Alexa, Should I Age in Place?
Updated 12.18.20 from a post originally published 2.10.20.
It’s becoming a lot easier for older adults to age in place.
Thanks to home care services and technology advancements, many seniors whose options were once limited by health and safety concerns now have the resources they need to keep living at home and stay independent.
The reasoning behind it is simple: many people would rather be close to friends and families in a familiar environment than live in a brand-new setting far from home. That desire has only been heightened during the pandemic, which has been a deeply worrying time for senior living residents and their families.
But can tech and aging-in-place services really rival the support that senior living communities provide?
We’ll weigh the pros and cons of aging in place – and take a look at what this trend means for senior living communities looking to attract the next generation of older adults.
Home-Based Continuing Care is an Attractive Option for Seniors Who Want to Stay at Home
Consider these statistics from the AARP: about 76 percent of adults over 50 want to stay in their current home, and 70 percent would like to live in their present community for as long as they can.
Baby Boomers are already staying in place far more than previous generations. According to a study by Chase, 76 percent of Baby Boomers still own their own homes, and 88 percent of them are planning to renovate within the next three years.
In other words, today’s adults view moving away from home and into senior living communities as mandated by necessity – not by choice. If they can renovate or get care at home, they will.
Assistance with daily activities and medical monitoring used to only exist in senior living communities – but today, the home-based continuing care retirement community (CCRC) model is making these services available to seniors living at home. Caregivers who work with these programs will come directly to a senior’s house to provide things like health check-ins or general assistance.
These at-home care programs don’t provide all the same services as a senior living community, of course. Scheduled transportation, meals, and housekeeping, for example, are things that older adults using the aging-in-place model can’t really get at home.
But care services aren’t the only selling point for the aging-in-place model.
Aging-in-Place Tech is Booming
The startup world has taken an interest in the aging market. In 2019, venture capital and other companies invested about $1 billion in aging-in-place technologies.
These kinds of tools and software designed for seniors include voice-assisted technology, sensors that can detect important physical changes, and smart home capabilities. This means that tech can also take on much of the daily assistance work often performed by caregivers.
Voice assistants, in particular, are giving seniors a strong sense of vitality and independence. Voice speakers like the Amazon Alexa are easy to use and accessible to older adults with low vision and motor issues who might have difficulties using standard tech devices, like smartphones and tablets.
But much of this tech isn’t exclusive to aging-in-place models. This is where senior living communities looking to differentiate themselves can find a unique edge.
Senior Living Communities Can Leverage Tech to Appeal to Older Adults Who Want More Independence and Social Connection
The high-tech aging process isn’t only available at home. It’s ready for senior living communities, too.
Senior living executives need to demonstrate that communities can also be for independent, active older adults. Senior living has one important advantage over the aging-in-place model: social connectedness. It’s a community, after all. And tech can help enhance that sense of community.
More and more senior living communities are offering smart speakers to their residents. Voice technology can actually help prevent isolation and loneliness in older adults by providing a sense of familiarity and comfort to its residents.
Plus, digital community engagement platforms make it easy for residents to make connections with other residents. Instead of relying on bulletin boards and scattered flyers, residents can refer to a central platform for calendars of community social and wellness events so that they can meet other residents with shared interests.
Another major concern for older adults transitioning to senior living is being far away and out of contact with loved ones. But digital family engagement platforms make it possible for family members to stay in touch with their loved ones in senior living and receive constant updates about how they’re doing.
Aging in Place Might Become More Popular – But Senior Living Is a Compelling Alternative
In the coming years, aging in place will continue to gain popularity among older adults who have access to resources like continuing care services and the right technology. COVID-19 will likely have a profound effect on seniors’ decisions about where they want to age.
Still, for a host of other financial, safety, and wellness reasons, senior living will remain a compelling option for older adults of all ages. And as communities adopt new tech tools that boost social and overall wellbeing, they can make a strong case to seniors wary of the transition.
If you’re interested in how senior living tech solutions like voice technology and engagement platforms can differentiate your community, sign up for a demo.