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Isolation, Segregation, Integration – The 10 Year Journey


The shift in ideals surrounding how Boomers wish to spend their golden years is drastically different from the ideals of their parents. To start Boomers reject the term “senior” they fear embracing this societal coined term for aging is a direct correlation to the loss of their independence. Boomers want to remain independent to make their own decisions, to live in a cross generational authentic community where their contributions are valued.  In stark contrast, the previous generation is seemingly content living comfortably in a community with others in their age cohort, where meals and daily activities are pre-planned. 

NIC Talks speaker Ryan Frederick, Founder and CEO of Smart Living 360 wants to improve the quality of life for older adults through innovation. At age 29, Frederick moved from Silicon Valley, CA into a senior living community in Atlanta, GA to experience what it was like to be a senior resident.

 Frederick states “The biggest challenge is one of individual isolation.” He goes on to say “Institutional isolation can create the feeling of loss of place, giving up control, and quite frankly just plain giving up.”

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reports that 90% of seniors say they like to stay in their homes as they age versus moving to a senior living community. Of those surveyed, even when confronted with the scenario of needing day-to-day assistance or needing some form of ongoing health care 82% still stated they preferred to age at home. Should it be a surprise that the vast majority of older adults want to age at home so that they can continue to live by their own rules, in a place that is not only familiar but allows them to remain as part of their community? Aging in place is not without its challenges. Many of the older adults live in homes that are not suited to meet their needs as they age. So what’s the solution?

Frederick discusses the idea of redesigning “Main Street”, a concept of creating a village based on location, operating model and design to enhance wellbeing. Within walking distance, all the modern day conveniences of shopping, dining, public transportation, and state of the art fitness and health centers are available. The new main street vision is designed not only with modern day convenience, but with a high degree of interaction, social cohesion, and team work where responsibilities and resources are shared.  This model has the infrastructure to provide the services needed by the aging community without losing the feel of independence and control.  The icing on the cake is that this model is fiscally responsible and a faction of the cost of traditional senior accommodations.

The idea of co-housing is growing in popularity. A recent article by Senior Housing News noted that there are 133 co-housing operations across the nation, nearly 50 in development stage and another 95 in the negotiation phase. Could this be a solution to revolutionize the traditional senior community?

Many of our senior housing communities and ways of thinking haven’t evolved to meet the demands of this new generation of aging Americans. It will take innovation with an open mind and communication among industry leaders to meet the demands and needs of the Boomers. It’s time to rethink, reimagine and create the future of senior housing.

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