But Baby Boomers are used to getting what they want, when they want. Through every life stage society has bended to meet this generation’s desires and as this seminal group requires some additional assistance as their bodies begin to betray them, assisted living facilities are going to have to adapt to their needs to attract their business. That means properties mimicking the amenities and services of a hotel.
“We are traveling in the same circles, we are doing the same thing,” said Andrew Carle, Executive-in-Residence, Assistant Professor Director, Senior Housing Administration with George Mason University, discussing the commonalities between healthcare and hospitality. Carle is widely regarded as the preeminent expert on senior housing and technology.
“In the future senior housing will be highly wired and focused on wellness. Boomers used to being catered to and they don’t want three flavors of ice cream, they want 12 types of chocolate and will pay for premium.”
The overlap between hospitality, spas and healthcare is a cornerstone issue we’re discussing here at the first ever BITAC Spa & Health, being held this week at the incredible Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Canada. The event is bridging the gap between healthcare and hospitality to educate professionals in both fields how they can maximize profits by adopting some of the other industry’s best practices.
Carle said there will be 72 million baby boomers 65 by the year 2030 and by 2050 the United States will have more than 834,000 people over 100! In 1900 there were just 3,500 people more than 100.
So not only are there many more aging Americans these days, they are living longer. “Global aging will affect us more than global warming. This is the seminal event of this century,” said Carle.
Resulting from the graying of the world will be the necessity to build places where older folks can lead productive lives. But these facilities must also provide direct access to medical care as well as activities that keep both mind and body active.
“We need to build places where people want to live so we have to think about what the next generation wants in senior housing,” said Carle. “Today’s retires want to remain active and intellectually challenged. They have no intention of going quietly in the night.”
Like the hotel business, Carle expects assisted living facilities in the future to become increasingly segmented and appeal more to specific niche groups.
Take “Aegis Gardens” in Fremont, CA, which is designed specifically for Asian Americans. Opened in 2001, the facility’s 50 staff all speak Mandarin, Cantonese, or Japanese. Additionally, Feng Shui consultants were involved in the design and architecture of the property and there is no utilization of the number “4”, which is symbolic of death in many Asian cultures. So is the color blue so all corporate uniforms were changed from blue to maroon. Food is Asian based too with food cooked in woks and sushi and activities include Tai Chi, Chinese Opera and Calligraphy.
In 2006, Rainbow Vision in Santa Fe, NM opened which is designed for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender individuals (GLBT’s). Here there is the Billie Jean King Fitness Center & Spa, Truman Capote Dining Room and cheeky events like “Drag Queen BINGO”. Utilizing the tag line “You Are Finally Home,” Carle says there are at a dozen similar communities open or in development since 2007.
For the RV lifestyle there’s the “Rainbow’s End” RV Park in Livingston, TX, which is almost dead center in the United States. Opened in 1996 there are 42 sites with wheelchair ramps and it offers the same services as Assisted Living for just $800/month, which includes meals, activities, laundry/housekeeping, utilities and transportation. They even have care for Alzheimer’s patients.
Finally, Spring Hills Senior Communities is a series of 10 communities in states like Florida, Ohio, New Jersey and Virginia that appeals to those focused on “healthy living.” There are master gardening classes, art and music appreciation classes as well as creative writing and brain training. There is also a strong emphasis on spa and fitness.
“We have come a long way since the nursing home was the only choice and for more than a century you could either go to a nursing home or stay home, which wasn’t safe. The next generation will not be satisfied with a couple of choices and will get a portfolio of products to choose from,” said Carle.