Senior homes have come a long way in the past few decades. It’s not just the facilities, features, and services on offer that have changed. Everything from public perception to the very nomenclature is different.
Remember the days when such places where called nursing or old age homes? You’ll hardly find these terms anymore. Today’s senior homes are a far cry from the nursing home of old. They go by multiple names like a retirement community, assisted living facility, etc. Why we don’t even refer to the people staying here as ‘elderly’. They’re now called seniors.
Public Perception & Shift in Attitudes
The way we view senior homes is new too. People used to think of them as more like hospitals (hence the term nursing home) than communities. It was a place for old people who needed care because of health issues. Now senior homes are much warmer and welcoming. They provide features that were once considered luxuries.
The old system focused on health care and safety, almost to the exclusion of everything else. There wasn’t as much emphasis on mental health, social connectivity, and other aspects of senior health. Caregivers and family members expected and prepared for future declines.
In the current model, senior homes prepare for the future but also focus on the present. What is important for seniors today? Staying physically and mentally active, connecting with friends and family, and enjoying life without stress.
Changing Consumer Preferences
Another thing that has changed is the demographics of seniors. As they say, 70 is the new 60! With increasing life expectancies and late retirements, there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ senior. You may find single seniors in their 70s to recently retired couples in their 60s in a senior home. Even those well into their 80s are staying active for longer. Most seniors also desire a measure of independence, even if they’re no longer living in their old neighborhoods.
This change is reflected in the choice of living spaces in senior residences. Gone are the narrow clinical corridors with small and cramped rooms. Today’s residences focus on wide, open areas with natural light. A senior home may have single or double bedrooms with private nooks to self-contained apartments. You’ll even find single story homes for seniors.
As you may well imagine, seniors in their 80s and 60s are entirely different generations. Their preferences in any area like music and technology will be completely different. The baby boomer generation is more likely to be familiar with computers. They like rock and roll instead of country music. A senior community will find that it has to cater to consumers who look for very different things.
Use of Technology
This is a big one. Medical devices are inevitable when dealing with senior healthcare. But that doesn’t mean more hardware or ugly boxes that beep constantly. Today’s healthcare technology is more discreet and automated. It’s pervasive – residences now use more technology than ever before. But much of it is hidden from the residents unless they use it themselves.
For instance, senior communities may use monitoring systems for staff members to help residents in their care. Many places use VoIP phone systems to provide additional features instead of landlines. An apartment or home may have smart thermostats, automatic reminders for doctor appointments, and other alert features.
It’s not all about increasing efficiency either. Technology makes its way to entertainment, physical fitness, and socialization as well. You can see Wii consoles jostling for space with TV screens in common areas. Wifi is practically a necessity in a senior home. Most seniors now own and use a personal smart device – whether a phone, tablet or laptop. Why?
Seniors like to video chat with grandchildren, friends, and family. Thanks to technology they can attend events like graduation and birthday parties in far away cities. They even play games on Facebook with their neighbors!
Once upon a time, moving into a nursing home meant social isolation and loss of independence for seniors. Perhaps that is why modern retirement communities try to foster a sense of community. Many senior homes offer community engagement services, including group fitness classes, art sessions, and common areas for residents.
Some facilities also have spas/barbershops, stores, restaurants, and other services. In fact, you may find a sort of city within a city in some senior homes. Instead of the regimented 3 meals a day approached, you have open dining options. Retirement communities also emphasize fresh and wholesome food over restrictive terms like low-cholesterol, sugar-free, etc.
A senior home in 2019 has almost nothing in common with a nursing home of the 1950s. The emphasis has shifted from keeping people quiet and safe to providing personalized care based on individual preferences. The changing demographics and culture shift requires senior communities to catch up or fall by the wayside.