Assisted living communities have become increasingly dedicated to innovation and an emphasis on hospitality in order to remain competitive during challenging economic times. Understanding the resulting assisted living trends will be helpful to families that are in the process of exploring the various options available for aging loved ones.
Assisted Living Trend #1: Wellness Programs to Enhance and Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
In 2009, the age of residents moving into assisted living communities nationwide averages 84.6 years. As seniors continue to wait longer and longer to leave their homes and move into senior living communities, the industry seeks to extend their length of stay by promoting health and wellness among their residents.
Nearly every major competitor has developed a multi-dimensional program to include a variety of exercise classes and/or access to neighborhood fitness clubs, healthy meal options as well as spiritual and educational opportunities.
Amenities and services that reflect this emphasis on wellness include the availability of:
- On-site massage therapy
- Exercise equipment made specifically for seniors
- Computer training with specialized equipment and large screens
- Flexible hours for dining to accommodate other activities
The success of such programs improves the general health and well-being of current residents and attracts new residents who are increasingly dedicated to maintaining their active lifestyles.
Assisted Living Trend #2: Larger Apartments and Increased Apartment Amenities
Between 2006 and 2009, the number of apartments in assisted living communities decreased from a nationwide average of 63 to 54. This statistic reflects a trend in combining two apartments in order to accommodate residents who prefer larger living spaces.
Whereas studios used to be the most common type of assisted living apartment, one-bedroom units are now more preferable and allow residents to keep more of their furniture and belongings that make their new apartment feel like home. In addition, many couples currently moving into assisted living communities prefer separate bedrooms for improved sleeping.
Amenities frequently include spacious walk-in closets, nine-foot ceilings, balconies and/or patios to accommodate pet owners, and enhanced kitchenettes with microwaves and small refrigerators.
Assisted Living Trend #3: Increased Flexibility in Financing Assisted Living
In light of current economic conditions, an increasing number of assisted living communities are participating in Medicaid. According to a collaborative research project conducted in 2009 by the Assisted Living Federation of America, nearly half of responding assisted living providers have licensed up to 25% of their apartments for Medicaid. Other communities that may not accept Medicaid are partnering with companies that provide financing options such as a line of credit to facilitate move-ins prior to home sales.
These types of options are very helpful to seniors who are reliant on the equity in their homes in order to afford assisted living. Given the number of veterans currently moving in to assisted living communities, providers are also dedicated to publicizing and promoting the Veteran's Aid & Attendance program. For more information about eligibility requirements for this program, visit the Veteran Aid website.
Finally, it's never been a better time to ask assisted living communities about waiving entrance fees, locking in current rates and receiving assistance with moving expenses!
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Written by gerontologist Sara Shelton.