The Future of Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

The Baby Boomer generation, the age group born between 1946-1964, has had a remarkable impact on the world. We associate many things with this generation including Rock & Roll, Teeny Boppers, Woodstock, Sesame Street, Yuppies, Vietnam War, Civil Rights, Women's Liberation and Sexual Freedom…just to name a few.

The boomers are changing the course of retirement by not only working longer but living longer as well. This generation will also change the future of senior care.

In 2011, the boomers started turning 65 years of age and many are looking more closely at the type of care options offered as they age. They want their independence, not just from a physical standpoint, but also by having influence and control of the environment they reside. This group will demand the current models of Assisted Living and Nursing Homes to change…but how?

Assisted Living is for those who cannot live at home anymore and need help with basic activities of daily living (transfers, bathing, grooming, etc.) to more specialized areas including dementia care. Today, there are many options available in Assisted Living including a range from small, family residential homes to facilities with multiple levels of care.

Like the larger facilities or “communities,” the smaller homes are also licensed by each state. They are spread out geographically and may range from 4-12 residents. Some owners own multiple homes which may not be in the same neighborhood. The communities are usually one building that may have several floors and incorporate independent living, assisted living and dementia care.

With the exception of long-term care insurance and Veteran Administration benefits, assisted living is not covered by any medical insurance in most states. Knowing that, the boomer generation will want choices. This generation wanted choices in cars…they got it. They wanted choices in coffee…they got it. They will want choices in assisted living…they will get it.

My experience in dealing with many boomers some, feel that the smaller homes are great but not enough activities. On the other hand, they feel the larger facilities are very nice but may be too large or some appear too institutionalized. The future will bring:

1. A cluster of homes, even an entire sub-division, whereby seniors will have the option to attend activities in a community center, centrally located, just for the residents of the sub-division. At the same time, residents will live in the privacy of a smaller home.

2. Instead of larger, single structure buildings, there will be multiple single levels, smaller buildings grouped together. Each one will have varied levels of care including dementia care. Though meals and individualized activities will take place in each building separately, there will also be a centrally located community center for larger, group functions.

3. For these communities to be competitive, they’ll have to provide the most up-to-date technology including:

• A continuous update of medical records for physicians to access and make necessary changes to medications.

• Technology that will be incorporated to help prevent falls such as motion sensors that monitor balance. In addition, there will be walkers that can automatically steer away from obstacles which can also be reached by remote control.

• “Skype like” programs will be installed so residents can see and talk with children, grandchildren and friends. There will be enhancements for those with disabilities, including poor site and hearing, so they can still participate.

4. Geriatric physicians, podiatrists, dentists, optometrists will be readily available to visit with residents where they reside.

5. On-site exercise equipment and aquatic therapy will be commonplace at the larger communities.

6. These locations will have gated, secured communities in order to keep outsiders from coming in without permission.

What about Nursing Homes? Though nursing is dealing with rehabilitation and acute care, a new model called “The Green House Model” has already started. Their goal is described on their website, “The Green House model is a de-institutionalization effort designed to restore individuals to a home in the community by combining small homes with the full range of personal care and clinical services expected in high-quality nursing homes.”

The hope is these various models will be ready when the “Silver Tsunami” hits.