Perkins Eastman, a global architecture firm with a practice dedicated to senior living, completed its fourth biennial survey on the state of senior living in America. The results were published in “The State of Senior Living: An Industry Grappling with Autonomy,” which aimed to take a “final glimpse of the industry before the end of the decade and [serve as a] witness to the impact of the leading edge of the Boomers—the fading of the silent generation and the technological transformation of everyday living.”
The 2019 survey participants were all industry professionals with varied degrees of experience, including C-suite executives, consultants, board members and care providers. All of the respondents worked across different disciplines, such as life plan communities, short-term rehabilitation facilities, memory care facilities and assisted living communities, which helped provide a fuller, bigger picture about potential changes coming to the senior living industry in 2020 and beyond.
The Biggest Disruptors to Senior Living
“Aging in community” is believed to be the largest disruptor to the senior living industry in the coming years. It is a term coined by Perkins Eastman and defined as the desire to remain connected to the community, whether in your own home or in a more integrated way in a senior living space. A little over 60% of survey respondents thought that modifications to existing homes would have an impact on the senior living industry over the next decade. Not far behind are satellite facilities that bring services into a community, rather than building a separate community around senior care services—described as a “life plan community without walls” concept.
Technology—such as care monitoring and automatic care reminders, grocery delivery, ride sharing apps, and telemedicine—is also predicted to have a major impact on the future of the senior industry. In addition, the “Third Act” concept, which redefines the way we think about retirement by encouraging continued engagement in the community, also may create a shift in the senior space. From the desire to be more autonomous and proactive with aging care, to volunteer opportunities, to choosing not to completely leave the workforce after retirement, survey respondents believed that these lifestyle shifts are going to change the way society as a whole approaches senior care.
There are also paradigm shifts that most likely will serve as disruptors to the industry, the biggest being financial strain due to the rising cost of healthcare, increased debt and instability of Social Security. This disruptor might also account for factors that are making it harder for senior service providers to recruit qualified caregivers, due to the rising cost of making a living wage and immigration restrictions, “which could have a serious impact on recruiting and retaining staff.”
Shifting Views on Senior Housing Options
Nearly three-quarters of respondents acknowledged that home-based services, like Right at Home, are attractive options to seniors when it comes to how they prefer to receive care. Over half of the survey respondents also believed that at-home community networks, such as Beacon Hill Village in Boston, are going to gain popularity in the coming years, as they enable seniors to age with more autonomy. There’s also a prediction that senior living residences will shift to more urban areas, rather than the isolated, more rural areas in which many existing senior residences were built.
The report recognized that “there are limited choices available to those in the middle income segment of the population.” The report showed a big upward swing in the appeal that industry professionals see in creating more middle-income housing, up to 71% in 2019, as compared with 63% in 2017. Most of the respondents believed that “Apartments for Life,” which is based on the successful senior living trend out of Holland consisting of communities of apartments or condominiums that allow seniors to age in place, is a more attractive senior living option now than it was in 2015. Seniors can buy into licensed services as needed and live in proximity to community retail and healthcare services. Experts also felt that middle-income baby boomers will begin to minimize their space, opting for smaller residential units that have access to common spaces and services, instead of indulging in larger private living accommodations with less shared space.
Additionally, the report found a “growing consumer emphasis on a full spectrum of wellness.” Services within the senior space are now making more of a shift toward a holistic approach to aging—looking at the entire person, rather than just a specific disease or disorder.
The Future of Senior Living
The Perkins Eastman report states their belief that “a combination of a longer (and healthier?) lifespan, financial challenges to retirement, and the desire to pursue personal interests and volunteering will change the patterns of the traditional retirement years, or everyone’s ‘Third Act.’” They also take into account that financial concerns for baby boomers nearing retirement are going to be the biggest drivers of decision making when it comes to how they want or need to age.
Regardless of whether it’s out of desire or financial necessity, the Perkins Eastman report predicts that most boomers will want to remain in their own homes within the community as they age. They recognize that having “respect for the aging adult’s autonomy, or individual control of decision making and lifestyle choices, is at the heart of providing services and care. We feel the social location of an individual establishes their priorities, concerns, values and beliefs, and home is where the heart is.”