Last Updated: April 2, 2019
As the economy changes in the United States, so do the realities of senior care.
Read our predictions for the future of assisted living and find out more about the housing trends shaping the industry.
The U.S. economy — and the healthcare industry — have seen more than their fair share of ups and downs over the past decade. Along with all the economic shifts, there have been big changes in how we view healthy aging, medicine and technology
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It’s no surprise that assisted living options are also changing in response to socioeconomic conditions. Both consumers and providers have had to tighten their budgets and get creative about senior housing possibilities.
The rising cost of assisted living means that some families are looking at aging in place, home care and multigenerational housing instead of other care options.
Those who do opt for more traditional senior living will find a wide range of offerings in new areas like eco-friendly housing and “smart homes,” as well as expanded amenities within assisted living communities.
What overall trends can we expect to see in housing for senior Americans?
More and more seniors want to remain at home for as long as possible and improvements in planning and technology are going to better facilitate aging in place. The burgeoning home health care industry will also be necessary for seniors to remain in the home. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth of 70% for home health and personal care aides over the coming decade, noting that home care can be a less expensive alternative for those who don’t need comprehensive assistance.
These days, eco-friendly increasingly means economical, too, and green senior housing offers older adults the ability to be environmentally minded as they enter their golden years. While there may be an initial investment in building up a green infrastructure —communities and homes that are LEED-certified, for instance — eco-friendly appliances, building and lighting can save money in the long run and are much better for the environment.
With inevitable rising costs for senior living options like assisted living and continuing care retirement communities, these more traditional forms of housing have begun offering a wide range of amenities to tempt potential residents, from cultural and lifestyle-based communities that cater to Asian-Americans or LGBTQ seniors, to an increased array of recreational options like cultural events, educational opportunities and fitness classes.
Active seniors who don’t want to move into an assisted living community — or can’t afford it — are looking at other options for an independent lifestyle. One possibility is multigenerational housing — the idea that a family will pool their resources and either modify their existing home to suit multiple generations or move into a place that’s built to house both young families and older adults.
Many active retirees want to continue living or working close to a commercial district or city center. There are also many limited-mobility seniors who still want to access the amenities of a thriving downtown. These are both good reasons why community planners want to be senior-friendly, whether it’s creating senior housing in existing downtown hubs or considering the needs of older adults in planning new neighborhoods in the future.
Senior co-housing is another way active older adults can gain the benefits of community living but on a smaller scale. Co-housing is more like living on a commune, where residents have independent homes but also benefit from shared spaces like gardens and recreation facilities. There are generally some housekeeping duties or shared meals, paid through monthly dues, and residents have a say in community decisions. This trend has been growing over the past decade.
We’ve been seeing it for some time — a move away from the concept of senior housing as synonymous with nursing homes and a move toward other senior housing options, from independent living to memory care. It’s not a trend that’s likely to change anytime soon. According to Senior Housing News, factors such as the high cost of skilled nursing and recent cuts to Medicare and Medicaid programs will only accelerate the shift.
Personal care robots are just one attention-grabbing example of the types of up-and-coming technology that are going to revolutionize senior care as we know it. There are plenty of options already at our fingertips that promise to improve the health and quality of life for seniors — from smart home computer systems that keep track of medications and vital signs to wireless networks that provide mobile support for seniors in care communities.
Have you seen evidence of any of these trends in your own search for assisted living? What do you think the future of assisted living will look like? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.