The Assisted Living Community of the Future
While the boomers aren’t yet being served by assisted living, the industry is already looking ahead to anticipate the changes this dynamic population will bring. This evolution is already underway, as the industry begins serving the silent generation, now in their mid-80s and starting to enter assisted living.
In a recent interview with California Assisted Living Association (CALA), NIC CEO Robert Kramer outlined what he envisions for the assisted living community of the future and stresses the importance of being open to the changes that are on the horizon. “A ‘we’ve always done it this way’ approach will be a good way to go out of business,” he said. “Because you’re going to have a different customer, you must figure out how to adjust to them.”
Rethinking Caring—And What We Call It
One prediction is an explosion in the variety of products being designed for specific age groups—for example, for ages 65 to 85 and 85 to 110—to more accurately meet customers’ needs. “Imagine the same product serving someone who’s 15 and someone who’s 40,” he said.
Another big consideration is how products will be named. Boomers are resistant to the term “senior” or any notion that implies they are old. So what happens to all the communities branded with the word “senior”?
“I don’t think boomers will move into a community with the word ’senior’ or ‘retirement’ in the name,” he said. “I think one phrase they will hate most is ‘senior care.’ It’s condescending—too much like ‘infant care’ or ‘toddler care’—and it isn’t going to work for the boomers. They won’t be retiring, they will be transitioning.”
And that transition might mean residents entering a community will continue working. Others will volunteer or pursue philanthropic opportunities. Forward-thinking communities will look to unite residents not by what they did pre-retirement but what they do now. Engagement will be key for maintaining residents’ independence, social wellbeing, and contributions to society.
The new resident customers will be loud and demand that the community fits their values, not the community management’s.
Delivering Affordability and Outcomes
While boomers will most likely be the most outspoken customers the industry has yet experienced, what they end up getting will depend heavily on affordability. It’s a significant challenge, said Robert Kramer, “so there’s going to be a need to develop a mid-market or middle-income product, and that’s going to be both an opportunity and a challenge.”
Documenting results will be as critical as providing affordable options. “Many of our claims about outcomes are based on our own studies and our own data,” he said. “That will be immediately suspect to consumers.”
He suggests that a critical next step will be to team with local universities or research organizations. Opening the doors to care communities will help team members and residents to form relationships that will act as third-party validation of the quality of service provided.
Opportunities Are Growing
Overall, there are significant opportunities for those who are willing to adapt in how products are built, marketed, named, and promoted. Positioning yourself now is key for being in the right place at the right time. “Change is coming,” Robert Kramer said. “And those that adapt, I think they’re going to be very successful.”