and I was left all alone – the children moved out ages ago and live miles away.”

At first, I was coping but then things started to get difficult. First, I had to give up my garden because managing it by myself had become impossible. We used to have peach trees but I couldn’t take care of them, so I had to get them removed. Also, house maintenance proved to be very challenging to manage because it was my husband who dealt with all the repairs.

I decided to move to a senior living community about six months ago after I fell when I was washing the windows. The fall gave me a fright – I was lucky not to break any bones. True, I was scared out of my wits but I knew I couldn’t take care of myself anymore and in-home care was too expensive.

I didn’t want to leave my home and it was difficult to move to a much smaller apartment. You see, I had to say good-bye to a lot of cherished things and a lifetime of memories. Hosting a yard sale was especially hard but luckily my daughter traveled here to help.

If you ask me what worried me most, I have to admit that I was frightened of losing control over my life and concerned about privacy. You know, privacy is something you can’t really maintain with lots of older people living in one place! Us, old ladies, like gossiping! And yes, I was worried that I won’t get along with other residents.

My eldest daughter took care of the move – she helped me to pack, found movers, decorated my new apartment. I’m so grateful and proud of her, she went to great lengths to make my new home look just like the old one. And she was there for me for the first few days when I was settling in.

Has my life changed?

Yes. But it changed for the better (although I do miss my home and my old routine). I don’t have to worry about chores, cooking, maintaining a large house, going shopping, and a thousand of other things. Most importantly, I feel healthier now because I don’t forget to take my medication and I eat better (I used to skip meals when I felt ill or too tired to cook).

The caregivers are very nice and friendly, always up for a chat. You know, I thought I’d be embarrassed to let other people help me get dressed and have a shower but these girls make everything all right. They don’t judge me for being old.

I still have my privacy in my cozy apartment and my family and friends can always visit me. Most importantly, I’ve made new friends, so I’m never lonely. And I’ve joined the choir! Singing is a passion of mine, I even used to sing in Handel’s Messiah when I was younger. We sing all sorts of music here: classical, songs from old musicals, folksongs, and we have concerts every month.

When I think of it, I wish I had moved to senior living sooner, before the fall. You never know, I might have never fallen! And I wouldn’t have had to push myself so hard to do all the housework. Often, I was too tired to go upstairs to the bedroom and slept on the couch. And I used to be very lonely and scared in my empty house. I sometimes have high blood pressure and I was frightened that I might not be able to reach the phone if I felt unwell. Now I don’t have to worry about all these things. So yes, I wish I had moved sooner because my life is better now. I feel that I could live to be a hundred years!”