• Nancy Griffin

Senior Living’s Wellness Revolution

Updated: May 21


Wellness is exploding in senior living. Spa services, fitness, nutrition, and functional medicine are being combined in a customized, person-centered approach to combat stress, manage pain, improve immunity, and increase longevity. The wellness craze is being driven by “a shift from older people focusing on adding years to their lives, towards adding life to those years,” according to Ken Dychtwald and Robert Morrison in their new book What Retirees Want: A Holistic View of Life's Third Age.


Covid 19 has brought wellness to the forefront. “The COVID pandemic has served as an accelerator of many things, and among them, the desire we are seeing in consumers to lead healthier lives and recognizing their own role in that effort,” says 35-year wellness veteran Lisa Starr of Wynne Business. “A recent survey of 10k global consumers by spa management software company Mindbody showed that 78% of those interviewed considered wellness to be more important than ever.”


According to a survey by the International Council on Active Aging, senior living communities are increasingly moving away from a care-first mindset and toward a wellness lifestyle with options for care available. 60% of respondents said that, by the year 2023, their retirement community will be based in a wellness lifestyle. To accomplish this goal, ICAA predicts 5 types of wellness programs will increase within communities:

  • Education and lifelong learning

  • Exercise (led by both instructors and technology)

  • Health education and disease management

  • Food and nutrition education and preparation

  • Intergenerational programs linking youth and older adults

Some of today’s luxury senior living communities resemble established wellness resorts like Canyon Ranch and Miraval, which have always promised renewal and transformation. “I am seeing more pools, spas and wellness offerings in senior living facilities—especially independent living,” said Avi Satt, President and Co-founder of Sage Healthcare Partners and Allegria Senior Living.


The Hacienda at the River in Tucson, AZ, a Watermark Retirement Community, enhances the well-being of residents through wellness and therapeutic programming ranging from gardening and activity programs designed to engage and challenge residents, to innovative rehabilitation programs like equine-assisted and aquatic therapies. Residents can interact directly with the horses or participate in a guided meditation or Reiki session in the horse’s presence. The Hacienda also offers complementary medicine such as acupuncture and other massage therapy. Program managers work together to provide each resident with personalized, integrative holistic care.


Expect to see more and more senior living communities built around the theme of wellness. Similar to existing wellness communities like Serenbe in Atlanta or Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida, these communities will attract retirees focused on healthy living. Canyon Ranch in Tucson, AZ and Lenox, MA, have created impromptu communities surrounding the hub of the resort.


“Homeowners become part of the extended family at Canyon Ranch locations. They connect with other homeowners, repeat guests, and staff,” said PR Rep Joshua Kelly, sharing a group response from the Canyon Ranch team. “A key driver of home purchase at Canyon Ranch is the desire to be part of a 'like-minded' group of people who are committed to a health and wellness way of life. Community is increasingly referenced in articles as a cornerstone of health and happiness. Many of our homeowners were longtime, repeat guests before purchasing and developed strong connections with other guests, staff, or simply the environment.”


“The intersection between wellness communities and senior living is one of the most exciting opportunities of our lifetime,” said global wellness consultant Mia Kyricos, President of Kyricos & Associates. “We now have the opportunity to apply relatively new learnings around what it means to live and be well to an otherwise tired system that is seemingly failing both society and our seniors today. The end-result could mean living longer, happier, richer, more purposeful lives, and not just for seniors, but for all of us.”

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