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A Good Look at Senior Living

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Lois Bowers’ recent article in McKnight’s Senior Living offers valuable insight into the perceptions of people considering senior living options for loved ones or themselves. Her article, Survey Reveals Senior Living's Current, Potential Appeal, describes a survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International in which 1,002 English and Spanish-speaking individuals were interviewed by phone regarding their feelings about senior living, including:

  • Would they select a community for a loved one?
  • Would they choose to live in a community themselves?
  • What are their perceptions of senior living communities?
  • What alternatives in living options do they prefer to a senior living community?

Senior in Wheelchair in positive and loving environmentBowers’ study revealed the following:

Looking at results by age, those aged 30 to 49 were most likely to say they would consider senior living for a loved one, with 61% saying so, and those aged 18 to 29 were the least likely to consider it, with 44% saying they would. When asked whether they would consider senior living for themselves in the future, those aged 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 were most likely to say they would, at 65% and 64%, respectively. By contrast, 52% of those aged 18 to 29 said they would consider senior living for themselves in the future, and the percentage was 48% for those aged 65 or more years. (Bowers, 2016)

This is good news for those of us working in the senior living field! It demonstrates a great improvement over the somewhat negative perceptions past generations have had regarding senior living options.

Note that 48% of the 65+ individuals said they would consider senior living housing for themselves. Even better, 65% of those aged 30 to 49 were likely to consider senior living housing for themselves. These findings indicate an increasingly improving perception of our industry. I am ecstatic with the findings, but I also question, why is this perception changing? Whatever the industry is doing, it is working. If we can isolate it, we can repeat it.

My answer? A myriad of factors are at play.

1) Generations have different perceptions because their previous experiences are different.

The older the generation, the greater the exposure they’ve had to earlier styles of senior living, such as the old county home. Those early memories and experiences taint perception, and these generations tend to retain a subtle, negative response. Younger generations have a more current experience of senior living. They have been exposed to the vibrant, service-inclusive campuses of Life Plan and assisted living communities that present more home-like environments. (County homes were obsolete and non-existent in their lifetime.)

2) Current senior living organizations are more open to the public, increasing the exposure and buy-in from non-resident visitors.

No one visited a county home that did not have to do so. The environment was unwelcoming and depressing. The organization, itself, did not encourage an open-door philosophy. Today’s community welcomes visitors through practices such as inviting civic groups to use their meeting spaces or involving youth groups in their volunteer programs. Constant exposure to the industry has allowed guests to recreate their perceptions and feel comfortable with the lifestyle option.

Old model with depressing hallways3) Pleasant, personal experiences have impacted current perceptions.

The consumer-friendly models of senior living have now been around for decades. Many people have now had a parent or grandparent who maneuvered the maze of aging and adjusting. Anecdotal, personal experiences have allowed them to see the benefits to both the resident and the family members. As a mobile society in which family members frequently live far away, the senior living community has become an asset to the entire family.

4) The senior living industry has truly improved.

The evolution in creating places where people thrive rather than where people exist in custodial environments has been successful – and continued progress toward hospitality-based environments is only the next step in this journey.

In review, many factors have helped improve perceptions of senior living options—and the industry’s intentional focus on improving the experience for residents, their families, and the community has been paramount in achieving better perceptions. As Arnold Palmer says, “The road to success is always under construction.” Therefore, as an industry, we should continue to strive to create places and environments that we would choose for our loved ones—or ourselves.

Read entire article in a link on Retirement DYNAMICS LinkedIn page.

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