Experts in the business of aging agree—a shift is underway towards models that focus on interaction between generations, purpose, lifelong learning, wellness and sustainability. Look for more senior living providers to drop the word "senior" as they rebrand towards lifestyle and a continuum of care.
The lines between senior living and aging in place are blurring as senior living operators diversify into the aging-in-place space. Nearly 45% of senior living operators featured in the “2021 LeadingAge Ziegler 200” survey of the 200 largest non-profit operators in the U.S. reportedoffering home and community-based services to non-residents in 2021.
“Increasingly, the concepts of aging in place and senior living will become more fluid as the goal becomes finding the RIGHT place. The right place can elevate our well-being. It can help promote a sense of purpose, facilitate human connection, catalyze physical activity, support financial health, and inspire community engagement.”
Place as Social Determinant of Health
Widespread recognition of social determinants of health (SDoH) as stronger predictors of longevity than biology has brought a focus to the quality of where and how people live. Recognized as a SDoH, housing should ideally include a mix of private and communal spaces with substantial self-managed common facilities and activities aimed at everyday living.
“Boomers won’t accept a one-size-fits-all approach. We will need a full range of housing and care options that can scale to meet the demand. These options must integrate housing, wellness, health-care services, and personal care, so we deliver the right services at the right time in the right setting.”
Rebranding Away from “Senior”
The public company Five Star Senior Living's rebrand to AlerisLife is proof that the shift away from the word “senior” is underway. A focus on lifestyle services that follow older adults through their continuum of life demands new language.
Katie Potter, Chief Executive Officer of AlerisLife talks about the rebrand:
“Years before the pandemic, we began evolving our offerings and expanding our services to attract older adults seeking choice-based lifestyle services. With the name change to AlerisLife, we mark our expansion from primarily a senior living owner and operator to a more diversified and comprehensive partner, able to offer each of our customers choice-based services regardless of their residential location or age.
Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of customers: those who are looking for senior living and those who are committed to staying home for as long as possible. We provide services for both, meeting our customers where they are and allowing them to set the pace of how they engage with us…One size certainly does not fit all, and that is truer today than it has ever been.”
New Models Break the Mold
UpsideHōM is a great example of a new model combining the best of senior living communities with aging in place, by recreating the experiential piece of senior living in a less stigmatized, more flexible, affordable way. This deconstructed, intergenerational model supports older adults with a wide range of services including internet, housekeeping, transportation, food delivery, wellness, and lifelong learning—customized for every stage of aging.
Jake Rothstein is the CEO and Founder of UpsideHōM and co-founder of Papa - a company which pairs older adults and families with “Papa Pals” for companionship and assistance with everyday tasks - based on experience with his own grandfather (who he called Papa). Witnessing the wide-spread nature of loneliness, isolation and unaffordable housing options for older adults, Jake developed the idea for UpsideHōM, which would provide a solution to more completely tackle these challenges at scale.
Jake recently told Senior Housing Business that the three key factors that older adults should keep in mind when considering where to age in the right place are convenience, flexibility and community.
Chip Conley’s Modern Elder Academy (MEA) Academy Regenerative Community, opening in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2023, is an example of what the renowned hotelier calls an “intentional community.” Centered around a midlife wisdom school and regenerative farm, the community already has a waiting list of eager MEA alumni.
In Chip’s words:
“We conducted 23 interviews with experts and thought leaders—philosophers, environmentalists, architects, farmers, activists, academics, and community builders—regarding the future of community. We learned from our exploration that there is a deep need for connection and meaning in our society. The MEA community will be built around social wellness, where you become healthier just by being in that group. Our regenerative communities could be to the 21st century what Del Webb Sun City was to the 20th century, for the next generation of people who want to live intentionally."
Intergenerational Living Benefits All Ages
A move away from segregating older adults will push the boundaries of traditional senior living communities. The benefits of intergenerational living are well documented. Programming that values authentic connection between old and young reduces ageism, increases social connections, improves community infrastructure, and contributes to overall wellbeing.
According to Intergenerational housing as a model for improving older-adult health | British Columbia Medical Journal (bcmj.org), intergenerational programs benefit seniors through improved self-rated health scores, physical function, and cognition. Such programs have positive effects on society at large, fostering a sense of community, improving intergenerational ties, cultivating economic gain, and increasing social capital.