Assisted Living

6/24/2020 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Like many things, the world of assisted living is steadily growing and evolving. Through design, technology, dining, and even staffing enhancements, communities continue to seek new ways to create the best living experience possible.

In staying on top of research and rolling with new trends in assisted living, communities aim to give their residents an independent and full lifestyle for this next stage in life.

TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES

In an effort to give residents better access to health, safety, and connectivity, assisted living facilities are implementing more technology into their communities.

“Hey Alexa …”

Voice-activated technology has changed the game for assisted living facilities everywhere. Residents can use these devices for a variety of tasks and chores that may have been difficult – or impossible – otherwise. Many voice-activated devices, for instance, can manage simple tasks: setting the thermostat, locking doors, and even controlling the lights, no button-pushing or mobility required.

But, on top of day-to-day assistance, voice-activated devices are great (and in some cases, life-saving) in the event of emergency: with a mere verbal request, users can contact 911. And some devices, in fact, are smart enough to call 911 on their own after detecting a fall.

Best of all, voice-activated devices are extremely user-friendly. The user never has to log in, turn it on, or remember how it works – just talk! These devices give control back to seniors, eliminating the feeling of helplessness by potentially daunting yet simple tasks.

Smartwatches and Other Wearables

These days, smartwatches are useful for more than just counting steps: they can track other health stats like heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. Devices can even share statistics with physicians, nurses, and staff, to help the entire care team monitor a patient’s wellness levels.

Other perks include medication reminders – plus, they can even detect if the user suffers a fall, and notify nearby staff. And for those with dementia? Some smartwatches contain GPS trackers, and even safe zone alarms in case a user gets lost.

Telehealth

Telehealth technology has changed the world for medical appointments forever. For less intensive appointments, patients can meet with their doctors through technology, like FaceTime, to ask questions and get advice on specific issues. This saves the patient from having to leave the comfort their residence for every single doctor’s appointment; it also helps to prevent sick individuals from bringing their germs into a waiting room.

Additionally, if a patient has a smartwatch or other type of wearable device, physicians can monitor health and look at medical updates through that information – another method of limiting the number of necessary appointments.

DESIGN TRENDS IN ASSISTED LIVING

More and more, assisted living communities are prioritizing social and communal engagement. Studies show that social engagement benefits seniors’ health psychologically, cognitively, and physically; it reduces depression and anxiety, and can help them live longer overall.

And, not surprisingly, isolation can have the opposite effects. As a result, facilities are continuing to come up with ways to enhance and foster socialization within the community.

Open Spaces

Eliminating walls and incorporating more open spaces within a community is a simple and subtle way to bring better social engagement into residents’ everyday lives. It creates a more natural and organic space for interaction; plus, simply being in the presence of other people is shown to improve mood and health, providing the same benefits as socialization.

One Room, Many Roles

Instead of assigning one role to each communal room within a building (the dining area, the chapel, the art gallery), assisted living communities are realizing the benefits of making each non-residential room multi-purpose – community rooms that wear different hats throughout the day, and can be transformed accordingly.

What was lunch this afternoon is now an event space for a birthday party. What was Sunday morning mass is now Sunday evening scrapbooking. Or, what was art class yesterday is a movie theater today.

Empty rooms can foster an ambiance of isolation; meanwhile, active spaces breathe life into the building, giving it a more energized feel overall.

INCREASED ACCESS TO URBAN AREAS

As many assisted living residents have long ago foregone driving – whether by choice or by necessity – they still want easy access to local offerings. Facilities are now increasing regular transportation options, such as shuttle buses. This gives their community more freedom and access to the nearby world.

Additionally, newer communities are building within urban neighborhoods so that residents have better walkability.

FOOD TRENDS IN ASSISTED LIVING

Assisted living facilities are taking strides toward taking each meal from more than just a three-times-a-day task, to a more full culinary experience.

Moving away from canned goods and frozen products, many assisted living facilities are starting to prioritize fresh, local (even farm-to-table) ingredients. They are also working to feature a greater variety of dishes; plus, many are tailoring meals toward individual residents (in an effort to meet their specific needs and preferences).

Facilities now, too, have open kitchens. This gives residents the chance to see their meals being made and enhance their dining experience overall. More and more communities are also hiring trained chefs.

A TEAM TO COUNT ON

As employee retention continues to be an issue in the healthcare – and more specifically, assisted living – world, facilities are taking action to keep their current staff and entice potential employees in new ways.

For starters, they’re working to create more flexible hours for staff to work around. Further, employers are also improving their general outreach by launching social media pages. These also helps to help gain awareness and stay relevant.

Additionally, as technology in assisted living communities improves, so too does the range of individuals employed. As there becomes a larger pool of skills needed, employers can broaden the scope of outreach into the field of IT and technology.

And – always an attractive draw for potential employees – employers are working to increase wages for both hourly and salaried workers.

A GROWING POPULATION

Then, of course, is the looming “silver tsunami” of baby boomers that’s got the senior housing market talking these days. This phenomenon defines the growing population of seniors. Baby boomers that are all aging into the senior age bracket; many are moving out of their homes and seeking various forms of senior housing. To stay on top of this impending issue, facilities are growing and developing in an effort to accommodate the sudden population growth.

In conjunction with the impending surplus of clients, housing organizations are realizing another emerging need; the need for communities to cater to lower and middle income residents.

Assisted living developers have created a variety of ways to cater to a broader scope of income levels; to create a comfortable and similar living situation as before, but on a more modest budget.

When building a new facility, for example, they are looking at more cost-effective construction options. Some have repurposed existing structures, or even opened up space in the facility to share with commercial tenants; like, for instance, an office building.

And when it comes to day-to-day living, many facilities are offering residents a less costly, less “frills” kind of assisted living experience. Instead of an all-or-nothing approach, they have à la carte pricing; residents can therefore choose for themselves what they want to prioritize.

In addition, some communities work with outside businesses and facilities for their residential needs. Health services, for example, may be offered through a third party medical office; for meals, residents may be left on their own – with available options of meal or grocery delivery; and instead of a community shuttle, facilities may simply invite individuals to use rideshare tools like Uber or Lyft.

A WELL-BALANCED LIFESTYLE

The current world of trends in assisted living is growing and evolving in many different aspects these days. In the meantime, community owners and developers consistently seek to stay on top of trends while catering to the needs of all senior populations.

At the end of the day, they just want to give residents – current and potential – the best, most independent lives possible!

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff