Each year brings with it unique challenges, but none more so in recent memory than 2020. There’s always some uncertainty about the future, of course - few people expected a pandemic to dominate the 2020 news cycle. However, the pandemic did accelerate many changes in the senior living industry that were already in process, and will continue into next year.
As we look ahead to a brighter 2021, here are some senior living trends on the horizon.
A More Tech-Savvy and Connected Experience
Zoom calls, Facetime, Google Duo, and other virtual meeting apps gained huge traction with older adults in 2020 as they sought to connect with loved ones across the country during rolling lockdowns. Residents who may have been confined to their own rooms or communities began using grocery and meal delivery services in increasing numbers.
In 2021, seniors and their adult children will expect a more connected experience. This may include reliance on voice assistants such as Amazon Echo (Alexa) or Google Home, which may help older adults remember their daily medication or medical schedules. More Zoom and Facetime also means adult children will appreciate senior communities that have onsite tech support staff to help program mom’s phone or teach dad to use Zoom.
Default Telehealth Appointments
Telehealth experienced a big increase in 2020. This was largely due to a combination of government recommendations to stay home paired with a big push from insurance companies to encourage their subscribers to embrace virtual medical visits.
In the coming year, we will see more medical professionals offer default telehealth or virtual visits instead of in-person community visits. This will reduce possible exposure to other infectious diseases as well, including the flu, which can be especially harmful for older adults.
Virtual Wellness Activities
It used to be a given that if you couldn’t attend a wellness event in person, you were out of luck. But 2020 taught us that just about anything can be virtual these days with a grasp of the right technology. Yoga classes and lifelong learning opportunities moved to online venues, as in 2021, many are expected to continue to offer both live and virtual classes to accommodate more people.
Many senior living communities have continuing education programs and activities, but tapping into the increase in online programming will mean greater variety and access for seniors. This will be especially welcome for those with physical disabilities that may prevent or reduce their stamina for travel.
From virtual art visits to music lessons and virtual book clubs, those who were formerly excluded from such events will find the post-pandemic era’s new focus on virtual programming especially beneficial.
Increasing Trust and Reliance on Senior Communities
The rapid changes we have seen in how seniors live and communicate within their residences will only continue in 2021. What many also saw was that even during the worst of the pandemic, residents continued to move into new communities as regulations permitted. Those already living in communities were grateful for the support staff who delivered their meals, prescriptions, and other necessities, and assisted with technology needs.
Having staff and fellow residents to talk to and commiserate with during difficult times contributed to a sense of community, of “we’re all in this together!” that seniors would not have had if they sheltered in place alone and isolated in their individual homes.
The pandemic also showcased the creativity of senior community staff and residents for engaging with one another in new ways. Whether it was streaming daily mass or participating in hallway bingo,
Focus on Location
What the last year has taught many of us is that “there’s no place like home!” - for good or ill. This means that the onsite amenities, nearby attractions and activities, and restaurants and delivery options will all take on even greater importance in 2021.
Location has always been important when evaluating senior living communities, but even as excursions and day trips become more common in the latter half of 2021, there will remain a strong focus on ensuring that one’s community truly offers everything within reach. As many found this year, it’s not enough to have a place to rest your head. It must be in a place - and a community - that you love to be within.
Because you never quite know what the future will bring.
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