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Senior Living's Super Ugly Elephant in the Room

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By Steve Moran

Over the last several months I have been in several situations where, in various ways, senior living leaders have basically said that -- given enough financial resources -- they would never move into, not just their own senior living community, but into any senior living community.  

My initial reaction has been shock, more that leaders would be willing to admit this publically, than that it is true. But as I have reflected on it a lot over the last few weeks, I have come to realize it is much more complex an issue than, at least, I first thought.  

Noodling

No definitive responses but here is my noodling:

  • When it comes to skilled nursing and memory care it is never a lifestyle issue so the question becomes this: If you had unlimited financial resources would you choose your community over someone else's communities or over private duty and staying home?  

    Maybe a better question would be this: If your mom or dad needed either of these levels of care would you want them to be in one of your communities?

  • At one time when assisted living was still primarily a social model level of care, it could have been seen as a potential lifestyle choice but not so much anymore. So the question really is this: If I needed a typical bundle of assisted living services but could afford to have them delivered in my home would I move into one of my assisted living communities? Would I be willing to move into any assisted living community?

  • This may sound harsh to some, but not being willing to move into your own senior living community may not be as hypocritical as it sounds. In fact, I would even go so far as to say, I would love to see this be the case. Here is why:

    There is a significant need for low- and moderate-income senior living done well. Yet even when done well it would not be unfair, unreasonable or hypocritical for someone who could afford much more luxury to prefer that. This could apply to both assisted living and independent living.

  • The more fundamental question the industry needs to focus on is whether or not it is possible to create a senior living option that is better than home at any level. I would argue that for almost everyone the right senior living is better than living at home with help because community and purpose are so important to the welling being of the body and the spirit.  

  • While at the NIC Fall Conference I asked a group of experts who were on a panel about what boomers would want in senior living and there was one common theme: they did not want to live with just a bunch of other old people. This makes perfect sense to me.

    I don’t want to only hang out with people my own age. I also don’t want to only hang out with young families, with the 5th- & 6th-grade students I teach at church on weekends. I want to hang out with people who have interests and values that are similar to mine. I want variety. This idea that being old is a good enough reason to force people to share a house (which is what senior living is), is really kinda nuts.

    It may be the single biggest challenge we need to figure out.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

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