Care communities have come a long way in delivering quality health and wellness services to seniors. Even the term "nursing home" has been replaced with the more appropriate "senior living" or "care community." As technology progresses and doctors discover more about senior well-being, the health care industry has followed suit and adapted care communities to fit these changing needs. Here is what health care professionals can expect for the future of these communities:
"The U.S. will be home to 80 million seniors by 2050."
Expect an influx of care communities
Baby boomers are entering the retirement age at a growing speed, and older adults are living longer than ever. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, the country was home to 44 million adults over the age of 65 in 2014, and experts estimated that number will climb to over 80 million by 2050. As such, the population will become increasingly reliant on senior health care services in the next few decades, and the only way to accommodate this development is to expand the number of care communities.
Time magazine explained that building more care communities may be a good move for the economy. Citing arguments from Keynesian economists, Time noted that this endeavor can open up a plethora of job opportunities and serve as a way to provide more affordable senior care. In turn, this takes a lot of pressure off families who would otherwise struggle financially to provide their senior loved ones with adequate care.
Care communities will cater to specific needs
Not only will care communities become more widely available, but options in types of care and amenities will also be more abundant, according to Andrew Carle, the founding director of George Mason University's Senior Housing Administration.
"Retirees want more choices," Carle told U.S. News & World Report. "When you have 78 million baby boomers, they have a lot of expectations with retirement."
There are several current and emerging opportunities that accommodate the unique-need trend. For instance, university-based retirement care communities grant residents access to campus art exhibits, theatrical performances and other events. Meanwhile, other care communities indulge specific interests, such as aviation, sports and astronomy. In fact, U.S. News highlighted a Chiefland, Florida, community where retirees enjoy homes with built-in telescopes where they can stargaze with neighbors.
Retirees will have access to more amenities
Along the same lines, traditional senior living arrangements will likely offer more amenities for retirees' diverse interests. Some care communities come with an expensive price tag. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a month's rent for a one-bedroom unit in an assisted living location can run residents up $3,293 on average. As such, these individuals want more bang for their buck, and care communities are rising to this demand.
Retirees can expect to see more cultural events, outdoor walking paths, recreation centers and social activities. Not only do these extra perks entice potential residents, but they can boost their well-being. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that participating in physical activities like exercising (or working out at the care community's gym) may help seniors remain mobile. The researchers determined that retirees who stayed active were more likely than sedentary individuals to stave off functional limitations.
Greater integration of technology
Networked/online/digital technology is working its way into just about every facet of life, from elementary schools to company offices, and care communities are no exception to this trend. Integrating technology into these spaces may help retirees remain more independent and live a higher quality of life. In 2011, Dr. Judah L. Ronch of the Erickson School of Aging at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, worked with students and staff to determine exactly what this type of technology would look like.
Writing for Long Term Living, Ronch explained that technology would take over certain tasks to free up care community workers. In turn, these health care professionals could offer their services in instances that require a more human approach. Meanwhile, cyber devices would give residents more control over their health management, encourage social interactions and allow for greater independence. Essentially, they predicted that technology will facilitate already-established trends.
It's important for health care professionals to remain aware of expectations for the future of care communities, as this knowledge will help them prepare for what lies ahead.