5 Ways Senior Living is Likely to Change in the Next Decade
Between cultural changes, healthcare innovations and technology, baby boomers have already watched the world change a lot in recent years. As the generation ages into their senior years, they’re likely to see some big changes to how senior living looks, and be a part of pushing many of those changes forward themselves.
Here are some of the main trends likely to reshape the senior living experience over the next decade:
1. More senior-friendly cities and communities will be built.
Right now, a lot of cities have accessibility issues. When seniors start to have more issues with balance, dealing with areas that have a lot of uneven sidewalks or stairs present big risks. Neighborhoods with scant public transportation options also make it hard for seniors who can no longer drive safely to get around.
But between how big the generation of baby boomers is and the large amount of buying power and skills contained within the baby boomer population, the generation has a lot of power to build new communities that are more accessible to seniors and change the ones they’re in to better suit their needs.
Seniors are already turning their own neighborhoods into retirement villages using the Beacon Hill model – banding together to push for the changes in the neighborhood and negotiating together to get important resources for aging in place. Cities like Arlington, VA are working to build neighborhoods around transit options, to make it easy for seniors who can’t drive to still get around the city.
These are small steps in what is likely to become a much bigger effort over the next few years, especially as cities start to get smarter in order to accommodate self-driving cars, which will also make life in cities much easier on seniors.
2. More seniors will work long into retirement.
The good news is that people are living longer today than they did in the past. The bad news is that those extra years of living cost more money to support. While baby boomers as a whole have a lot of spending power, a high number of individual baby boomers haven’t saved enough for a comfortable retirement.
That doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doomed if you don’t have a huge chunk of change in that retirement account, you might just have to go the route likely to become much more common amongst seniors and find a way to bring an income in past the traditional retirement age of 65. Many seniors will find it easiest to stay in their jobs into their late 60s and 70s to make up the difference. Some will branch into other ways of making money like selling homemade products or pet sitting.
Whatever route they take, many seniors over the next ten years will realize they need to work well past the point they had previously expected in order to live the lifestyles they want in the coming years. If that sounds dour though, there is a silver lining: apparently working longer is good for your health, so at least the years you do have in retirement are likely to offer more physical comfort.
3. More specialized assisted living options will become available.
Even as a higher proportion of seniors aim to stay in their homes, the sheer size of the baby boomer population makes it likely that the assisted living industry will grow as well. But assisted living companies will have every reason to make their homes competitive in a growing market with a lot of options.
That will mean more assisted living facilities looking for ways to stand out. From offering fancy amenities like fine dining to designing the facility around something important to residents like their faith or hobbies they’re passionate about. We’re already seeing some examples of this with things like retirement communities for artists and senior living facilities on college campuses that allow residents to take classes.
Currently, those sorts of options are still outliers. But as baby boomers who want more out of their retirement years reach the age of needing assisted living, senior living communities that offer something extra are likely to thrive and grow in number.
4. Remote health monitoring will become the norm.
Wearables are already a big market for people wanting to track their health day by day, but there’s potential for health monitoring technology to go much further. In the next 10 years, expect to see more smart clothes and wearable devices hit the market that track factors related to your health like blood pressure, body heat and heartbeat. Smart socks will recognize when an ulcer’s forming and alert diabetics. The new digital pill can help you and your doctor catch it when you forget to take a pill.
These products can both help seniors proactively stay healthier with reminders to exercise and take their meds on time and help them learn faster when something in their health is amiss. They can revitalize preventative technology by ensuring you don’t have to wait for your visits to the doctor’s office to catch the beginnings of a problem – you and your doctor will both know the moment there’s a noticeable change in any of the vital signs your monitoring products recognize.
In the coming years, remote health monitoring has the potential to save seniors money on doctor’s visits and keep them healthier at the same time. As more products come onto the market, seniors will begin to treat them as a normal part of life.
5. We’ll see higher rates of aging in place.
When asked what they want their future living situation to look like, seniors have said loud and clear they want to stay in their own homes and communities. 87% of seniors over 65 say they want to age in place, and 71% of those 50-64 say the same thing.
Aging in place is already growing, and there’s good reason to believe the trend will continue into the next ten years. In part, that’s because it’s what people want. But in big part, it’s because seniors will have access to more of the resources needed to make it possible.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the home health care industry to grow 40% in the next ten years. Tech innovations like voice-activated tech and delivery services for just about everything a senior could need make it easier for seniors to live comfortably in their own homes even as they lose the ability to drive or move around the house as easily as they used to.
Businesses keep coming up with new products to make homes smarter. In 10 years, you may be able to do all your grocery shopping by simply saying what you’re out of as you go through your kitchen or even have your refrigerator keep track of what’s running out for you.
Robotics technology is also progressing quickly. Within 10 years, the robot caregiver options that already exist will likely become available at reduced prices that more people can access. As far-fetched as it sounds, many of the caregiving tasks people take on now can start to be handed over to robots.
These types of innovations offer convenience for everyone but can be game changers for seniors looking to avoid a move to assisted living. If things like feeding yourself or keeping the house clean, can be outsourced to tech (or at least, with the help of apps), then many of the challenges seniors face living at home will go away.
The next 10 years are likely to bring challenges we can’t foresee and innovations even our greatest creative minds couldn’t guess at.
We can make some informed predictions about what’s to come based on the budding trends that have already started to develop, but for the rest of it, we’ll just have to wait and see.