What the Next Generation Wants from Senior Living

The pandemic may have taken a tremendous toll on the senior living industry, but it hasn’t turned older adults and their families against the idea of senior living. 

One survey found that in some respects, the value propositions senior living communities offer have become more appealing to those considering it. Respondents recognize that the industry has taken many strides to improve the safety and quality of care for residents throughout the past year.

But prospects’ attitudes and expectations have shifted as the pandemic made clear that three things are vital to seniors’ health and happiness: technology, social enrichment opportunities, and family communication.

Here’s what operators need to know about what the next generation of seniors wants from your community.

Seniors Are More Tech-Savvy Than Ever, and They Expect the Same from Communities 

Technology use among seniors boomed during the pandemic. During lockdowns, many built tech-heavy daily routines with family Zoom calls, virtual fitness classes, and Instacart grocery deliveries.

The pandemic may have nudged more seniors to get comfortable with tech, but plenty were already regular users. Pew research from back in 2017 found that 40 percent of seniors had smartphones, with almost 60 percent for adults aged 65 to 69. 

What changed during the pandemic is that technology became a social lifeline for millions of seniors who were isolated from their friends and family. Seniors’ video call usage doubled from 16 percent daily in 2016 to 38 percent daily in 2020. Many realized that while using tech as a substitute for in-person connection, they could actually keep in better touch with loved ones than they did before.

Apps and digital services that help people fulfill their needs without being exposed to the virus, like food delivery and telemedicine, have also taken a place in seniors’ everyday lives.

And that’s just the tech seniors are already using on their own. They expect the same digital connectedness from the community they’ll call home. Senior living technology that’s only available on-campus – like community and family engagement platforms – can be a major selling point to this new generation of tech-savvy prospects. 

Social Isolation During Lockdowns Is a “Never Again” Experience

Many seniors are coming out of the pandemic, finally able to hug their loved ones again after being vaccinated, saying, “I hope I never have to go through that again.” 

Older adults, especially those who live alone, felt their loneliness reach new heights during the pandemic – and realized they crave more social fulfillment in everyday life, which is something communities are poised to provide.

And the loneliness crisis predates the pandemic: anywhere between 33 and 43 percent of all older adults in the US experience loneliness sometimes or frequently.

The next generation of older adults who weathered the past year now appreciate the importance of a rich social life more than ever. Social enrichment opportunities should be a key differentiator for communities hoping to attract new residents.

A strong variety of engaging programming, from virtual activities to in-person classes and events, will make communities stand out to prospects who are interested in senior living for social opportunities.

Seniors and Their Families Want to Communicate Better

The early days of the pandemic were a harrowing time for senior living residents and loved ones as they waited for updates. These families will tell you that they never want to be in the dark about their parent’s health and safety ever again.

To ease anxiety around move-in for seniors and families alike, communities can highlight how they’ve improved their family communication strategies throughout the pandemic. 

For example, emphasize that your community can…

  • Promptly notify family contacts in the event of a resident or community-wide emergency
  • Enable care staff to send daily or weekly updates about residents’ health conditions  
  • Help facilitate video calls 

Be prepared to field questions about these protocols as prospects and their families tour your community. People understand that a public health scare like COVID-19 could happen again and they want assurance that their older adults will not only be in good hands, but that they’ll be in the know about what’s happening.

But it’s not only about communicating during emergencies. As seniors and their families have gotten used to using tech to talk to each other, they’ll expect the same level of communication when mom or dad moves into senior living.

The Golden Age of Senior Living Could Be Ahead of Us

All the updates communities have collectively made in the past year – from better crisis communications to stronger safety protocols – have ultimately made senior living communities a more welcoming, supportive, and connected place for older adults.

Armed with integrated technology systems that enhance seniors’ ease of living, social wellbeing, and relationships with their families, communities can provide an enriching experience that lets any senior who lived through COVID-19 have a heavy sigh of relief.

If you want to learn more about how Caremerge can help your community stand out to the next generation of older adults

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