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The Senior Living Industry Is A Disaster And Will Never Get Better

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By Steve Moran

Over the last few months I have had a number of conversations with people who see everything that is wrong with senior living and are in despair that it will never get better. The complaints look like this:

  1. Owners and operators are greedy

  2. Companies don’t really care about residents, or family members

  3. Nobody is willing to change

  4. The industry is too expensive

BLAH BLAH BLAH . . . This is way too pessimistic!

Spending a few days at the Masterpiece Living Lyceum, which was an experience of hanging out with a group of amazingly positive senior living leaders, inspired me to write this article.

Why They Have It Wrong

We are in a brave new world when it comes to aging, seniors and senior living. For so many reasons it is not business as usual. More seniors are living longer, healthier lives. Finances promise to be a problem for aging boomers and we are facing significant staffing challenges. And yet . . .

  1. Leaders Care -- I can, off the top of my head, name just one senior living leader I know who cares nothing about residents, team member or family members. He operates a tiny company and unless you live in the town where he operates you would not know his name or face. If you are reading this article and wondering if I am talking about you, the answer is NO. He would never read something like Senior Housing Forum.   

    I would acknowledge there are some leaders who could be stronger, leaders who seem not to be willing to be challenged or look at new/better ways of doing things, but they all care and care a lot.

    Finally, I find no evidence that the leaders in for-profit organizations care any less than those in not-for-profit organizations.

  1. Amazing Thinkers -- There are some leaders in this industry who are making a real difference in the industry for the better. They are thinking about and implementing new and better ways of doing things. They are experimenting, failing and succeeding and growing. They are sharing their knowledge with the broader communities.   

    Some of these thinkers are operators, some provide capital and others are consultants and association leaders.

  1. The Right Direction -- We are getting better. Each day I talk with leaders I hear about new really exciting things that are happening. We are figuring out how to give team members a better experience. We are on the cusp of an explosion of serious health and wellness programs where we will be like the sanitariums of the late 1800s and early 1900s, that took people in poor health and rejuvenated them.  

    It is just beginning but we are, finally, truly moving from the cruiseship, entertain-residents-to-death model to something amazing.  

  2. Tackling Big Problems -- There are major efforts underway to tackle the big problems in senior living: affordability, staff recruitment and retention, how to use technology, how to tell our story better, and how to be fully functioning members of our broader marketplace communities.

I suspect that long after I have exited this earth, the next generation or the one after will look back in amazement at this golden age.


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