Senior Living: How Boomers, GenZ, and Tech, will Redefine it

Images of technology a virtual reality game and potential medical care to redefine senior care
Tech and Virtual Reality

Senior care services can ensure senior safety, medical care, and enhanced quality of life. But there is a vast mindset gap between Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, and GenX. From boomers down, they existing senior living is a big negative. Each generation's expectations, interests, and concerns differ significantly from their parents or grandparents. 

Attitude changes will impact everything from the type of care, teams of providers, types of senior living, how they stay in their homes, and senior wellness villages. New concepts, design, ambiance, technology, staffing, and health and wellness services must all shift to better meet the next generations' needs.

Helping a loved one face senior living.

I recall visiting my grandmother in a traditional nursing home in the 80s. It permanently impacted me.  So institutional and isolating. Not a place I’d ever want to be.

Then when I had to help my aging mother and disabled sister find appropriate assisted living, I ran into these generational differences all over again.  

Mom was determined to die at home, and I didn’t blame her. But she didn’t like outside people in her home. She worried about their expense and kept letting them go, saying she could do it.

But, at 97 and diabetic, her body started breaking down. Her stubbornness put my sister in physical and emotional jeopardy every time Mom fell. There was no way Sis could get Mom up, and Mom resisted calling for outside help. It was a problem waiting to happen. 

My sister finally reached out, crying, “I can’t do this anymore.” 

As I explored the options, I had to keep reminding myself to look at the places through Mom’s eyes. Was it an environment that suited her and my Sis?  I knew it wasn’t mine.  

The social activities and routines that serve Mom and Sis wouldn’t meet my needs. (Not into puzzles, crafts, or institutional regimes.) 

Generational issues impact views of Senior Living

Many Boomers and GenX have traveled and taken cruises. While essential for efficient business operations, the strict schedule will be a tough sell to these generations. Meals with two or three entree choices, all high in carbs and starches, would be another tough sell.  

Some senior living facilities offer social drinking, music, and entertainment opportunities. The one they chose has occasional outside entertainment. It’s a traditional community with crafts and activities that remind me of the church community of my childhood. Homey and casual.

Social outings, although scheduled weekly, aren’t regular.  The irregularity has been due to pandemic restrictions and staffing issues. 

Analytics show ongoing staffing issues will continue. 

Facilities will need staff wellness initiatives and resolve existing issues to find future stability. Senior care centers take care of people. But there is a gap for staff. 

The staff of caregivers is the facility’s most valuable asset. Sadly, staff put in long hours for low-end pay. And many lack continuing education, coaching, and support in maintaining personal health.

Another challenge may be the families of residents becoming well-educated on the kind of care and issues their loved ones face. As a result, they may become more resistant to the concept of senior living for themselves.

To resolve these challenges, care facilities must embrace and incorporate the technology that Boomers and GenX place a high emphasis on. Both are far more tech-savvy than their predecessors. They want and expect it, and you probably won’t get them without it.

The same situation exists with personalized and comprehensive care. 

Boomers and GenZ want a wellness experience that is resident-focused rather than business-centric.

My sis is in the process of moving from her traditional facility to a brand new one with so half a dozen specialty rooms including a movie theater, bistro and pub. I've heard they even have robots to maintain the acres of floors every night.

Aging in Place alternatives

Many seniors want to stay in their homes. I’ve lost track of how many stories I’ve heard that center around:  I’ve lived here and want to die here.

But it's not feasible for the average home. They aren't very safe. So either the house needs to be modified and made safer, or the person may have to move. 

So, what can a person do to make a home safer? What about someone living with them? Is there space for that?

Adding grab bars, assessing ingress and egress, and remedying trip fall risks is a good start. But addressing the most dangerous room in the house— the bathroom is the key to making a home safer.

Firefighters spend more time rescuing seniors stuck in their bathtubs than fighting fires.  Tubs are slick and steep with no easy way to get in and out.  A good-sized shower with stable seating or a walk-in tub may seem expensive, but compare it with the cost of assisted living.

The statistics document the risks, but most people, including seniors, ignore the elephant in the room.

Senior wellness living communities.

Retirement or active adult communities offer an expanded range of amenities and services. They are designed to help seniors live healthy and fulfilling lives. Physically, they often look quite different from a senior care center, and the ambiance and culture avoid institutional. They are more of a wellness-centered village with everything in easy access.

These communities include various options for housing: independent living, assisted living, and memory care, depending on the needs of the individual. If they need more help, they can stay within the community.

Others are multi-generational communities which have proven benefits.

In both cases, everything is situated to promote community interaction and a healthy lifestyle with outdoor areas to be active and enjoy nature.

One of the primary benefits of senior wellness communities is the social aspect. Many seniors experience loneliness and isolation, hurting their mental and physical health. In a senior wellness community, seniors can connect with others and participate in social activities, clubs, and events while keeping their private place. 

Senior wellness communities also offer a range of wellness programs and services, such as fitness classes, nutrition counseling, and mental health services. In addition, you might find walking clubs and social activities. 

Programs are designed to help seniors maintain their health and well-being. Instead of treating symptoms, they promote wellness lifestyles that extend healthy life. And they offer individual customization.

In addition to the social and wellness benefits, senior wellness communities can provide peace of mind for seniors and their families. On-site or remote staff 24/7 allows seniors access to assistance as needed while still maintaining their independence and privacy.

If the person needs to downsize, considering a wellness community will likely become an increasingly popular option. With the diversity of services and amenities, these communities can help seniors live their best life while extending their health, happiness, and independence.

Embracing Innovation and Technology

The use of technology in senior care may include telemedicine, wearable technology, and smart home devices. Think of them as Alexa-type extensions that quietly sit in the background until triggered. 

Technology and wearables could have prevented the severe side effects of an aunt's stroke. She lived in a senior community in her little cottage. But no one knew it for 24 hours when she had a stroke. Without immediate intervention, it altered her life.

Smart devices would detect an issue and alert the team of providers of a crisis and the need for action. With the development of AI and machine learning, the possibilities for safe, independent living explode. 

Wearables could transmit residents' vital statistics to an interdisciplinary medical team. AI could use its predictive analysis abilities to help prevent rather than react to health issues. All of this would be provided remotely in the background so the person would feel secure but not institutionalized.

Gaming as social interaction has been growing for decades. Imagine virtual reality gaming as a way to keep your mind and body healthier for years longer. While some facilities currently use the Wii games, imagine incorporating new technology and virtual reality. Imagine a safe, simple version of a holodeck experience. AI and VR are bringing it on.

We know staffing issues will probably continue. Using robotics to manage the boring night job of cleaning can help the facility avoid staff shortages. And there are many other ways we may see robots becoming commonsight in senior living.

The drivers will be personalization and customization with an eye on technology, staying active and healthy.

Redefining senior care marketing strategies

With the growing diversity within senior living facilities and communities and improved safety that allows staying home, marketing will become more targeted to the unique offer and a specific audience segment. 

However, there are a few commonalities that many Boomers, and GenZ, will be looking for.  

They want to see your experience, expertise, authenticity, transparency, and ability to build their trust. In addition, they will probably want to experience your offering.

They will be looking for how the culture and mindset match their own. A tour may or may not reveal if residents have similar energy, interests, and perspectives to themselves. 

Community involvement or support of causes will become increasingly important. 

Money and concerns about making it last will mean cost and value discussions will be essential.  How will you address the what if I outlive my money question? 

The channels will change as the marketing messages shift from Traditionalists to Boomers, then GenX. More digital. But all messages are tailored for a unique target audience. 

It will be a challenge that implements AI analytics under human guidance. AI can predict and crunch numbers. But it can’t assure your expertise, experience, authority, and trust-building abilities are showcased in a way that will grow SEO rankings, increase leads and push conversions.

Read more about AI and its impact.

Forbes article on the future of AI and medicine.

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