The winds of change are blowing through assisted living communities across the world, and U.S. communities are no exception. As Baby Boomers hit their retirement years, the landscape of senior care will inevitably change. Looking at the upcoming months, here are some anticipated assisted living trends.
9 Assisted Living Trends To Watch For
1) Aging in place options will become increasingly attractive.
While continuing care retirement communities (CCRC's) have been attractive for many older adults in the past, it is anticipated that this trend will continue into 2016 and beyond. Because CCRC's offer a continuum of care with options for completely independent living, assisted living, and even nursing home-level care, community residents have access to the appropriate level of care at each life stage without having to relocate to other facilities.
As Boomers begin to enter the senior home care arena, the advantages of CCRC's are likely to be a big draw for this generation that grew up with greater affluence and household conveniences than their elders.
2) Memory care will take a trip down nostalgia lane.
Embracing the theory behind reminiscence therapy and extending it, many memory care facilities are using sight, sound, and even smell to help dementia residents retrieve long-term memories. Designing grounds and living areas in styles from the 1950s and 1960s immerses residents in the familiar world of their youth.
Research indicates that this form of memory care reduces agitation and anxiety, and even improves cognitive function for some. As research in this interesting field progresses, it is likely that more and more assisted living communities will utilize familiar objects and images from the past to enhance the wellbeing of residents at any level.
3) Grandparents will go high-tech.
Less technology-averse than their predecessors, Boomers are more likely to embrace technology to enhance their quality of life. In 2016, the wearable tech market for seniors will explode, as more companies produce useful tools for older adults.
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Technologies available include much more than things such as senior-friendly phones with larger displays for those who suffer from poor vision or remote controls for windows, lights, thermostats, and doors.
Rather than old-style PERS that simply summon help with the push of a button, new PERS have features like advanced fall detection, which automatically alerts the appropriate responders when an older person falls.
[RELATED: See our reviews of medical alert systems that offer fall detection]
Another example of new technology to assist older adults and their caregivers is geo-fencing. A small, unobtrusive device that works with GPS technology is worn by those with forms of dementia like Alzheimer's. When the wearer wanders beyond a pre-set range, caregivers are alerted immediately to the location of the resident, thereby lessening the chance that someone will be lost because of wandering.
4) Automation will ease the load of home care agencies.
Older adults are not the only ones who will be availing themselves of technological advancements in 2016. Home care agencies will likely continue the growing trend of utilizing software platforms like ClearCare. These platforms will enable home care agencies to more efficiently manage caregivers and patients alike by providing automation for administrative functions such as billing, payroll, scheduling, and even care plan creation.
Software platforms of this nature will enable home care agencies to offer high-quality services in the home and track clinical data for each client's individual health status more fully.
5) Senior co-housing will become increasingly popular.
A cross between single-family residences and a more communal living arrangement, co-housing is an option that has some appeal for a growing number of older adults because it offers the privacy of single-family dwelling along with an increased sense of community.
In 2014, Harvard University's Joint Center on Housing Studies observed that co-housing is an increasingly popular option for those seeking communal settings and some support outside of institutional living. The advantages of co-housing for seniors include things like access to a communal group of caregivers and shared responsibilities to ease the burden of some day-to-day activities such as preparing meals or caring for yard work.
6) Assisted living will go green.
As cost concerns continue to affect the assisted living industry, the economic advantages of going green will entice a growing number of assisted living communities to embrace eco-friendly measures. To be considered eco-friendly, more assisted living communities facilities will:
- meet the EPA's Energy Star standards
- take measures to improve indoor air quality
- institute water conservation measures
- improve weatherization of buildings
- utilize renewable energy sources like solar power
Those assisted living communities that adopt green methods will likely see an increase in resident populations as more eco-conscious Boomers reach retirement age.
7) Assisted living communities will offer more person-centric perks.
Gone are the days of the so-called “old folks” nursing homes where residents lived out their days passively with little social interaction.
Assisted living communities will offer residents increased opportunities for varied activities.
A new era of person-centered care is guiding the design and function of assisted living communities today. As the older adult population continues to grow, 2016 will see more assisted living communities designed to appeal to niche groups of seniors with similar cultures and tastes.
With a greater emphasis on meaningful socialization, assisted living communities are offering a full menu of enjoyable activities such as yoga, tai chi, exercise classes, game nights, barbecues, book clubs, and organized group outings to theaters, museums, and restaurants.
8) The need for qualified healthcare professionals will continue to rise.
As the older adult population rises, the need for healthcare professionals will rise as well. Considered one of the largest growth industries in the country, the healthcare field is still experiencing a shortage that is likely to continue well beyond 2016.
9) Assisted living communities will improve personal living spaces.
With an eye on attracting a new generation of older adults, many assisted living communities will be adding amenities that resonate with Boomers. Things like walk-in closets, spacious bathrooms, and fully equipped kitchenettes will provide a comfortable setting more like the homes they are used to living in.
While still ensuring a sense of individual privacy, such communities will also feature landscaped gardens and beautiful architecture to appeal to the eye and heart of residents.
A Year of Exciting Change
The near future offers plenty of changes for the Assisted Living Industry. As Baby Boomers make waves with their arrival into retirement years, new ways of designing senior housing and handling senior home care will continue to evolve. As new information and technologies become available, we will continue to cover senior housing here.