Purpose, Personalized, Plenty of Options: The Exciting Future of Senior LivingSeptember 10, 2022
In the most recent Spoonful of Sugar podcast, guest Robert (Bob) G. Kramer, Founder and Fellow of Nexus Insights and Co-founder and Strategic Advisor of NIC, paints a vibrant picture of an exciting future for senior living. “Increasingly, older adults don’t want to feel that they’re marginalized for their role in society. They want to be seen as part of the solution, not part of the problem. They don’t want to be put off in the corner,” he said.
With these changing attitudes, goals and expectations on the part of seniors, they are seeking communities that speak to them and engage their vision and expectations for their lives. Kramer offers a look in this future with some intriguing predictions:
- “I think we will see more intergenerational living, not for 24 hours a day but for 12 hours,” he said. Seniors, he observed, will want interactions with people of all ages and look to be involved with what is happen outside of their buildings; and “that’s a good thing.”
- Themes – such as wellness and activism — are likely to figure more in attracting senior living customers in the future, Kramer suggested. People will want to be part of the broader community and maintain a sense of purpose and local and global scales.
- “We will see much more focus on lifelong learning,” said Kramer. For instance, he referred to Lasell Village on the grounds of Lasell University, where residents sign an agreement that they will either teach or take courses; and, he observed, there is a waiting list for this property. Although it is one of a growing number of college-affiliated retirement communities, this is the first to require an individualized continuing education program for each resident.
- Expect to see more of a focus on volunteerism, Kramer suggested, “partly to defray the cost of staff but also because of the need for a sense of vitality.” Watch for more opportunities for mentoring, teaching and care-giving for residents, he offered.
- “We will see an exploding variety of options for seniors,” Kramer predicted. For instance, there will be more efforts to address the “forgotten middle,” which is a huge market. More communities will be “skinnying down” services and offering an active adult model for this demographic.
- “A key to the future of senior living with baby boomers and gen Xers following them will be the creation of personalized, customized experiences that make life worth living. That will be the attraction,” Kramer said.“We will see a lot of diversity in the future, and this will be exciting. We will have to offer things that are aspirational and lifestyle focused,” Kramer observed.
Assessing External Threats
Kramer noted that people often ask him what the greatest external threat is to the senior living sector. He said, “I think it’s outside disruptors entering our field who see an opportunity to serve our customers in better, cheaper, more customized, and more convenient ways than do we.” This includes big tech companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon; big retail like Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon; retail pharmacy such as Walgreen’s and CVS; and some big insurance companies.
He observed, “These folks aren’t exhausted and financially strained,” and they can afford huge investments. They have targeted health care and senior care in particular, he said, “because there are real dollars to be made there: They are well aware of the benefits technology, especially telehealth, offers.”
At the same time, Kramer said, seniors learned during the pandemic that they can get almost anything delivered to their home; and they increasingly will look for communities that have the technology – and the related resources and bandwidth — to meet their needs. Providing and promoting this cutting-edge technology – including telehealth – will be a way for communities to differentiate themselves.
The Spoonful of Sugar podcast is an innovative partnership between PharMerica and McKnight’s. Each program addresses the latest issues in long-term care with leading experts and frontline providers, practitioners, and others. Listen to all Spoonful of Sugar podcasts here, and join Illuminate to get notice of new monthly episodes on emerging trends, issues, and the future of the long-term care industry.